Object, Instrument, Technology

The Webster Chicago wire recorder

Date of

Date of production: unknown, ca. 1949

This set of pictures shows the Webster Chicago wire recorder (model 80-1) and related accessories, including a microphone, a collection of reels from different sources, and a case. This device belongs to the same group of electromagnetic wire recorders as the Minifon P55 and the MN-61 military recorder, which were both produced later than the Webster Chicago model. The use of reels of magnetized wire to record electric signals goes back to Valdemar Poulsen’s 1898 Telegraphon, an early electronic sound-recording device. A Webster Chicago wire recorder was used in 1950–51 by Albert Lord, a scholar of epic literature, to make recordings of Yugoslavian epic singers. These recordings are now part of the Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature at Harvard University.


This photograph was taken by Nikita Braguinski at the Media Studies department, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, in April 2018. The unit shown here is part of the department's collection of historical devices, the Media Archaeological Fundus (accession no. 032). The use of the device is demonstrated in the accompanying video.



Contemporary article describing the exhibition of the Telegraphon at the Exposition Universelle in Paris (in German): August Foerster: Das Telegraphon. Die Pariser Weltausstellung in Wort und Bild. Berlin: Kirchhoff, 1900, p. 398.

David Elmer: The Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature. Oral Tradition, 28/2 (2013):341-354.

Wolfgang Ernst: Tight-Rope Act. Zauberhafte Klangmaschinen. Von der Sprechmaschine bis zur Soundkarte. Ed. by IMA Institut für Medienarchäologie. Mainz: Schott, 2008: 110-111.


Nikita Braguinski


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