Voice recording of 19th-century German chancellor Bismarck found in US | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 01.02.2012
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Voice recording of 19th-century German chancellor Bismarck found in US

An 1889 voice recording of Otto von Bismarck, Germany's Iron Chancellor, has been identified in the US. The sound is distorted, but Bismarck can be heard singing the French national anthem among others.

Otto Count Bismarck

Bismarck was known as the 'Iron Chancellor'

The only known voice recording of Germany's 19th-century "Iron Chancellor," Otto von Bismarck, has been found and attributed to him, after lying in the Thomas Edison archive in New Jersey in the US for nearly 60 years.

On October 7, 1889, at age 74, Bismarck spoke and sang into a wax cylinder phonograph, developed by American inventor Thomas Edison.

"According to me and I have a certain experience, these really are original recordings," said Stephan Puille, from the University of Applied Sciences in Berlin. He, along with Patrick Feaster of Indiana University identified the cylinders, which were previously thought to have disappeared.

'Tribute' to the French

Although the recording is distorted and the humming of the phonograph is almost louder than his voice, Bismarck was clearly singing various German songs, and, surprisingly, La Marseillaise, the French national anthem.

Experts are not sure why he chose to sing another country's anthem, but Germany had defeated France in a war the French had declared 19 years earlier, so Bismarck may have been poking fun at the French.

Puille and his colleagues also said that Bismarck's voice was by no means as high-pitched and feminine as previously thought.

Bismarck is credited with creating a unified German Empire in 1871, of which he became chancellor. He was removed by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1890.

Edison first developed the cylinder phonograph in the late 1870s. It became the first commercially produced medium for recording and reproducing sound, before the gramophone system muscled in around 1910.

Author: Nicole Goebel (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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