The modern history of disability, and of speech impediments in particular, has largely been written as one of medical discourse and (more recently) of social and cultural imaginations. The pathology of speech appears as an embodied, but ultimately intangible, issue due to the transient nature of sound itself. Once produced, it disappears, and seems to escape memory. In this text, stammering is approached as an object of material history. Drawing on the “paper trail” left by medical experts, popular entertainers and a handful of stammerers’ experiences, this paper examines the ways in which stammering was made material in the nineteenth century. The impediment not only provided (pseudo) medical actors with a lucrative market for various curative objects and practices, but also propelled the (sheet-)music business. Stammerers themselves appear in this story of materialization and market as both agents and objects. The cheap self-cures, medical manuals, sheet music and (later) recordings that were produced not only for, but also by, them, show how easily the impediment was aligned with the modern consumer’s identity and how the persona of the stammerer was, ultimately, lodged in the Western collective memory in very material ways.
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