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Lost and Found Sound: An American Record Transcript

Unidentified Man #1: I am the Edison phonograph, created by the great wizard of the New World to delight those who have...

Mr. ED MURROW: Good evening. This is Ed Murrow.

Unidentified Man #2: ...when you serve your friends the beer with that new 1952 taste. You ought to take...

Unidentified Man #3: ...Butterfield, are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the president?

Unidentified Woman: Today I also got a letter from...

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host: For Presidents Day, we present a treasure unearthed in our Quest for Sound. That's the special project that allows you to participate in our yearlong series Lost & Found Sound. Later we'll give you the telephone number to call to make your contribution. We're asking you to dig through your attics and bookshelves for your old precious recordings and to call us at our Quest hotline to describe them to us. Hundreds of you have already called our curator of the Quest, independent producer Jay Allison.

Mr. JAY ALLISON (Quest for Sound Curator): Among the remarkable collection of voice mail messages telling us about everything from wartime love letters to recorded brawls to the first words of an autistic child, one call intrigued us particularly for broadcast on this day. It came from Claudia Seabold in Palatine, Illinois. She told us she had a recording of her husband's ancestor who--well, this is what she said.

Mrs. CLAUDIA SEABOLD: What I have is, I believe, a very treasured item. It is a record of a gentleman who was an eyewitness that heard Lincoln give the Gettysburg Address.

Mr. ALLISON: That's right, the recorded voice of a man who actually heard Abraham Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address. We called Mrs. Seabold and retrieved her recording of William V. Rathbone's voice, originally cut to 78 rpm disc in 1938. Our Quest for Sound team has checked with a number of experts and historians, and they believe it is plausibly genuine. We called the Civil War Institute in Gettysburg and, though they had never heard of this recording, they very much want a copy. We'll send them one right after you hear it.

Mr. WILLIAM V. RATHBONE: (From vintage audio recording) Because, as a schoolboy, I was in the little town of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania some 75 years ago, I am privileged to tell you today what I then heard and saw when Abraham Lincoln, the wartime president of the United States, delivered his immortal address at the dedication of the national cemetery. When it was known that on a certain day in November, four months after the battle, that President Lincoln, "Old Abe" as we boys affectionately called him, was to be in Gettysburg, I was excused from my duties at school and accompanied my family at least to see the president and perhaps to hear what he had to say.

Bright and early the next morning, I was in the center square of the town where the procession was to form on the cemetery hill where the speaking was to take place. At the head of the procession, preceded by a mounted military band, the first I had ever seen, rode the president. He was mounted on a gray horse of medium size, which accentuated his unusual height, his long legs reaching too near the ground for either grace or good horsemanship. The president was escorted to the cemetery by many distinguished officers of the Army, representatives of foreign countries, military and civic organizations and the surging crowds of patriotic citizens estimated at 20,000.

After the long, eloquent oration of Honorable Edward Everett of Massachusetts, conceded to be the most finished orator of his day, Lincoln arose and, with a manner serious almost to sadness, gave his brief address that rang from the hills of Gettysburg, around the world and back many times and will ever continue to reverberate in the hearts and minds of all mankind where freedom, forgiveness, tenderness and strength are cherished.

During its delivery, with one or two other lads, I had worked my way onto the platform and wiggled through the crowd in front until I stood within 15 feet of Mr. Lincoln and looked up into his serious face. A rough board platform 4 or 5 feet high had been built from which the president spoke. Across the front, over the rail behind which he stood, was draped the nation's flag, the Stars and Stripes, Old Glory, as the soldiers gallantly called it.

Although I listened intently to every word the president uttered and heard it clearly, boylike, I could not recall any of it afterwards. But had any of my companions spoken slightingly of it, there would have been a junior Battle of Gettysburg then and there, for any hint or intimation that Old Abe, as we affectionately called him, was deficient or delinquent in any respect would have meant a scrap, so deep-seated was our youthful loyalty.

Perhaps no address of equal length has been more widely published and translated into more languages than the one I heard given by President Lincoln on that November day 75 years ago. It will bear repetition even now after more than three score years and 10 have passed. It needs no eloquence, or I could not attempt to read it to you.

Mr. Lincoln said, `Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We've come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who gave their lives that the nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But in a lesser sense--larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. And brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us that from these honored dead, we take increased devotion for that cause to which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new breath of freedom, and the government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the Earth.'

WERTHEIMER: That was William V. Rathbone, eyewitness to the Gettysburg Address, as recorded in 1938. His voice came to us through our Quest for Sound.

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