Dame Nellie Melba's Microphone

Contributed by Museum of the History of Science

Dame Nellie Melba’s Microphone

The museum has a wonderful collection of early radio apparatus include this historic example of an early microphone. With financial sponsorship from the Daily Mail newspaper, the Marconi Company was persuaded to broadcast the world's first live recital by a professional musician - the legendary Australian diva, Dame Nellie Melba. In a makeshift studio at the Chelmsford factory, using a microphone created with a telephone mouthpiece and wood from a cigar-box, she opened her recital at 19:10 on 15 June 1920 by singing 'Home Sweet Home' and after other popular favourites and several encores, closed with the National Anthem. Her voice, carried from an aerial with towering masts, was heard from as far as Iran and Newfoundland, and it has been suggested that the signal was received so strongly at the Eiffel Tower in Paris that gramophone records were made. The base is singed '1920 Nellie Melba'.

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