Recording Pioneers

Adelbert Theodor Edward WANGEMANN  1855 - 1906 arrowarrow PIONEER    PARENTS    LIFE    NOTES    LABELS    PHOTOS    THANK YOU


Adelbert Theodor Edward WANGEMANN  1855 - 1906

aka A. Theo E. Wangemann
birth 13 Feb 1855, Berlin (GERMANY)
death .. June 1906, Brooklyn, New York City (USA)




German assistant to Thomas Edison, early audio recording technician.

But though he would not at that time risk visiting the Old World himself (he hates to be, lionized), he sent several of his best machines, one of which he despatched by his faithful co-worker, A. T. E. Wangemann, the manager of the Phonograph Experimental Department, to Berlin. This was in 1888, and the young Emperor of Germany had expressed the liveliest interest in the invention. As soon as it became known that Mr. Edison's representative was in Berlin, together with one of the "talking machines," there was intense excitement.

The newspapers were full of more or less exaggerated accounts of what the wonderful instrument would do, though few in that city had yet heard it. It was to be shown first of all to Emperor William. At his Majesty's special request, Mr. Wangemann took the phonograph one morning to the Palace, where, in the Emperor's private apartments, he explained how the machine was worked. He took it apart, put it together again, explained the principles, and made records, until the young monarch knew almost as much about the phonograph as did the inventor. But his Majesty was not satisfied until he, too, had taken the thing to bits, put it together again, made records, and was able to explain things as readily as Mr. Wangemann. Then he desired the latter to bring the machine to the Palace again that evening in order that the Court might listen to it. He would not be required to lecture on the subject as his Majesty himself would attend to that part of the entertainment.

Mr. Wangemann, of course, was quite agreeable and that night a brilliant assembly gathered at the Palace to hear the latest Edison wonder. The astonishment of those present, however, was increased a hundredfold when the Emperor himself appeared as lecturer, exhibiting the machine and explaining its mechanism as though he had spent his life in the Edison laboratory. With admiration they listened to the young monarch discourse on acoustics, soundwaves, and vibrations, and when he inserted a record, adjusted the machinery, set the electric motor going, and spoke to his audience through the medium of the phonograph, the excitement was intense, if suppressed. The royal lecturer remained for a couple of hours, alternately explaining details and reproducing records,

after which he withdrew, leaving behind him the impression among his courtiers that if the phonograph
were wonderful the Emperor was more so. While Mr. Wangemann was still in Berlin, the Emperor again sent for him and requested that he would make some records of the playing of the Court orchestra. For this purpose the band assembled in the concert chamber, the performers being arranged according to their usual positions. Mr. Wangemann
explained to the conductor that he would like to place the band a little differently, putting certain instruments
a little further back and bringing others more to the front. But the conductor, a hot-tempered German, flatly declined to change the position of his men, they had always been placed so, and even for the phonograph, or the great inventor himself, he was not going to alter them. In vain Dr. Wangemann argued with him that for the making of a successful record the instruments had to be arranged according to their power and quality, the less obtrusive tones being nearer and the loud or shrill tones more distant. But it was no good, the conductor was unconvinced, and
the band would play according to his views or not at all.
Then Dr. Wangemann appealed to the Emperor, and to convince his Majesty he took a cylinder of the playing of the orchestra in the positions the conductor insisted they should be. His Majesty listened critically to the result. Nothing but a confusion of sounds assailed his ears. Was that his own matchless orchestra? Impossible. He ordered the conductor to place his men in any position Dr. Wangemann desired, and the musician sadly obeyed. Then the phonograph was adjusted and a record made. The difference was extraordinary, all the beauties of tone and orchestration being clearly brought out.

The Emperor was delighted. The conductor apologized, and in compliment to Dr. Wangemann his Majesty ordered the orchestra to play that evening in the position it would be if performing for the phonograph. At all future Imperial functions, however, the bandsmen returned to their ordinary places, greatly to the relief of the conductor and the comfort of the audience.

Since then the German Emperor has taken the greatest interest in the progress made by the phonograph, and when a few years ago he was asked to give a record of his voice to be deposited in the Phonographic Archives at Harvard University, he graciously consented. The application was made by Dr. Edward Scripture, a psychologist, of Yale University, through the United States Ambassador in Berlin, and in a memorandum sent to the Court Marshal, Dr. Scrip
ture wrote: "The Phonographic Archives are to include records from such persons as will presumably have permanent historical interest for America. The importance of the undertaking can be estimated by considering what would have been the present value of voice records by Demosthenes, Shakespeare, or Frederick the Great. I wish to record his Majesty's voice as the first European record deposited in the Archives." The Emperor received Dr. Scripture one
Sunday after morning church, and referred to the occasion when Dr. Wangemann paid his first visit to Berlin so. many years previously. During the making of the record the Emperor was alone with the phonograph. He spoke into it twice. The first cylinder, made specially for Harvard University, contained observations on Frederick the Great, while the other, intended for the Congressional Library and the National Museum, Washington, was a short disquisition on

"Fortitude in Pain." His Majesty afterwards listened to some special records which Dr. Scripture had brought for the amusement of the Imperial family.