Around the same time that photography was revolutionizing the way we see ourselves, sound recording was doing the same for our ears. They say that Abraham Lincoln had a squeaky voice that might have made him unelectable. We’ll never know.
On April 9th, 1860, in Paris, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville made the earliest recording that survives today. A lone voice sings Au Clair De La Lune,
In 1878 Thomas Edison recorded “Mary Had A Little Lamb” and “Old Mother Hubbard” on embossed foil.
Alexander Graham Bell experimented with light and sound using foil, cardboard, metal, and glass. He recorded himself onto a wax and cardboard disc in 1885 that was decoded in 2012 by a team from the National Museum of American History, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the Library of Congress, and Indiana University.
By the end of the 19th Century Alfred Lord Tennyson and Walt Whitman had made recordings of their poetry and the first recordings of the music were made of the days popular sounds: vaudeville, classical, barbershop quartets and a brand new sound out of New Orleans called jazz.