Little Beaver Historical Society Podcast
Special Online Digital Exhibit
Historic Sound: Industrial Beaver County
Towboat Aliquippa (1914-1952)
This is the only known recording of Towboat Aliquippa’s steam whistle. It is a sound not heard, perhaps, for at least seventy years or more. The boat was dismantled in 1952. Source: Whistle Echoes of The Ohio And Mississippi River Steamboats, Volume 2. Master Artists Recordings, published 1965.
Why our industrial soundscapes matter to Beaver County history
Sound is one of the fundamental properties of physics by which humans have developed a physiological sense to experience it: hearing. Sound provides us with useful information about the world, of course, but we have also created a wide range of cultural and creative activities around sound; think of music, poetry, dramatic performances, and public speeches. Sound is as much an important historical artifact as any material object, although it is much harder to capture, preserve, and share with others unless mediated by technology, such as recording and playback devices. Soundscapes are important audio recordings for historians because they capture “environmental” sounds or the acoustic trace of “life activity” in context. By environmental sound we generally mean the auditory world around us, not necessarily the sounds of nature. Sound recordists and engineers refer to the activity of capturing environmental sound as “field recording” (as opposed to recording inside a studio). To the sound historian, these field recordings are important artifacts belonging to the historical record, give us a sense of what the acoustic world was like at the time of the recording.