Tag Archives: The First

The First Song Ever Recorded (Was Never Meant To Be Played Back)

THE FIRST PODCAST Imagine if we could hear the voices of Abraham Lincoln, Queen Victoria or Harriet Tubman?

Believe it or not, somebody was making audio recordings as far back as the 1850s. Had these techniques been widespread, we might have had the words of those famous people preserved, as well as recordings from the Civil War, the Crimean War and other tumultuous events.

The only catch — Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, the inventor of this audio recording process, never meant for his recordings to be played back! And yet today, thanks to modern technology, we can hear his work from the 1850s for the very first time.

This is the story of the first audio recordings ever made and the oldest song recording to ever be heard today, thanks to an intrepid group of tech-savvy historians.

This important musical piece may not sound like much — in fact, it sounds downright creepy! — but it marks the beginning of music as a cultural force. One that can be replicated, replayed and enjoyed by those who were not in the room when it was first made.

To get this episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services.

Subscribe to The First here so that you don’t miss future episodes!

You can also listen to the show on Stitcher streaming radio from your mobile device.

Or listen to it straight from here:
THE FIRST SONG EVER RECORDED

Big thanks to First Sounds, the organization which helped bring the audio of Scott de Martinville to life. They have also generously offered their work for all to listen to on their website.

 

(Edouard) Leon Scott de Martinville’s invention went through several iterations. The image below illustrates one version from 1857. Tuning fork vibrated by bow or iron rod, and vibration traced on cylinder coated with lampblack (carbon). Engraving, 1872 (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

A later version of the so-called phonautograph

 

The inventor himself Edouard Leon Scott de Martinsville. Also the singer of the first song!

From Scientific American 1877 — an illustration of what the inventor hoped to achieve with his device. The noted vibrations could be translated into words. Thus the first audio recording device was really a dictation of machine of sorts.

 

This is what First Sounds technicians were working with — a page from the inventor’s phonautograph. The vibrations proved too small to work with the human eye but a computer could identify the detailed ridges much more effectively.

Josephine Cochrane and her Dazzling Dish-Washing Machine

THE FIRST PODCAST Of the tens of thousands of U.S. patents granted in the 19th century, only a small fraction were held by women. One of those women — Josephine Cochrane — would change the world by solving a simple household problem.

While throwing lavish dinner parties in her gracious home in Shelbyville, Illinois, Cochrane noticed that her fine china was being damaged while being washed. Certainly there was a better way of doing the dishes?

Cochrane’s extraordinary adventure would lead to places few women are allowed — into gritty mechanical workshops and the exclusive corridors of big business. Nobody could believe a woman responsible for such a sophisticated mechanical device.

In her own words: “I couldn’t get men to do the things I wanted in my way until they had tried and failed on their own.  They insisted on having their own way with my invention until they convinced themselves that my way was the better.”

FEATURING: The voice of Beckett Graham from the History Chicks podcast, portraying the actual quotes of Mrs. Cochrane (or shouldn’t that be Cochran)?

To get this episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services.

Subscribe to The First here so that you don’t miss future episodes!

You can also listen to the show on Stitcher streaming radio from your mobile device.

Or listen to it straight from here:
JOSEPHINE AND THE DISH-WASHING MACHINE

 

“The Garis-Cochran Dish Washing Machine having been in competition with both foreign and home inventions at the World’s Fair received a diploma and medal for best mechanical construction, durability and adaptation to its line of work and unrivaled for quantity and quality of work.”

Mrs. Cochrane in her later years:

 

The Big Story Of Old Bet, America’s First Circus Elephant

PODCAST Before the American circus existed, animal menageries travelled the land, sometimes populated with exotic creatures. This is the story of the perhaps the most extraordinary wandering menagerie of all.

This year marks the end to the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus and, with it, the end of the traditional American circus. Once at the core of the American circus was the performing elephant. Today we understand that such captivity is no place for an endangered beast but, for much of this country’s history, circus elephants were one of the centerpieces of live entertainment.

