Throwback Thursday Object: Rare Talking Book

Gulliver’s Travels
Our object this week is a recent find, and very significant.  In February 1936, APH installed a model recording studio in a small room in its already overcrowded building and began experimenting with a new idea:  the Talking Book.  The braille presses were humming, but American Foundation for the Blind President Robert Irwin had convinced the APH leadership that recorded books were the next big thing.  That year, APH recorded five books and the first, narrated by Louisville radio pioneer Hugh Sutton, was the Jonathan Swift classic “Gulliver’s Travels.”  Last autumn, an electrician in Colorado Springs named Michael Lucas got in touch with our museum.  He had fourteen vintage Talking Books from the earliest days of the program, and among them was a copy of Gulliver.  APH only pressed about 100 sets of that first book.  When Talking Book libraries began to convert from phonograph records to cassettes, most of these early records were destroyed or discarded.  This might very well be the only surviving copy of Gulliver.  We are very much looking forward to hearing Hugh Sutton, our first narrator, read again, so look forward to hearing it soon in this spot! (The photo shows a closeup of the record label).

Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

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