The new National Jukebox project at the Library of Congress
is a trove of acoustic recordings from 1901 to 1925 with a great streaming-audio engine. Among much else in the collection, the spoken-word discs show us how strong the regional differences were in American speech before radio started homogenizing them. Here’s Warren G. Harding in 1922, for instance, with an Ohio accent thicker than anything I’ve heard in Ohio in my own excessively long life.
And now that I’ve heard this song from 1906, I’m going to have an easier time reconstructing the voices of the tough guys in Stephen Crane’s Maggie, A Girl of the Streets — right down to the tone of disdain in the cry of “Aw, gee.”