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Lost Edison recordings provide first sound of Otto von Bismarck's voice

Lost Edison recordings provide first sound of Otto von Bismarck's voice


A series of wax recording cylinders, recently recorded and transcribed, provides the only known recording of German chancellor Otto von Bismarck.

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In 1957, a box of wax recording cylinders was discovered in the laboratory of Thomas Edison. Until last year, however, its contents remained a mystery. Now, a combination of digital conversion and historical research has identified them as a series of long-sought recordings made by Edison's assistant Adelbert Wangemann on a trip to Europe, during which he demonstrated Edison's newly-perfected phonograph to such luminaries as German chancellor Otto von Bismarck, Prussian war hero Helmuth von Moltke, and Kaiser Wilhelm II.

The recordings, all of which can be found on the Thomas Edison National Historical Park site, capture the voice of von Moltke, as well as what is believed to be the first recording of a work by Chopin. Perhaps most importantly, they also provide the only recording of Otto von Bismarck's voice, in which he recites pieces from several songs, ending with advice to his son Herbert, who apparently heard the recording weeks later in Budapest. Bismarck historians had known of the cylinder, but assumed it had been destroyed after years of searching. Click through to the source links below to hear, in the words of von Moltke, "a man who has already rested long in the grave once again raise his voice and greet the present."