Charles Cros was a well-regarded
French poet and humorous writer. As an inventor, he was interested
in the fields of transmitting graphics by telegraph and making photographs
in color (1).
Cros is best known, however,
for the letter he sealed in an envelope and submitted to the Academy
of Sciences in Paris describing how to reproduce sound from a recording
of sound waves.
This description for his
concept of an invention that he intended to name the Paleophone (voix
du passé) was submitted slightly before Edison first conceived and
published his ideas on reproducing sound with his Phonograph. Cros
is therefore credited "with anticipating, though barely, what
Edison was to accomplish" (2).
For Friends of the Phonograph,
October 21, 1842, the birthday
of Charles Cros, is celebrated by
toasting his phonograph conception with a glass of French wine served
with salted herring while viewing Mars and listening to "A Signal
This seems a poetic touch
to honor the poet-inventor since Cros was the author of "The
Salt Herring" and additionally was convinced that there was life
on Mars spending "years petitioning the French government to
build a giant mirror that could be used to communicate with the Martians
and Venusians by burning giant lines on the deserts of those planets."(1)
Signal from Mars, played by John Lacalle's Band on Indestructible
record number 3080, released in 1910, is available by downloading
from the UCSB Audio Archive. (See "A Signal from Mars" sheet
The Kippered Herring
(Le Hareng Saur) by Charles Cros was translated and illustrated
by Edward Gorey in his 1971 book "The Salt Herring".
(2) Charles Cros, as described in “The Talking
Machine”, by Timothy C. Fabrizio and George F. Paul
(3) Goreyana, email@example.com
(4) Sheet music from the Allen G. Debus collection.
Courtesy of UCSB Cylinder Audio Archive