Voices of Presidents Benjamin Harrison, 1889, and Grover Cleveland, 1892

This is believed to be the oldest known recording of any president of the United States (Source):

Michigan State University Library has posted audio recordings of a number of presidents, including two clips from Grover Cleveland, who served as president from 1881-1885, and 1989-93.

Drill Deeper:

Comments

Bruce Johnson said…

All these guys sound more British than what we think of as American to me.

Wonder when what we think of as an “American accent” took over? Understand that FDR had a lot to do with it – ironically, when upper class people hated him so much, they didn’t want to sound like him, so consciously worked on picking up a more Midwestern-sounding speech.

Of course, Wilson & TR & Cleveland were all Easterners, so maybe the Midwestern accent was always similar to what it is now, but simply hadn’t acquired the influence it later did as THE American accent (as in the totally nonsensical claim people with this accent make, “I don’t have any accent”) and people on the East Coast still spoke more like the British.

Ron M said…

Perhaps “official” speech patterns changed as the Midwest and the West became more populated and more important politically.

No doubt the movie and electronic entertainment industries had something to do with it as their primary base has been Southern California since the 20s.

But, then again–maybe not. I just spent a week in NYC. New Yorkers can be difficult to understand due to their speech patterns and accent.

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