National Recording Registry Includes Four National Archives Sound Recordings
Press Release · Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Washington, DC…Four sound recordings from the National Archives were named as part of the fourth annual selection of 50 recordings to the National Recording Registry. They are "First Official Transatlantic Telephone Conversation" (January 7, 1927), "Light's Golden Jubilee Celebration" (October 21, 1929) with remarks by President Herbert Hoover and Albert Einstein, "Fall of the City" (April 11, 1937) with Archibald MacLeish as script writer and Orson Welles as narrator, and "Command Performance Show #21" an Armed Forces radio broadcast with Bob Hope, Master of Ceremonies (July 7, 1942).

The National Recording Registry, established under the terms of the National Preservation Act of 2000, names 50 recordings each year that are "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." Over five hundred nominations for the registry were considered from members of the public and from the National Recording Preservation Board.

One of the recordings selected this year is an original instantaneous disc recording from the holdings of the National Archives, donated by Bell Labs:

First Official Transatlantic Telephone Conversation (January 7, 1927)

This sound recording documents the opening of the transatlantic telephone circuit for commercial service. W. S. Gifford, President of the American Telephone & Telegraph Company, telephoned Sir Evelyn P. Murray, Secretary of the General Post Office of Great Britain, offering felicitations.

The three other sound recordings which the National Archives has in its holdings as copies are:

Light's Golden Jubilee Celebration (October 21, 1929) Celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the invention of incandescent light, inventor Thomas Edison was honored at a dinner on October 21, 1929. Portions of the celebration were broadcast over an NBC radio network. Hosted by announcer Graham McNamee, the radio program included speeches by President Herbert Hoover, Marie Curie, Henry Ford, and, speaking over shortwave from Berlin, Albert Einstein. Messages from the Prince of Wales, President Von Hindenberg, and Commander Richard Byrd from the South Pole, were read to Edison during the broadcast.

Fall of the City (April 11, 1937). Archibald MacLeish, writer; Orson Welles, narrator; with Burgess Meredith and Paul Stewart, and a cast of over 100. As broadcast on "The Columbia Workshop," Earle McGill's production of Archibald MacLeish's chilling vision of a not-so-future war featured Orson Welles as the narrator. This program brought experimental radio as pioneered by "The Columbia Workshop" to maturity and profoundly influenced a generation of creative radio producers and directors.

Command Performance Show #21. Bob Hope, Master of Ceremonies (July 7, 1942) Although Hope is known for his tireless touring for United Service Organizations (USO) shows, he also lent his services to other entertainment projects for the troops during World War II, including "Command Performance." Of the programs broadcast by the Armed Forces Radio Service, a wartime broadcasting service for the troops, "Command Performance" consistently attracted the biggest stars of the day. Hope appeared on the program as MC a number of times and service personnel reported greatly enjoying his performances.

These four recordings are part of the National Archives' audiovisual collection, one of the world's largest. There are more than 360,000 unique reels of film, 225,000 sound recordings, and a rapidly growing collection of more than 110,000 videotapes. The films are primarily nonfiction and consist of edited and unedited footage, documentaries, newsreels, news film, instructional films, screen magazines, combat films, research and development test films, and other formats. The sound recordings consist of voice recordings of speeches, interviews, press conferences, interrogations, proceedings, meetings, radio news, and documentaries. Video recordings consist of television news programs; telecast proceedings of the U.S. Congress; agency information programs; public service spots; press conferences; meetings; interviews of federal officials; edited programs and unedited video footage of historical events.

Among the many other original and obscure recordings are:

  • Woodrow Wilson's Armistice Day Speech from 1923, the earliest surviving recording of a radio broadcast.
  • National Defense Test Day, 1924, with General John J. Pershing, the first national hookup of 18 radio stations.
  • FCC monitorings of radio broadcasts from 1932-1935 to document programs selling medical potions, elixirs, drugs, physic readings, and other forms of medical quackery.
  • Radio coverage of the Attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7-8, 1941; D-Day, June 6-7, 1944; V-E Day, May 8, 1945; V-J Day, August 14-15, 1945.
  • Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, 1945-1949.
  • Oral Arguments before the Supreme Court of the United States, 1955-2005.
  • President Dwight D. Eisenhower's message, relayed from the Atlas satellite 'Score' December 17, 1958; relayed December 19, 1958. Eisenhower's message, recorded in the Oval Office for broadcast from the Atlas satellite, and a copy of the message as received from space at the tracking station at Cape Canaveral, Florida, preserves the first voice received from space.
  • Dallas Police Department dictation recordings monitoring the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.

The National Archives and Records Administration ensures, for the citizen and the public servant, for the President and the Congress and the Courts, ready access to essential evidence that documents the rights of American citizens, the actions of Federal officials, and the national experience from the nation's beginnings in 1774. Among the records in its holdings are the Charters of Freedom: the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. The National Archives and Records Administration also holds in trust for present and future generations the records of the nation's civil, military and diplomatic activities. Besides the motion picture, sound and video recordings, in Washington alone these records total more than four billion pieces of paper and over ten million still pictures; 2,630,397 maps and charts; 3,065,870 architectural and engineering plans; and 18,037,443 aerial photographs.

For more information about the National Archives motion picture, sound, and video holdings, contact Charles DeArman of the Special Media Archives Services Division at 301-837-3520. Or visit to search the Archival Research Catalog (ARC).

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For press information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs Staff at 202-357-5300.


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