1899-1

Ponge’s Museum of Street Cries

Found - an American press cutting from Adams County News April 1914:

Armed with a recording gramophone, M. Ponge, a schoolmaster in Paris, spends his leisure hours lying in wait for street cries in populous quarters. He is preparing a museum of speech, which he will leave behind him for the instruction of future ages. When he hears the Parisian equivalent of 'Milk' or muffin man, he pounces on them and compels them to sing or ring bells into his receiver. He has already collected most of the well-known street cries.

The story appeared in British and American newspapers between 1911 and 1914 in various forms, The Daily Telegraph's Paris correspondent even specifying that he had recorded the Parisian flower men selling mimosas and 'the shrill  tenor who pieces together again "marble alabaster and porcelain."' One commentator noted '…well every man to his humour; but we are not visiting any museums to hear street cries, thank you.'

Spokane Daily Chronicle Nov 4 1911 reports:

The intention is to obtain registers of all forms of speech in France including the various patois of different regions, villages and cities, and also popular songs and street cries. Among other things registered by M.Ponge are songs of children dancing in circles and the cries of sellers of fish and vegetables, together with the talk going on between sellers and buyers. The museum is to have a scientific character, since microphotographs of the impressions made by the voice in its various forms are to be preserved, and a complete  'phonetic chart' of French vocal utterances is aimed at.

Monsieur Ponge's innovative audio museum appears not to have happened - but we salute him as a far-thinking researcher and hope these sounds are still to be found somewhere.

* Some light googling shows this work by him:Le Musée de la Parole / Alfred Ponge (Michon et Gibeau , Paris 1911). His work seems to have been taken up by Ferdinand Brunot at the University of Paris thanks to support from Pathé.

An early recording session, Germany 1899

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