Commentary Magazine


Topic: U.S. presidential recordings

Voices of the Presidents

It is one thing to read a speech, and quite another to listen to it.

The earliest recording of a human voice dates from 1860, but it was decades before contemporaries began recording presidents. While most anyone growing up in the United States, attending high school, or watching television will have heard presidents dating back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt speak, this online collection from Michigan State University is worth browsing through: The curators have collected recordings of presidents’ voices dating back to Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd president who occupied the Oval Office between 1889-1893. Here’s Teddy Roosevelt explaining opposition to the Progressive Party, and here’s Herbert Hoover speaking at a 1932 campaign rally.

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It is one thing to read a speech, and quite another to listen to it.

The earliest recording of a human voice dates from 1860, but it was decades before contemporaries began recording presidents. While most anyone growing up in the United States, attending high school, or watching television will have heard presidents dating back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt speak, this online collection from Michigan State University is worth browsing through: The curators have collected recordings of presidents’ voices dating back to Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd president who occupied the Oval Office between 1889-1893. Here’s Teddy Roosevelt explaining opposition to the Progressive Party, and here’s Herbert Hoover speaking at a 1932 campaign rally.

Hearing these snippets certainly reminds how much American history has been lost simply because we never had the technology to record it.

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