What did Mark Twain sound like?
We will never know – his voice died with him in 1910.
He was the first American celebrity. Mr. Twain gave speeches all over the world.
Nobody spoke to more audiences than Mark Twain.
The technology needed to record his voice was available and he used it more than 100 times.
Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison pioneered the rotating wax cylinders that recorded sound vibration on the non-electrical wind-up devices.
Twain wanted to be the first to record himself reading a book. That effort failed.
What happened to the wax cylinders that could have preserved Twain’s voice for us?
They were destroyed or simply deteriorated to the point that they were useless. They degraded over time by changes in temperature and mold.
Since 2014, I have performed as a Mark Twain interpreter. Because his voice has been lost – nobody can claim to be a Mark Twain impersonator.
A man named William Gillete was raised near the home of Mark Twain. He was the only person to “impersonate” Mr. Twain with the great writer in attendance.
During Twain’s early public speeches, the public paid 25 to 35 cents to hear him speak. Today – a recording of Twain’s voice would b priceless.
Today, of course, we are able to “save” the voices of our loved ones – family, friends and others.
If I could go back in time and preserve the voices of my grandparents and parents, I certainly would. Those voices were not saved and gone forever.
Steven Rosenberg and I founded the Family Legacies Project to help families save the voices of their loved ones. Whose voice can we save for you?
My name is Don McNeill, Distinguished Toastmaster, and I am the host of the Family Legacies Project.