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L. Clark Seelye Recording of Scripture, 1916

L. Clark Seelye Recording of Scripture, 1916

The recording was initiated and funded by members of the class of 1886 at their thirtieth reunion in the spring of 1916. On November 3, 1916, a member of the class named Leona Pierce wrote a telegram to Columbia Graphophone company requesting information about making personal records. That same day a sales representative sent her a reply describing in some detail the process and cost of record making. Later that month Miss Pierce purchased two wax matrices for making 12 inch single disc records at the cost of $75 per matrix. The 12 inch matrices had a playing time of 4 minutes and 15 seconds each.

Between November 18 and November 28, 1916, Seelye was recorded reading passages of scripture that he used to read at the first and last chapel exercises during the period of his presidency. The matrixes were then returned to Columbia Graphophone so that records could be stamped from them. Fifty-three copies of the record were made that November; 45 records for members of the class of 1886 and 8 additional copies.

According to the class receipts, in August 1918 the class had 150 additional records made; in December 1918, 100 more were made; in May 1919, 100 more were made; and finally in May 1920, 50 more copies were made. These were sold and distributed to Smith Clubs, Smith alumnae, members of the Seelye family, friends of Seelye, and other potentially interested listeners. One was even sent to Alexander Graham Bell, who acknowledged its receipt in a letter dated April 1919. He also noted that the record had arrived “a trifle cracked,” and he was sent another copy. He sent a second letter acknowledging receipt of this next record “in perfect condition” and wrote “I am hoping to have an opportunity of hearing it very soon.”

Seelye’s children were especially delighted with the recording. Henrietta Seelye Gray wrote a thank you letter noting, “it will always mean a great deal to have it and to be able to keep it for my children.”

Information about the Seelye recording is found in 80. Class of 1886 records, Smith College Archives

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