|Thomas Edison, Anna Case, and Edison Records chief Walter Miller in 1920.|
The occasion was Edison Day at San Francisco's Panama-Pacific Exposition, celebrating the thirty-sixth anniversary of the incandescent lamp. And although both Thomas Edison and Anna Case would figure prominently in the birth of radio in the 1920s, this event took place October 21, 1915 - and had nothing to do with radio at all. The Wizard of Menlo Park heard his request by transcontinental telephone cable.
While Edison and his wife were being feted in 'Frisco, his children, their wives, and about 200 invited guests crowded the library at the Edison Laboratories in Orange, N.J., pressed telephone receivers to their ears, and listened to what they soon learned was the inventor's first ever phone call.
|Guests at the Edison Labs Library in Orange, N.J. October 21, 1915.|
"It may be strange to those who know my work on the telephone carbon transmitter that this is the first time I have ever carried on a conversation over the telephone," Edison began, "trying to talk thirty-four hundred miles on my first attempt at a telephone conversation seems a pretty big undertaking, but the engineers of the Bell system have made it easier to talk thirty-four hundred miles than it used to be to talk thirty-four."
It was then that Edison made his unanticipated request, sending Edison Recording Labs chief Dr. Miller Reese Hutchinson scrambling to find the disc. In what was turning out to be a day of firsts, Dr. Hutchinson, unable to locate the record, became the first deejay to substitute a different selection for the one requested, playing instead Anna Case singing Charmant Oiseau from 'The Pearl of Brazil".
This must have pleased Edison, who then cued up the same record in San Francisco to be heard by the guests in Orange. Through the magic of YouTube, we can listen to Anna Case today.