Percy Powell-Cotton’s interest in recorded sound grew as the technology developed.
He first heard ‘Mr Edison’s Phonograph’ in London during early 1889, which used wax cylinders to play and record. Later that year Edison’s latest machine was on display at the World’s Fair in Paris - Percy saw it there and was most impressed with the improved sound quality.
When he set off for the Congo in 1904 Percy decided to take his Edison Standard Phonograph in order to make sound recordings. He also took his ‘Monarch’ machine made by the Gramophone Company, together with a selection of disc recordings. These were part of his scientific research and were chosen for their distinct sounds – talking, singing, laughing, whistling etc. As an anthropologist he was fascinated by the reactions of the local people. They were all very fond of one of his favourites – ‘The Laughing Policeman’.