Like Talking on the Phone but a Thousand Times More Thrilling!

The Empire State Building's Voice-O-Graph recorder

Friday, September 27, 2013 - 12:40 PM


Listen to a 1940s five-inch transcription disc recording from the highest coin operated booth in the world - the Voice-O-Graph automatic voice recorder on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building.

At the time of installation, The Empire State Building machine was placed next to lines of tourists waiting to ascend the elevators. Leo Weisskopf and Murray Handler of Murlee Enterprises, who operated the machine, recalled counting eighty-seven people waiting in line to make recordings one occasion. Building officials stated that the observatories drew over 6 million patrons that year.1

Once in the booth, users could pick up a microphone and make a one minute recording, which was immediately played back and vended.  These transcription discs had either a cardboard or aluminum core with a lacquer coating.



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About NYPR Archives & Preservation

Mission Statement: The New York Public Radio Archives supports the mission and goals of WNYC and WQXR by honoring the broadcast heritage of the radio stations and preserving their organizational and programming legacy for future generations of public radio listeners. The Archives will collect, organize, document, showcase and make available for production all original work generated by and produced in association with WNYC and WQXR Radio.

The NYPR Archives serves the stations staff and producers by providing them with digital copies of our broadcast material spanning WNYC and WQXR's respective 90 and 77 year histories.  We also catalog, preserve and digitize, provide reference services, store, and acquire WNYC and WQXR broadcast material (originals and copies) missing from the collection. This repatriation effort has been aided by dozens of former WNYC and WQXR staff as well as a number of key institutions. Additionally, our collecting over the last ten years goes beyond sound and includes photos, publicity materials, program guides, microphones, coffee mugs, buttons and other ephemera. We've left no stone unturned in our pursuit of these artifacts. The History Notes is a showcase for many of these non-broadcast items in our collection. 

In fact, if you’ve got that vintage WNYC or WQXR knick-knack, gee-gaw, or maybe a photo of someone in front of our mic, an old program guide or vintage piece of remote equipment and would like to donate it to us, or provide a copy of the item to us, write to Andy Lanset at   

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