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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Fast Facts About Talking Books

  • In 1929 Ruth Baker Pratt was elected to Congress, the first woman to attain this position. She was also the co-sponsor of the Pratt-Smoot Act, which in 1931 provided books for the adult blind of the United States.

  • On September 26, 1934, the John Wanamaker store hosted the first New York City public meeting to discuss the Talking Book.

  • Helen Keller was initially opposed to the Talking Book project.

  • In 1937 Gregory Peck auditioned as a narrator at AFB. A report said "Damn nice fellow. Pretty good reader. Might try out when we get some books."

  • The long-playing record (LP) was being used by those with vision loss 14 years before it was made available to the general public by CBS in 1948.

  • During World War II the U.S. government requisitioned raw materials to manufacture arms and supplies for the military. One such product was Vinylite, a material used by the government to make raincoats for army personnel. Vinylite was also the material out of which Talking Book records were made. A shortage of Vinylite led AFB to scour surplus depots and other non profit and commercial firms for supplies of the material, making it an early recycler.

  • The rule allowing only blind individuals to use Talking Books and Talking Book machines was broken when President Eisenhower was allowed to use the Talking Book while convalescing from a heart attack in 1955.

  • Talking Books have at various times been recorded in English, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, and German. Talking Book magazines are produced in English, Spanish, and German.

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The Unseen MinorityA Social History of Blindness in the United States

The Unseen Minority: A Social History of Blindness

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