Edison’s recording of Gladstone

The Gladstone recording would originally have been made on a cylinder for the phonograph which Thomas Edison announced to the world in 1877.

On 22 November 1888, William Ewart Gladstone, then leader of the opposition, wrote in his diary ‘I dined with Mr Knowles and afterwards witnessed the astonishing performance of Mr Eddison’s (sic) phonograph, and by desire made a brief address to him which is to pass vocally across the Atlantic.’ On 11 January 1889, The Times announced that Edison had received the phonogram from Colonel Gouraud together with recordings of the Duke of Cambridge and the Lord Mayor of London.

The Times gives a transcript of the recording which is longer than the version which is now available:

‘Dear Mr Edison, – I am profoundly indebted to you for, not the entertainment only, but the instruction and the marvels of one of the most remarkable evenings which it has been my privilege to enjoy. The request that you have done me the honour to make – to receive the record of my voice – is one that I cheerfully comply with so far as it lies in my power, though I lament to say that the voice which I transmit to you is only the relic of an organ the employment of which has been overstrained. Yet I offer to you as much as I possess and so much as old age has left me, with the utmost satisfaction, as being, at least, a testimony to the instruction and delight that I have received from your marvellous invention. As to the future consequences, it is impossible to anticipate them. All I see is that wonders upon wonders are opening before us. Your great country is leading the way in the important work of invention. Heartily do we wish it well; and to you, as one of the greatest celebrities, allow me to offer my hearty good wishes and earnest prayers that you may live long to witness its triumphs in all that appertains to the well-being of mankind. William Ewart Gladstone’

Gladstone is reported to have made recordings in March 1890 for America and Australia and a further recording for Edison in July 1890. On this last occasion it is said that the cylinder reached its limit long before Gladstone had finished his address.

YouTube: the Edison recording