On December 14, 1922, in the former greenhouse of an Auburn, New York backyard, Theodore Case used a special, light sensitive cell to record the word “hello” onto a film strip with perfect clarity. Rushing to his lawyers first to patent the creation, Case sent the above telegram to his business partner Lee de Forest down in New York City to show him what he discovered. This system would be referred to under many names: the Thalofide Cell, the AEO light, the De Forest Phonofilm system, Movietone, all refer to an invention that changed entertainment and the world forever. On December 14, Theodore Case and his fellow scientists in the Case Research Lab discovered the key to making sound film a widespread phenomenon!

Throughout this year, on the second Wednesday of every month, we will go on a digital storytelling adventure: exploring the larger than life figures, the conflicts, and the history changing moments that defined the brief but impactful work of the Case Lab from 1922-1927, culminating in the creation of the first sound film! If you are new to the Case Research Lab, be sure to visit the page for a brief overview of the Lab’s history and information on how you can come tour the space right here on the Cayuga Museum Campus! If you would like more detail on this story, you may be interested in the book exploring this topic, Breaking the Silence on Film

Be on the lookout as well for further announcements about events we plan to celebrate as part of the 100th Anniversary of Sound Film!


The Story and the Characters

Familiarize yourself with the history of the Case Research Lab and some of the important historical figures who made the miraculous discoveries possible.

February 9, 2022

Developing the Tech, Part I

Learn more about how sound film was made possible through constant experimentation, some failure, and the constant threat of having ideas stolen!

March 9, 2022

Developing the Tech, Part II

Continue your exploration of how sound film was made possible through constant experimentation, some failure, and the constant threat of having ideas stolen!

April 13, 2022

Testing Sound Film

Constant experimentation was the name of the game for the Case Research Lab. See for yourself the test films which would make sound on film a reality!

May 11, 2022

Auburn, The Unspoken Birthplace of Sound Film

The story of the Case Research Lab’s journey in developing sound film is impossible to tell without the city of Auburn. See for yourself how the small, Finger Lakes area city put Case on even ground with the Titans of the film industry!

Unless specified otherwise, all images in use during this program can be found within the collection of the Cayuga Museum. If you would like to research the Case Research Laboratory or any of the figures mentioned throughout the year, or would like to use any of these images for professional use, you can put in a research or image request HERE