The website gives listeners access to 10,000 records spanning the first quarter of the 20th-century. They include songs, of course, but also speeches, poem recitations and sound effects. All were put out by the Victor Talking Machine Company, which is arguably the most adorable look-how-far-we’ve-come name the world has ever seen. And they come complete with that charming/irksome static so absent on today’s tracks.
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Songs range from opera to blues to jazz to country. You can listen to William Howard Taft giving a speech on the importance of humor or Theodore Roosevelt speaking about the farmer and the businessman. There are religious recordings and “ethnic characterizations” (whatever that means). There are comedies and skits, including people imitating drunk Irishmen, which is always fun.
Just keep in mind that cultural mores weren’t, 100 years ago, what they are today. Or, as the Library puts it in a big box running across the top of their page: “WARNING: These historical recordings may contain offensive or inappropriate language.” And we thought the Library of Congress was getting edgy by being in National Treasure 2.
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