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American Accent Links

All of following links are given in order either American accents from the past or current accents that are regional or noteworthy in some way. I try to include a variety of different accents but many of these are going to be the North American Western type that are common in a large part of the U.S. and Canada. Many people will be surprised at how much the accents have changed over time. Please keep in mind these pages are new and it will take time to build into a nice collection so be patient.
Earliest Voices: A Gallery of the Vincent Voice Library
A multimedia site presenting some of the most significant voices captured during the first fifty years of sound recording, 1877-1927.

History and Politics Out Loud
A diverse collection of audio -- speeches and private communications -- relating to U.S. history and politics

History Channel Speech Archive
A page that gives links for many speeches foreign and domestic

Old recordings from before radio- late 19th century to early 20th century

Recordings from WWI and the 1920 election

America of the 1930's

America of the 1940ís
Varies a good bit

Highly recommended for a variety of local accents of the 1940's!
Pearl Harbor Reactions
Man on the street type and Dear Mr. President recordings for the reaction to Pearl Harbor and beyond, very interesting and good way of comparing speech across the country for average people with natural speech since there are definitely different accents and they are speaking normally- unlike some people when giving a speech. It has a few Southern samples- many are black but there are is also a great Philly sample on one of the D.C. ones a well as New York city and many others.

CBS coverage of Paul Robeson riot
This is recorded in Cortlandt, New York in 1949 and is based on Robesonís race and communist sympathies

Early California News coverage
One of the first spontaneous news stories to receive live television coverage, rescue workers in 1949 struggled to save a three-year-old girl who had fallen down an abandoned well in San Marino, California.

Lots of Americana in sound

Infamous ďHouston, weíve had a problemĒ

Good list of links

U.S. Presidents

Index link for U.S. Presidents
These examples even go back to men born in the mid to late 1800's and include different geographical locations although there's not any really old Southern types in here.

22 & 24-Grover Cleveland
He was born in the 1830ís in New Jersey

23- Benjamin Harrison
He was born in the 1830ís in Ohio. This is the oldest known recording (in 1889) of any US President, and given his early birthdate this is probably one of the oldest recordings of any American or even most English speakers, period. Heís also the grandson of W.H. Harrison the 9th US President

25-William McKinley
He was born in 1840ís in Ohio

26- Theodore Roosevelt
He was born in 1850ís around New York city- East Coast example

27- William Howard Taft
He was born in 1850ís in Ohio. To the best that I can tell this is a very natural sounding Taft, his accent is basically the same as the typical (non-local) Midwestern accent that the US is known for even though it's recorded in the very early years of the 1900's (all before 1910) It's a little bit reverent but this is basically natural speech

28-Woodrow Wilson
He was born in 1850ís in Virginia but grew up throughout the South. He has only a small amount of reverent tones. He obviously adopted a Mid-Atlantic accent from living in New Jersey for so long- maybe slightly Southern at times- however he mostly sounds like how people would perceive a standard American of that time. Itís definitely not the same as Grover Cleveland from New Jersey.

31- Herbert Hoover
He was born in the 1870ís in Iowa- Midwestern accent

32- FDR
He was born in 1880ís in New York. Heís a little more natural (less reverent) here but this is an example of an old style East Coast accent

35-John F. Kennedy
He was born in Massachusetts before 1920. Several people from New England have suggested that for some reason nobody actually talks like the Kennedys in real life (?), however itís still some kind of New England accent- probably Boston but not Boston Brahmin

Native Texan born in the early years of the 20th century. A South Midland/Texas type. Most Texans have suggested that there are four different types of Texas accents based on the compass.

39-Jimmy Carter
He was born in Georgia in the 1920's. This is a Coastal South "Plantation" type. If you watch movies set in the Old South they inevitably use this accent. It's associated with the gentry and traditional African American accents.

