Thomas Edison’s 1889 Recording of Otto von Bismarck‎ Discovered

Otto von Bismarck (1815 – 1898) — he was a towering 19th century political figure, the Iron Chancellor who unified Germany under Prussia’s leadership, and the man who invented Realpolitik. And now, thanks to Thomas Edison’s wax cylinder, you can hear the voice of this distant historical figure. The recently-discovered recording was made back in 1889, when Edison’s assistant, Theo Wangemann, headed to Europe to attend the World’s Fair in Paris, then traveled to Bismarck’s castle in Friedrichsruh (near Hamburg). Bismarck’s wife urged the Chancellor to make the recording, and he went along with it, recording lines from the songs In Good Old Colony Times and Gaudeamus igitur; the poem Als Kaiser Rotbart lobesam; and France’s national anthem, the Marseillaise. (The last pick was kind of odd.) It concludes with the Chancellor offering some words to his son Herbert.

You can listen to the audio above or here (be sure to crank up the volume!) and read the full transcript below the jump. Also don’t miss some vintage recordings of other 19th century legends: William Gladstone, Walt Whitman, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, and Alfred Lord Tennyson. Plus find European history courses in our big collection of Free Courses Online.

In good old colony times,
When we lived under the King,
Three roguish chaps fell into mishaps
Because they could not sing.

Als Kaiser Rotbart lobesam
Zum heil’gen Land gezogen kam,
Da mußt er mit dem frommen Heer
Durch ein Gebirge wüst und leer.

Gaudeamus igitur,
juvenes dum sumus.
Post jucundam juventutem,
post molestam senectutem
nos habebit humus.

Allons enfants de la Patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L’étendard sanglant est levé.

Treibe alles in Maßen und Sittlichkeit, namentlich das Arbeiten, dann aber auch das Essen, und im Übrigen gerade auch das Trinken.
Rat eines Vaters an seinen Sohn.

When good Emperor Redbeard
Was journeying to the Holy Land,
He had to go with his pious army
Through mountains desolate and empty.

Let us rejoice, therefore,
While we are young.
After a pleasant youth
After a troubling old age
The earth will have us.

Arise, children of the Fatherland,
The day of glory has arrived! Against us of tyranny
The bloody banner is raised.

Do everything in moderation and morality, namely work, but then also eating, and apart from that especially drinking.
Advice of a father to his son.

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