Centuries of Sound on Cambridge 105 Radio – Episode 6 (1896-1897)


James and Sean use their audio archeology skills to take you on another time travel adventure with original recordings from the distant past. This time we visit 1896 and 1897, hear the birth pangs of something not yet called ragtime, find out the true origins of ‘The Laughing Policeman’ and hear some jokes so rude that the performer was actually sent to jail.

The show is on TODAY the 2nd of February at 8pm – you can listen in on the Cambridge 105 website here – https://cambridge105.co.uk/radioplayer/ – or on radio apps, or on 105fm / digital if you are actually in Cambridge.

Update: The show is now available to be streamed here:

1896 in Film

the kiss

Aside from The Kiss, this year we have some genuinely amazing work from Georges Méliès – real one-minute horror and fantasy films, a huge leap forward for the artform.

The Haunted Castle (Le Manoir du diable)

The Kiss

Le Cauchemar (A Nightmare)

Snowball Fight

McKinley at Home, Canton, Ohio


Blackfriars Bridge

Lion, London Zoological Gardens

The Vanishing Lady

La Fée aux Choux

Carmaux, défournage du coke

Une Partie de Cartes

1896 in Art

Self-portrait with skeleton, by Lovis Corinth

Lovis Corinth – Self-portrait with Skeleton

Edvard Munch - The Sick Child

Edvard Munch – The Sick Child

Viktor Vasnetsov - Birds of Joy and Sorrow

Viktor Vasnetsov – Birds of Joy and Sorrow

Jean-Léon Gérôme - Truth Coming Out of Her Well, Armed with Her Martinet to Chastise Mankind

Jean-Léon Gérôme – Truth Coming Out of Her Well, Armed with Her Martinet to Chastise Mankind

Paul Gauguin - Self-portrait 'près du Golgotha'

Paul Gauguin – Self-portrait ‘près du Golgotha’

Arturo Michelena – Miranda en la Carraca

Arturo Michelena – Miranda en la Carraca

Hugo Simberg – The Garden of Death

Hugo Simberg – The Garden of Death

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – The Defense of the Sampo

Akseli Gallen-Kallela – The Defense of the Sampo

Michael Ancher - A stroll on the beach

Michael Ancher – A Stroll on the Beach

Félicien Rops – Pornocrates (aquatint)

Félicien Rops – Pornocrates

Konstantin Makovsky – Appeal of Kuzma Minin

Konstantin Makovsky – Appeal of Kuzma Minin

Frederick McCubbin – On the wallaby track

Frederick McCubbin – On the Wallaby Track

Thomas Eakins – The Pianist

Thomas Eakins – The Pianist

A. E. Housman – A Shropshire Lad


Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

Raised in Worcestershire and finding myself eventually settled in Cambridge, I do share some geographical space with the ghost of A. E. Housman, even if I otherwise find his morbid nostalgia a bit too much to take as seriously as perhaps it needs.

Still, reading A Shropshire Lad gives you something in common with the generation who fought the First World War, when, naturally, morbidity and nostalgia must have been very important forces indeed.

“I was born in Worcestershire, not Shropshire, where I have never spent much time. I had a sentimental feeling for Shropshire because its hills were on our Western horizon.” – A.E. Housman, from private correspondence

A Shropshire Lad
A Shropshire Lad (Full text at Project Gutenberg)
A Shropshire Lad (Free audio at Librivox)


H. G. Wells – The Island of Doctor Moreau


Probably the least well-remembered of Wells’s three groundbreaking science fiction works of the late 1890s, The Island of Doctor Moreau has suffered even more then The Time Machine from a series of poor quality adaptations, and an odd sort of uncertainty of what the point of the story is. Whether you view the book as pleasingly ambiguous or confused in its ideas, it’s still a pleasing combination of proto-sci-fi and gothic horror, reminiscent of Tom Baker era Dr Who.

The Island of Doctor Moreau
The Island of Doctor Moreau (full text at Project Gutenberg)
The Island of Doctor Moreau (free audiobook at Librivox)

Elsewhere in 1896

st augustine monster


The first modern Olympic Games takes place, Blackpool Pleasure Beach opens, X-rays are discovered, La bohème premiers, Henry Ford builds The Ford Quadricycle, his first vehicle, there is the world’s first motoring fatality, the first speeding fine and the first study of the sensitivity of global climate to atmospheric carbon dioxide.