This is the tale of the first two elephants to ever arrive in the United States. The first came by ship in 1796, an Indian elephant whose unusual appearance in the cattle pens at a popular local tavern would inspire one farmer to seek another one out for himself.

Her name was Old Bet, a young African elephant at the heart of all American circus mythology. She appeared in traveling menageries, equestrian circuses and even theatrical productions, long before humans really understood the nature of these sophisticated animals.

Find out how her strange, eventful and tragic life helped inspire the invention of American spectacle and how her memory lives on today in one town in Upstate New York.

To get this episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services.

Subscribe to The First here so that you don’t miss future episodes!

You can also listen to the show on Stitcher streaming radio from your mobile device.

Or listen to it straight from here:
10 THE BIG STORY OF OLD BET: THE FIRST CIRCUS ELEPHANT

 

 

 

The circus comes to town: The banner on the elephant says Old Bet was “the first elephant to tread American soil.” In fact she was most likely the second.

 

The Bull’s Head Tavern on the Bowery. Recently a building excavation discovered the foundations of the Bull’s Head. Read all about it here.

Some images from the Somers Historical Society and their marvelous museum to the early American circus.

Chains which purportedly bound Old Bet.

Old Bet’s collar, which she wore from town to town.

At the right is Old Bet’s buckle.

 

Unimate and the Rise of the Robots (The First Podcast)

THE FIRST PODCAST This is the history of the future.

Robots conjure up thoughts of distant technological landscapes and even apocalyptic scenarios, but the truth is, robots are a very old creation, tracing back to the ancient world.

We can thank science fiction writers for inventing new serious ideas about robots, automatons previously relegated as mere amusement. But they remained an unimaginable concept — rendered in a corny, campy fashion in the 1940s and 50s — until the development of computing and cybernetics.

In 1961 the first industrial robot named Unimate not only changed the automobile industry, but it opened the door for the vast, realistic possibilities of robotics in our everyday lives.

To get this episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services.

Subscribe to The First here so that you don’t miss future episodes!

You can also listen to the show on Stitcher streaming radio from your mobile device.

Or listen to it straight from here:
09 UNIMATE AND THE RISE OF THE ROBOTS

A scene from Karel Capek’s 1921 play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots)

Electro the Robot with his companion Sparko the Dog.

George Devol and Joseph Engelberger, enjoying a cocktail served by their invention.

The Estate of George Duvol

 

This is Unimate, the robot which changed automation.

Audio from these clips was featured on this week’s show:

And other videos relating to this topic that you might enjoy:

Another promotional video about Unimate:

The introduction of Robbie the Robot, a popular character in the 1950s and 60s:

Another goofy robot from the 1950s

Robots can help you do household chores!

The most famous robots from television are probably the Daleks from Dr. Who.

 

 

The Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Revolution: The Story of the First Bikini

THE FIRST PODCAST In 1907, the professional swimmer Annette Kellerman was arrested on a Massachusetts beach for wearing a revealing bathing suit — a skin-tight black ensemble which covered most of her body.

Less than forty years later, in 1946, the owner of a Parisian lingerie shop named Louis Réard invented the bikini, perhaps the smallest amount of fabric to ever change the world, courtesy Micheline Bernardini, the young woman who debuted this scandalous outfit.

In this podcast, I’ll tell you what happened to change people’s perception of public decency in those forty years and explain how the bikini represents the best — and the worst — instincts of modern American culture.

To get this episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services.

Subscribe to The First here so that you don’t miss future episodes!

You can also listen to the show on Stitcher streaming radio from your mobile device.

Or listen to it straight from here:
08 THE ITSY BITSY TEENY WEENY REVOLUTION: THE STORY OF THE FIRST BIKINI

Images from the show:

The bizarre contraption known as the bathing machine:

Courtesy Messy Nessy Chic

 

The glorious Annette Kellerman in one of her swimming outfits

Courtesy Library of Congress

 

Women in Chicago being arrested for indecent exposure in 1922

Jean Harlow in a stylish bathing suit from the 1930s.

