It is contained in one of the world’s oldest surviving radio broadcasts, recorded on an obscure machine that General Electric developed in 1922 and called a pallophotophone — which means “shaking light sound” in Greek.
Listening to the elderly Edison lose his place, become confused and nearly weep over the depth of his admiration for Ford more than 80 years after he spoke those heartfelt words to a live audience has the power to cause a lump to rise in one’s throat.
This aural treasure might have remained lost in history’s silent dustbin were it not for a curious archivist, a dogged engineer and a fixer.
The unlikely resurrection story began when archivist Chris Hunter grew curious about 13 undocumented film canisters tucked away on a bottom shelf among 5 million items in the basement archives of the Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium.
Hunter had no idea what they contained, aside from a few vague jottings that indicated they involved radio programs from the 1920s.
There was an even bigger obstacle to solving the mystery. He had no machine that could play them.
He might as well have been looking at ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. The canisters were not going to give up easily their mute secrets.
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