Famous Historical People

Progressive politican William Jennings Bryan
Illinois native born in the early 1860ís he is more well known today for his defense of creationism against Clarence Darrow in the Scopes trial

Attorney Clarence Darrow
Illinois native born in the early 1860ís he is more well known today for his defense of creationism against Clarence Darrow in the Scopes trial

Socialist politican Eugene Debs
Indiana native born during the mid 1800's

Former Secretary of State Cordell Hull
He was the equivalent of Colin Powell under the Roosevelt era. This is a South Midland type, he's from Tennessee.

Auto pioneer Henry Ford
He was born in the Midwest-Michigan in the 1860ís

Author William Faulkner
He is from Mississippi- born in the late 1800ís. This is another Coastal South type- it's very similar, but not identical to, President Carter's.

Artist William Henry Jackson
Artist of the 19th century American West, (born 1840ís in upstate New York just south of Canadian line). He speaks totally naturally with no reverent tones and sounds mostly like some kind of old style Midwestern as opposed to say, East Coast but he might sound just a little East Coast/Deep South in some ways- for example says first a little like ďfoist.Ē His speech is relatively fast possibly because of the Northerly location. Note that this guy would today be around 150 yrs.

Humorist Will Rogers
Born in 1879 on a large ranch in the Cherokee Nation near Oklahoma,a type of South midland example

Baseball's Joe DiMaggio
Noteworthy because he has a NYC metro accent

Aviator Charles Lindbergh
He was born in the Midwest in the early 20th century

Aviator Amelia Earhart
She was born in the 1880ís in Kansas. Midwestern example.

Aviator Chuck Yeager
He was born in 1920ís in West Virginia. For some reason heís less known than Lindbergh but he was the first person (at age 24)to break the sound barrier. Upper South- Appalachian example. Supposedly he inspired the U.S. "pilot accent" and that's why so many pilots use a Southern accent.

Specific American Accents

I constantly see British people suggesting that Americans all mostly sound the same and that's basically true for the most part in the MASS MEDIA (as it is for the British as well) but some still say we (and Canadians) all sound very similar even upon hearing regional varieties. All I can say to that is that it's typical of people to notice small distinctions in speech similar to theirs while lumping more foreign types together and this is no different with Americans. I discuss this more on another page but suffice it to say that itís just a personís frame of reference. I also talk about how there is NO SUCH THING AS A (U.S.) SOUTHERN ACCENT! ďSouthern" is a range of accents with a few tendencies here and there but very few rules.

More importantly, in the U.S. there are differences in pronunciation but to what degree one would call it an accent is hard to say and it depends on your definition of an accent. In the U.K. people developed their speech patterns over a small area over a long period of time due to primitive forms of travel. People stayed in their area so they had their own dialect which was distinctive and known about. In the U.S. it's more tricky because people have been mobile from the get go with people constantly coming and going on ships, wagons, trains, horseback, etc. for a very long time. This meant that although people's individual speech would vary in a state or whatever people wouldn't have necessarily have a name for it since it wasn't attached to their identity. The U.K. is starting to follow a similar path with many people there now saying they've moved around and adopted pronunciation based on different areas. People don't have names for homemade makeshift accents though, just longstanding established ones with communities and history behind them but that doesn't mean there is homogenity if you actually look at the pronunciation features.
Some definitional types of accents include:

New England
Looking for various New England ones, especially traditional

New York City metro
Looking for some NYC/North Jersey ones, again especially traditional

Philadelphia area
Looking for some good Philly/South Jersey ones, again traditional preferred

Baltimorse of Baltimore, Maryland
Proof of the variety of American accents. I still can't make out the first two syllables.

Tidewater Virginia
Looking for some examples of Tidewater, this can be real people or clips of:
Charlie Rose of 60 minutes or Senator John Warner of Virginia (easiest examples)
or even (I think) the narrator of The Waltons, and the former announcer (until a year or two ago) of the Westminister Dog Show

High Tiders

First, let me say that I use the phrase "High Tiders" simply to conveintly describe the various dialects around the south Chesepeake Bay/Atlantic coastal area (Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, etc.) that are often studied by linguists due to their isolation and thus, conservative nature. Some are termed "Hoigh Toider" accents due to the pronunciation but I'm basing it on isolation. They are DIFFERENT ACCENTS and are often termed ďElizabetheanĒ since this is often a catchphrase for guidebooks and what not to pull in tourists. There are no "Elizabethan" accents anymore but it's just that some have features that have survived from times past that is no longer present in standard English or most other dialects.

