Soundtrack to history: 1878 Edison audio unveiled

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Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison (AP photo)

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (AP) – Researchers have recovered and digitized what experts say is the oldest playable recording of an American voice and history’s first-ever recorded musical performance. Also included: the first recorded blooper.

The recording was done on a sheet of tinfoil on a phonograph invented by Thomas Edison and made in St. Louis in 1878. It opens with a short cornet solo and is followed by a man reciting nursery rhymes. Near the end of the 78-second recording, the man laughs after messing up one of the words to “Old Mother Hubbard.”

The tinfoil and the newly digitized recording is being presented Thursday at a museum in Schenectady, N.Y., where Edison founded the General Electric Co. Experts at California’s Berkeley Lab recovered the recordings using technology developed for the project.

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