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This graphophone and wax cylinder are authentic historic pieces, similar to equipment used by American Red Cross staff in the Glen Echo office. Barton’s diary entry for July 4, 1895 indicates she purchased a graphophone for $115 from the Columbia Phonograph Co., at 919 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, D.C. She noted in her diary on August 22, 1897, “We take the Graphophone and experiment with it, try several of our old cylinders which had records on them…” and on August 24, 1897, “Mr. Calhoun called and we experimented considerably with the Graphophone, trying our voices, shaving cylinders, etc. etc.” It is believed she purchased a graphophone for the American Red Cross offices for business purposes, as she was shopping for a “talking machine”, rather than for entertainment.

The graphophone recorded sounds or the spoken word by etching the vibrations into a wax cylinder. The machine could also play back a sound recording by reading the grooves in the wax cylinder. By shaving the wax cylinder, the recording was removed and the cylinder left blank could be used again for a new recording. There are no known wax cylinder recordings of Clara Barton’s voice.

Dictating Machine (graphophone)
Made by the American Graphophone Company, New York
c
1897
Lettering on the case reads, The Graphophone patented May 4, 1886 Dec. 27, 1887 April 3, 1888 June 10, 1890, Oct 15, 1894 March 30, 1897. Columbia Phonograph Co. 1155, 1157 and 1159 Broadway, New York, NY.
Oak, metal. H 47.0, W 29.2, D 50.0 cm
Clara Barton National Historic Site, CLBA 3188

Phonograph Cylinder (left)
c 1905
Made by the Edison Recording Studio, New Jersey
Gold moulded cylinders were mass produced pre-recorded sound recordings and sold for “less than 35 cents a piece” according to the box.
Wax. L 10.3, Dia 5.5 cm
Clara Barton National Historic Site, CLBA 3189

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