 

Coco Chanel, with the Duke of Westminster, most certainly honing her suntan.

The world’s most famous pin-up — Betty Grable in a bathing suit

The song from this episode was Grable singing “You’re My Little Pin-Up Girl”:

The Parisian fashion designer Louis Reard who brought the world the bikini

 

Reard with women wearing his invention:

 

Video of the bikini’s first appearance — as well as the smashing debut of the Parisian beauty Micheline Bernardini:

 

Bernardini with her bikini — and her match box!

 

Ladies in beautiful bikinis on Coney Island 1965:

(Dan Farrell/New York Daily News

 

That picture and this one (also courtesy New York Daily News) are part of a terrific layout of vintage bathing suits. Check it out.

This Morbid Invention: The Terrible Story of the First Electric Chair

THE FIRST PODCAST The story of how electricity became a tool of death for the state of New York and the strange circumstances behind the invention of the electric chair.

The harnessing of electricity by the great inventors of the Gilded Age introduced the world to the miracle of light at all hours of the day. But exposure to electricity’s raw power was dangerous to man.  Awful deaths of men on electrical wires terrified New Yorkers. A few thought this might be useful in the employment of the state’s darkest responsibilities — capital punishment.

This is the story of the first electric chair, the peculiar rivalry which helped create it — an epic feud between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, between DC and AC — and its fateful effects upon the life and punishment upon a man named William Kemmler, the first to be killed in this morbid seat.

To get this episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services.

Subscribe to The First here so that you don’t miss future episodes!

You can also listen to the show on Stitcher streaming radio from your mobile device.

Or listen to it straight from here:
07 THE MORBID INVENTION: THE STORY OF THE FIRST ELECTRIC CHAIR

 

The horrors of the modern world — New York electrician John Feeks is killed on the electrical wires as hundreds watched.

1891 book Physique Populaire by Emile Desbeaux, drawn by D. Dumon.

 

Harold Pitney Brown, who secretly assisted in diminishing the reputation of alternating current (AC) power on behalf of Edison, who was promoting direct current (DC).

 

Brown’s bizarre and cruel experiments — proving the dangers of AC — involved killing animals by electrocution. One such experiment at Edison’s lab in New Jersey slaughtered calves and horses to demonstrate his theories. 

The mechanism of the first electric chair at Auburn Prison. You can see some of these components in the photo below.

 

A picture of the notorious first electric chair, used in the execution of William Kemmler

 

An illustration from Scientific American, June 30 1888, showing an ‘ideal’ depiction of electric-chair functioning.

An illustration (not very accurate) of the execution of William Kemmler.

The Making and Remaking of the Pledge of Allegiance

THE FIRST PODCAST   The Pledge of Allegiance feels like an American tradition that traces itself back to the Founding Fathers, but, in fact, it’s turning 125 years old in 2017. This is the story of the invention of the Pledge, a set of words that have come to embody the core values of American citizenship. And yet it began as part of a for-profit magazine promotion, written by a Christian socialist minister!

In this podcast listen to the Pledge wording evolve throughout the years and discover the curious salute that once accompanied it.

Featuring: Tom Meyers as the voice of Francis Bellamy, the inventor of the pledge!

To get this episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services.

Subscribe to The First here so that you don’t miss future episodes!

You can also listen to the show on Stitcher streaming radio from your mobile device.

Or listen to it straight from here:
05 THE MAKING AND REMAKING OF THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

Francis Bellamy, the author of the Pledge of Allegiance:

 

What the Bellamy salute used to look like

Other forms of the salute had students lift their hands palms up, not down.

San Francisco, California, 1942:  Flag of allegiance pledge at Raphael Weill Public School (Geary and Buchanan Streets). The original caption to this photo read:  “Children in families of Japanese ancestry were evacuated with their parents and will be housed for the duration in War Relocation Authority centers where facilities will be provided for them to continue their education.”

