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Narratives

Historical Background

Used by Melba for her famous broadcast from Chelmsford, the first advertised live broadcast by a professional singer. The 'horn' is made from very thin mahogany (just over 2 mm thick), and is probably not from a cigar box, although it is traditionally described thus.

In London, the Daily Mail newspaper took up the amateurs' call for more entertainment on the air and, guaranteeing financial sponsorship, persuaded the Marconi Company to broadcast the world's first live recital by a professional musician - the legendary Australian diva, Dame Nellie Melba. In a hastily adapted studio at the Chelmsford works, 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.

Related Objects:

Inventory No. 54651, "'Melba' Telephone Microphone No C100L, by Marconi Company, English, 1920" [2004-9/584], Marconi Wireless Telegraph Co. Ltd