Edison’s Harpist

Listen to the 1914 renditions of “Vision” and “One Sweetly Solemn Thought” by Canadian musician Winifred Bambrick, the first harpist to record with American inventor Thomas Edison.

Compiled by Canada’s History staff

Posted September 2, 2021
Scroll down to listen to Bambrick play "Vision."

Born in Ottawa on February 21, 1892, Winifred Bambrick was a brilliant harpist, a musician who was equally happy playing classical music or show tunes, military marches or contemporary compositions. Though her talent was prodigious, her stature was not. Years later, when asked how she managed to handle her enormous harp, she quipped: “I weigh just ninety pounds, and so does my harp. We’re well balanced.”

In 1914, she was invited to the Edison Records studio in West Orange, New Jersey, where she recorded “One Sweetly Solemn Thought,” by Angelo Francis Pinto and “Vision,” by Gabriel Verdalle. In the ensuing decades her globe-trotting career took her across the USA with the Sousa Band, around Europe with Curt Doorlay’s non-stop revue Tropical Express, and to Malaysia with bandleader Trevor McCabe. She also wrote the novel Continental Revue, based on her experiences touring Germany just before the outbreak of the Second World War. Her book won the Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction in 1947.

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The feature article detailing Bambrick’s life was published as “Pluck and Prowess” in the October-November 2021 issue of Canada’s History.

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