Department of the Interior. War Relocation Authority. Courtesy US National Archives

Young scouts on a hike. Photo by Roy Perry, 1940. Most people were saluting the flag in other methods than the ‘Bellamy salute’ which remained in the Flag Code until the 1940s.

Courtesy Museum of the City of New York

Second graders pledge allegiance in an elementary school in Rockport, Massachusetts,  February 1973

Deborah Parks, photographer. Courtesy US National Archives

 

From the Youth’s Companion in September 1892, outlining the day’s ceremonies and the first use of the pledge.

A copy of the Youth’s Companion from 1899:

My beautiful picture

The Wheel: Ferris’ Big Idea (Special Preview of The First Podcast)

This is a special preview for the new Bowery Boys spin-off podcast series The First: Stories of Inventions and their Consequences, brought to you by Bowery Boys host Greg Young.

01: The first Ferris Wheel was invented to become America’s Eiffel Tower, making its grand debut at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. The wheel’s inventor George Washington Gale Ferris was a clever and optimistic soul; he did everything in his power to ensure that his glorious mechanical ride would forever change the world.

That it did, but unfortunately, its inventor paid a horrible price.

FEATURING a visit the Wonder Wheel at Coney Island, one of the most famous wheels in the world, and a trip to one of Chicago’s newest marvels — the Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier.

To get this week’s episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services or get it straight from our satellite site.

And subscribe to The First here so that you don’t miss future episodes!

You can also listen to the show on Stitcher streaming radio and TuneIn streaming radio from your mobile devices.

Or listen to it straight from here:
01 THE WHEEL: FERRIS’ BIG IDEA (The First Special Preview)

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The Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast is brought to you …. by you!

We are now producing a new Bowery Boys podcast every two weeks.  We’re also looking to improve the show in other ways and expand in other ways as well — through publishing, social media, live events and other forms of media.  But we can only do this with your help!

We are now a member of Patreon, a patronage platform where you can support your favorite content creators for as little as a $1 a month.

Please visit our page on Patreon and watch a short video of us recording the show and talking about our expansion plans.  If you’d like to help out, there are five different pledge levels (and with clever names too — Mannahatta, New Amsterdam, Five Points, Gilded Age, Jazz Age and Empire State). Check them out and consider being a sponsor.

We greatly appreciate our listeners and readers and thank you for joining us on this journey so far. And the best is yet to come!

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The star of the show — George Washington Gale Ferris:

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… and the Ferris Wheel at the World’s Fair!

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Courtesy Chicago History Museum
Courtesy Chicago History Museum

Some intriguing finds I made while researching at the Chicago History Museum and the National Archives:

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The telegram from Luther Rice to George Washington Ferris that was read on the show:

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This was also featured on the show — the passionate letter from Ferris, asking Rice to join the project

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Images of wheel construction courtesy Scientific American.

Courtesy Scientific American
Courtesy Scientific American
Courtesy Scientific American
Courtesy Scientific American
Courtesy Scientific American
Courtesy Scientific American
Courtesy Scientific American
Courtesy Scientific American

 

New York Times, May 13, 1894 — This article mentioned the plan to move the Ferris Wheel to New York (but the plan fell through)

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From the New York Times, March 1, 1898

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PLACES TO VISIT:

The Chicago Navy Pier (featured on the show)

Chicago History Museum (featured on the show)

The Midway Pleasance and Jackson Park, Chicago

The Ferris House in Pittsburgh, PA

The Sears-Ferris House in Carson City, Nevada

The Wonder Wheel and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, Coney Island, Brooklyn (featured on the show)

The High Roller, Las Vegas, Nevada

Weiter Riesenrad (Vienna’s Giant Ferris Wheel), Vienna, Austria

THINGS TO READ:

Ferris Wheels: An Illustrated History by Norman Anderson

Circles In the Sky: The Life and Times of George Ferris by Richard G. Weingardt

Six Months at the Fair by Mrs Mark Stevens

ARTWORK FOR THE FIRST DESIGNED BY THOMAS CABUS. CHECK OUT HIS PORTFOLIO OF OTHER WORK HERE.

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