George Edward Gouraud (30 June 1842 - 20 February 1912) was an American Civil War recipient of the Medal of Honor who later became famous for introducing the new Edison Phonograph cylinder audio recording technology to England in 1888.
He was the son of the French engineer Francis Fauvel Gouraud (1808–1847) who came to the US in 1839 to introduce the daguerrotypes technology for photography. Both parents died in the summer of 1847. Gouraud fought for the United States Army during the Civil War 1861–1865, and received the Medal of Honor for bravery as a captain with the 3rd New York Volunteer Cavalry on November 30, 1864. He was later brevetted lieutenant colonel.
Working for Edison
He became affiliated with Thomas Edison and moved with his family to London in 1873 to act as Edison's agent in Europe. As an enthusiast of new electric inventions, he had many such gadgets installed in his house at Beulah Hill, Upper Norwood, in South London, which became known as "Little Menlo" after Menlo Park, New Jersey where Edison's company was situated in the United States.
The Edison phonograph
In 1888, Thomas Edison sent his "Perfected" Phonograph to Gouraud in London and on 14 August 1888, Gouraud introduced the phonograph to London in a press conference, including the playing of a piano and cornet recording of Arthur Sullivan's "The Lost Chord", one of the first recordings of music ever made.
A series of parties followed, introducing the phonograph to members of society at "Little Menlo". Sullivan was invited to one of these on 5 October 1888. After dinner, he recorded a speech to be sent to Thomas Edison, saying, in part:
I can only say that I am astonished and somewhat terrified at the result of this evening's experiments: astonished at the wonderful power you have developed, and terrified at the thought that so much hideous and bad music may be put on record forever. But all the same I think it is the most wonderful thing that I have ever experienced, and I congratulate you with all my heart on this wonderful discovery.
George Gourard made several recordings of contemporaries, such as
- May 15, 1890, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892) reading Charge of the Light Brigade.
- July 30, 1890, Florence Nightingale (1820–1910) addressing her “dear old comrades of Balaclava” from 10 South Street, Park Lane, London, her home.
- August 2, 1890, Martin Lanfried (1834–1902) playing a bugle in the Edison House, London, bugle used at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
- ^ A dinner with Sir Arthur Sullivan (rare 1888 recordings)
- Tennyson reading while Gouraud records, May 15th, 1890.
- Florence Nightingale reading for Gouraud on July 30, 1890.
- Martin Lanfried on Youtube.
In 1896 Gouraud created a scandal in Niagara, meeting the Chinese viceroy Li Hongzhang (1823–1901), unfortunately kissing his hands. He hurried back in England and became involved in an acoustic laboratory in Brighton, trying to perfect an amplifier invented by Horace Short (1876–1917) and presented as the Gouraudophone at the Exposition Universelle (1900) in Paris. He left this enterprise and in 1909 went through a bankruptcy. Gourard died in 1912.
He was the son of the French engineer Francis Fauvel Gouraud (1808–1847) who came to the US in 1839 to introduce the daguerrotypes technology for photography. Both parents died in the summer of 1847 and George and his brother were thus orphaned. George was married in New York in 1870 to Florence Willis Snow (1845–1907) and the family moved to London. His first wife died in Brighton in 1907. In 1909 he was married again, in Paris to the Norwegian composer Helga Smith-Hald (born 1877), niece to the painter Hans Dahl. They resided in France and Switzerland.
George Gouraud died in 1912 in Vevey, Switzerland, only a week after his son Bayard Gouraud had died from a heart failure while returning home to England from India where he served in the 17th Lancers, a cavalry regiment of the British Army. Another son was ragtime songwriter Jackson Gouraud (1874–1910) who in 1901 became the third husband to heiress and orientalist Aimée Crocker (1864–1941). A third son was composer and broadcasting pionéer Powers Gouraud (1881–1954), who married to Gladys Crocker, who was Aimée Crocker's daughter from her first marriage to Richard Porter Ashe. The daughter Theodora Florence Goudard (1886–1943) was married at St. Paul's in London, 1899 to Reginald Courtenay Gayer (died 1940). His eldest son was George Fauvel Gouraud (1872–1915), a lawyer that also wrote poetry.