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Florence Nightingale Recordings


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The following statements are excerpts of an article written by Rob Perks and Will Prentice:


In May 1890 a minor public scandal erupted when it was discovered that many veterans of the Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War were destitute.


Colonel Gouraud, Edison's representative in Britain, arranged to make three wax cylinder recordings to support the fund: Martin Lanfried,* trumpeter and veteran, sounding the charge as heard at Balaclava; Alfred Lord Tennyson, reading his poem The Charge of the Light Brigade; and Florence Nightingale, celebrated for her nursing achievements in the Crimean War, delivering a message to the veterans, recorded on 30 July 1890 at her home at 10 South Street, Park Lane, London.


The cylinder was still being exhibited 15 years later. In April 1905 Talking Machine News reported that 'One of the most interesting cylinders in Mr Johnstone's collection is that bearing a short sentence by Florence Nightingale. The occasion was an exhibition promoted at Edison House to help the survivors of Balaclava. The date is July 30th 1890. Very clearly the gallant little lady speaks: 'God bless my gallant [sic] comrades of Balaclava, and bring them safe to shore,' and then, after a pause, 'Florence Nightingale'.


Meanwhile, Colonel Gouraud's Edison Phonograph Company, set up in 1888, became the Edison Bell Phonograph Corporation, and later the Edison Bell Consolidated Phonograph Co. In 1897, Edisonia Ltd. was formed, inheriting the business of the latter. In 1909, J. E. Hough purchased the assets of Edisonia Ltd., forming J. E. Hough Ltd., a company that went public in 1926 as Edison Bell Ltd.


Cylinders previously held by C.R. Johnstone, including that of Florence Nightingale, were now in his possession: 'I am in possession of vocal records delivered in 1890, which might be considered priceless if they could be put to public use, for instance three by Alfred, Lord Tennyson ... and Mr Gladstone ...Florence Nightingale, Prince Napoleon, H M Stanley, Phineas T Barnum, but these records are merely venerated relics, and so far as any public use is made of them they might as well be buried in oblivion.


Medical Museum, from where it was subsequently passed on to the Wellcome Trust Library. An unsigned carbon of a letter from Flynn to Sir Henry Wellcome dated 17 May 1935 survives, presenting 'the original Master record of the voice of the great English lady, Miss Florence Nightingale ...This tiny wax cylinder ...has made possible the permanent preservation of her words. Into the care of you, Sir Henry, who knew her so well, we give this record of her voice, to rest for all time in your Museum.'


And there it did indeed rest, until March 2004, when Dr Michael Clark of the Wellcome Trust brought to the British Library a brown wax cylinder, held in a small wooden and glass case with a plaque identifying it as the voice of Florence Nightingale. New transcriptions have been made by Sound Archive technical staff of the two recordings on the cylinder, both of the same speech, and for the first time the complete contents of the cylinder can be heard on the Sound Archive's new 2CD set of historic speech recordings, Voices of History, published in November last year [2004].


Florence Nightingale Recording One


Florence Nightingale Recording Two

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