Author of The Poisoned Glass (2019) and Cold Heart (2020)

The names and faces of men like Thomas Edison and Theodore Roosevelt are familiar to us. Perhaps we’ve seen grainy silent video clips of them moving about. We can read their biographies and learn about their achievements and sometimes even famous speeches.

Few of us know what their voices actually sounded like. Does that matter? Absolutely!  The voice matters at least as much as the words. It shapes how we feel about the message.

At his inauguration, President John F. Kennedy made a famous plea to the American people: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

When those who remember or have studied Kennedy read these words, they recall how he looked and sounded, as he said them. Imagine the same words being uttered in a comical way or with a very timid voice. They would have been soon forgotten.

John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address

There is data to support this. The exact percentage varies according to the study, but your words only account for about 15% of your message. The rest is communicated by vocals (tone, pace, volume, inflection, etc.) and nonverbals (posture, gestures, etc.).

Today, we have no way of listening to the voices of most historical figures. The very first audio recording was made by Thomas Edison in 1877. It’s been lost now, but we know the 22 words he said. Can you guess? I’ll give you a hint now and tell you the answer at the end of this post. The earliest recordings were made on wax cylinders. A surprising number of old recordings are available online. UC Santa Barbara has a vast archive.

Hint: You’ve heard the words before, probably when you were a child.

Wax cylinder recordings

We do have a window of time in which recordings were made but aren’t great quality by today’s standards. They often have a lot of excess noise, though the quality steadily improved. We’re fortunate to have them and if you give the older technology some grace, the recordings illuminate a new perspective on what is being said.

So, what do you think Theodore Roosevelt’s voice sounded like? What about Thomas Edison? Take a look at their pictures, guess what their voice sounds like, and then listen. Does the recording match what you imagined? Are their voices inspiring or exciting?

Theodore Roosevelt, 25th president of the United States, pictured  in 1912, when the recording was made

The right of the people to rule


 

 

Thomas Edison, America’s most famous inventor

Electricity and progress


So, what were the first recorded words that Edison spoke in 1877?

Mary had a little lamb,
Whose fleece was white as snow.

And everywhere that Mary went,
The lamb was sure to go.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Hello Old Spirituals readers,

I’m very excited to share that my second book, Cold Heart, will be published on December 3 of this year! It’s an incredible true story about a murder that took place in Buffalo, NY in 1903. The victim and those close to him were fantastically wealthy but they were also plagued with scandal for years before the murder occurred.

You’re the first to see the plot synopsis from the back cover. Scroll down a little further to see a picture of the victim and his estranged wife.

1903, Buffalo, New York. Ed Burdick, a wealthy manufacturer known for his kindness and generosity, and his wife Alice had a life few could imagine. The couple had three beautiful daughters, and they were fixtures in the elite Elmwood Avenue set. Despite rumors of trouble in the Burdick marriage, few believed it until Ed ordered his wife out of their home and filed for divorce. The whispers about their separation abruptly ended when Ed Burdick was brutally murdered in his den while his family slept upstairs. The police found a mosaic of conflicting clues at the crime scene. The investigation uncovered shocking information about the Buffalo tycoon’s life, and no shortage of suspects with a motive for murder.

The murder of Ed Burdick is the true story of the great unsolved mystery of turn of the century Buffalo and a terrible wrong that was never put right.

 

Ed and Alice Burdick, circa 1902

 

Advertisements from the turn of the century are often funny or even a bit shocking. Back then, there was no regulation governing what manufacturers could say when marketing their products. They could make wild claims of almost supernatural success without anything to back it up.

This was the case for Golden Specific, an elixir that was said to be the cure (the only cure) for alcoholism. Golden Specific was manufactured in Cincinnati, Ohio and marketed to women whose husbands drank. This particular ad stood out when because it goes a step beyond fantastic claims of success, by advising the buyers to administer it to their husbands by secretly spiking their coffee with it. Once in the subject’s system, some strange alchemy would take place and they would no longer want to drink. Like an anti-roofie.

This begs the question, is the husband’s drinking really that bad? It seems like the wife’s secret drugging is much worse. And who knows, if Golden Specific didn’t work, they might try putting something else in their coffee.

But according to this testimonial, the husband was okay with it. Scroll down to read the ad. I’d love to hear what you think!

Golden Specific Advertisement

Few men become drunkards from choice or inclination. All welcome release from the awful habit. Golden Specific will cure the worst habitual drunkard.

Its cure is sure, without harmful results to the system. Many a home is now happy by the use of Golden Specific.

“My husband got into the habit of taking a drink with the boys on his way home,” says Mrs. Harry Burnside. “After a while he came home drunk frequently. He’s soon lost his position and I had to make a living for both of us and the little children. At times he tried to sober up, but the habit was too strong for him and then he would drink harder than ever.

“I heard of Golden Specific and sent for a free package. The treatment cured him. I put it in his coffee and he never knew it at all. He regained his old position and now we are happy and our little home again. I hope you will send Golden Specific to every woman that has suffered as I have and save her loved ones from the drunkards grave.”

Send your name and address to Dr. J.W. Haines, 683 Glenn Building, Cincinnati, Ohio and he will mail you a free package of Golden Specific in a plain wrapper, accompanied by full directions how to use it. Enough of the remedy is sent in each free package to give you an opportunity to witness it’s a marvelous effect on those who are slaves to drink.

Do not delay. You cannot tell what may happen to the man who drinks, and you would never forgive yourself for waiting.

They look very happy