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President Harding Speaking into Phonograph, 1922.
President Harding speaking into a phonograph in 1922

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Thomas Edison and the First Phonograph
August 12, 1877

The next time you listen to a favorite album, you can thank Thomas Edison for discovering the secret to recording sound. Before there were CD players and tape decks, there was the phonograph. August 12, 1877 is the date popularly given for Thomas Edison's completion of the model for the first phonograph.

Edison was trying to improve the telegraph transmitter when he noticed that the movement of the paper tape through the machine produced a noise resembling spoken words when played at a high speed. Experimenting with a stylus (hard-pointed instrument like a large needle) on a tinfoil cylinder, Edison spoke into the machine. Do you know the first words ever recorded?

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CREDIT: "President Harding Speaking into Phonograph." 1922. Portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies, 1789-present, American Memory collections, Library of Congress.