To the best that I can tell this group would include:

  • Smith Island, Maryland (have links)
  • Tangier Island, Virginia (canít find any links but would love to hear it)
  • Ocracoke Island, North Carolina (have links)
  • maybe Harkers Island, North Carolina or some others out there-? (no links)

    The Smith Island accent in Maryland to me just sounds like a type of standard Southern accent (nothing unusual about it) but Iíve only heard two examples and Iíve given links. The Tangier Island accents are often described online but I canít find any links. Supposedly they are more of a West Country style British accent- but who knows. The Ocracoke Island examples basically sound like a North Carolina Southern accent (it has that noticeable long nasal Ďoísound- which is more extreme than most people in bordering Virginia or Tennessee but itís a little different because it has more of a ďoi/oyĒ sound in the long Ďií thus giving in the nickname ďHoigh ToidersĒ for High Tiders. There are other slight differences with words like ďsoundĒ sounding a little more like ďseundĒ and so forth but itís not that noticeably different from most people over on the mainland. The Ocracoke Island accent does have a very strong thickness/twang to it so just because itís a little odd doesnít mean itís less Southern- if anything itís more. Iíve read in a few places where people try to suggest this and in one case someone thought it sounded more Northern since they were around Union soldiers during the American Civil War but I donít hear anything Northern about it at all and find this slightly insulting. It does sound very slightly more English mind you but Iím tired of people thinking that Southern accents must sound like rednecks and if anything is Southern then it can't be interesting, correct or elegant and that these constitute it being more Northern in some way. There are several older British subjects in the Collect Britain example that sound VERY similar (almost identical) to U.S. Southerners but they are not more ďNorthernĒ either.

    "High Tider" Smith Island Maryland
    This link includes two Smith Island, MD examples. One is of an older male and the other a younger female. I donít know what kind of accent they have but itís a pretty common type.

    "High Tider" Ocracoke Island accent off North Carolinaís outer banks
    These include lots of links but most donít work. The ones that do include:

  • Hoi Toide - Rex O'Neal (w/ transcript - opens in new window) This is a line from a play
  • A Conversation about Ducks - Rex O'Neal (w/ transcript - opens in new window)
  • Selling Fish Retail - Rex O'Neal (w/ transcript - opens in new window)
    Note: This one sounds like more of a standard Southern accent- either he left the Island and lost his accent or it's someone with a kind of standard Southern (mainland North Carolina) accent but just went to the Island to sell fish. It just doesnít sound like a Ocracoke accent like the others
  • Generations of Poker

    South Louisiana
    Looking for some Creole/Cajun types, again more traditional preferred

    Several different slaves
    Good examples of traditional African American examples)

    (Direct link) Slave from Thomas Jefferson's hometown
    This man was born in 1848 in Jefferson's hometown a little more than twenty years after Jefferson died. His grandfather belonged to Thomas Jefferson as well. With some black people you can tell that they are black by features of speech while some you can't. With him you can't, and before younger people jump to conclusions go back and listen to some old timer white people.

    Pittsburgh area
    Looking for some good Pittsburgh ones, again traditional preferred

    Fargo style Minnesota
    Former Gov. of Minnesota Jessie Ventura Good example of a Minnesota accent although I doubt itís as strong as the movie (Iíve never seen the movie but itís supposedly full on)

    Old Commercials

    This is pretty interesting if you compare it to commericals nowadays where everybody sounds so goofy.

    First Commercial (infomercial really)
    Introduced on Radio Broadcast from 1922 (final sentences from a 10 minute commercial, but they didnít allow direct selling on the air back then so they just had to allude to the product!

    Proctor and Gamble commercial from 1933

    Pepsident Toothpaste commercial from 1929
    You can barely understand some of it

    Jello commerical from 1934

    Last updated July 23, 2005
    Credits: Gasden flag icon courtesty of History Images