This Is My Testimony, Spoken by Myself into a Talking Machine: Wilford Woodruff’s 1897 Statement in Stereo

In March 1844, just weeks before his martyrdom, Joseph Smith “called the Twelve Apostles together and he delivered unto them the ordinances of the Church and the kingdom of God.” Wilford Woodruff noted the events of the day in a terse journal entry. March “26th A rainey day. I met in council with the brethren.” Perhaps the sacredness and magnitude of the meeting called for a brief, cryptic note. Or perhaps it would take hindsight for Wilford to recognize the momentousness of the day’s events. In either case, fifty-three years later at age ninety, President Woodruff recorded his spoken testimony of the historic meeting.

Two decades earlier, in late 1877, while working to improve the efficiency of a telegraph transmitter, Thomas Edison noticed that the tape of the machine gave off a noise resembling spoken words when played at high speed. Wondering if he could record a telephone message, Edison experimented with the diaphragm of a receiver by attaching a needle to it. He reasoned that the needle could prick paper tape to record a message. Experiments led him to try a stylus on a tinfoil cylnder, which, to his great delight, played back the short message he recorded, “Mary had a little lamb.” Phonograph was the trade name for Edison’s device, which played cylinders rather than the discs. Sound vibrations generated by speaking into the mouthpiece were indented into the cylinder by a recording needle. This cylinder phonograph was the first machine that could record and reproduce sound.

Listen to his testimony here:

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