American Politics

William Jennings Bryan delivers his Cross of Gold speech, but loses the presidential election to William McKinley. In the case of Plessy v. Ferguson, the U.S. Supreme Court introduces the “separate but equal” doctrine and upholds racial segregation

The Scramble for Africa

Jameson surrenders to the Boers, The Fourth Anglo-Ashanti War begins, at the Battle of Adwa Ethiopia defends its independence from Italy, in the Mahdist War there is British and Egyptian victory at the Battle of Ferkeh, and on August 27th from 9am to 9.45am the Anglo-Zanzibar War, the shortest war in recorded history, takes place.


A train carrying 56 tons of dynamite explodes at Braamfontein, Johannesburg, killing more than 78 people.
The St. Louis–East St. Louis tornado levels a mile wide swath of downtown St. Louis, Missouri, killing more than 255 people.

Terrors of the deep

The St. Augustine Monster, a large carcass, later postulated to be the remains of a gigantic octopus, is found washed ashore near St. Augustine, Florida.


Paulino Alcántara, Filipino-Spanish soccer player (d. 1964)
Anna Anderson, pretender to the Russian throne (d. 1984)
Antonin Artaud, French stage actor and director (d. 1948)
Philip Barry, American playwright (d. 1949)
André Breton, French writer (d. 1966)
George Burns, American actor and comedian (d. 1996)
Mark W. Clark, American general (d. 1984)
Gerty Cori, Austrian-born biochemist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (d. 1957)
Quirino Cristiani, Argentine animated film director (d. 1984)
Gary Davis, American musician (d. 1972)
Priscilla Dean, American actress (d. 1987)
Mamie Eisenhower, First Lady of the United States (d. 1979)
F. Scott Fitzgerald, American writer (d. 1940)
Bud Flanagan, British entertainer and comedian (d. 1968)
Ramón Franco, Spanish aviation pioneer (d. 1938)
Ira Gershwin, American lyricist (d. 1983)
Ruth Gordon, American actress, screenwriter, and playwright (d. 1985)
Bucky Harris, American baseball player (d. 1977)
Howard Hawks, American director (d. 1977)
Helen of Greece and Denmark, Queen Mother of Romania (d.1982)
Léonide Massine, Russian ballet dancer and choreographer (d. 1979)
Dimitri Mitropoulos, Greek conductor, pianist and composer (d. 1960)
Eugenio Montale, Italian writer, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1981)
Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists (d. 1980)
Imre Nagy, 3-time Prime Minister of Hungary (d. 1958)
John Dos Passos, American author (d. 1970)
Sandro Pertini, President of Italy (d. 1990)
Jean Piaget, Swiss psychologist (d. 1980)
Marie Prevost, Canadian-born American actress (d. 1937)
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Indian religious leader, founder-acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (d. 1977)
Wallis Simpson, American-born Duchess of Windsor (d. 1986)
Léon Theremin, Russian inventor (d. 1993)
Dziga Vertov, Russian filmmaker (d. 1954)
Lev Vygotsky, Russian psychologist (d. 1934)
William A. Wellman, American motion picture director (d. 1975)
Ethel Waters, American singer and actress (d. 1977)
Señor Wences, Spanish ventriloquist (d. 1999)
Georgi Zhukov, Soviet military leader, Marshal of the Soviet Union (d. 1974)


Harriet Beecher Stowe, American author (b. 1811)
Mathew Brady, American photographer (b. 1822)
Anton Bruckner, Austrian composer (b. 1824)
George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., inventor of the Ferris wheel (b. 1859)
Archduke Karl Ludwig of Austria, father of Archduke Ferdinand (b. 1833)
August Kekulé, German chemist (b. 1829)
Thomas W. Knox, American author and journalist (b. 1835)
Gustav Koerner, German-American statesman (b. 1809)
Otto Lilienthal, German aviation pioneer (b. 1848)
John Everett Millais, British Pre-Raphaelite painter (b. 1829)
Herman Webster Mudgett, alias H. H. Holmes, American serial killer (executed) (b. 1861)
Naser al-Din Shah Qajar, Shah of Persia, King of Herat (b. 1831)
Alfred Nobel, Swedish inventor of dynamite and creator of the Nobel Prize (b. 1833)
José Rizal, national hero of the Philippines (b. 1861)
Clara Schumann, German composer and pianist (b. 1819)
Paul Verlaine, French lyric poet (b. 1844)