“CAN YOU TAKE NIGHT TRAIN FOR AUBURN? URGENT DEVELOPMENT”

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

You can explore this exhibit in-person at the Cayuga Museum, and check out how we’ll be celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Sound Film in December of 2022!

Introduction

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!

June 8, 2022

Case vs. de Forest, Part I

Starting as work colleagues, becoming bitter rivals! Take a closer look at the downfall of Theodore Case and Lee de Forest’s relationship as the two explored the advent of Phonofilm.

July 13, 2022

Case vs. de Forest, Part II

Starting as work colleagues, becoming bitter rivals! Take a closer look at the downfall of Theodore Case and Lee de Forest’s relationship as the two explored the advent of Phonofilm.

August 10, 2022

Movietone vs. Vitaphone

The Sound Film Wars begin! 1927 can be best remembered as the year of sound film, as two dueling systems rushed to bring in the Talkie Era and dominate the entertainment industry.

September 14, 2022

Other Sound Film Systems

Learn more about some of the other players who helped shape the Talkie Revolution, including one of the biggest competitors in the Sound Film Wars: Photophone!

October 12, 2022

Sunrise vs. The Jazz Singer

In 1927, the film industry experienced what can best be described as The Year of Sound Film, a profound shift ushered in by two dueling sound film movies. Learn more about Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (Fox-Case Movietone) and The Jazz Singer.

November 9, 2022

After Fox

What would you do if you could retire in your 40s? After selling his shares in Fox, Case decided to go back to exploring his love of science and research.

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