Charles Batchelor's Phonautograms
Metropolitan Elevated Railroad from 40 feet away (1878 Phonautogram)
In 1878, when Thomas Edison was hired to study the objectionable noise produced by the Metropolitan Elevated Railroad in New York City, he turned to the phonautograph, adapting one of his tinfoil phonographs to draw a "readable" lateral waveform. Edison's colleague Charles Batchelor made this particular phonautogram as part of that project in September. We believe the excerpt presented here begins and ends with test shouts, with three specimens of actual train noise in between-the earliest American sounds yet reproduced. Note that pitch fluctuations are due at least in part to the irregular recording speed.
Download mp3: Metropolitan Elevated Railroad