78-RPM RECORDS & CYLINDERS: ONLINE INFORMATION, ARTICLES & DISCOGRAPHIES

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Early Recording Industry


THE MAINSPRING PRESS RECORD COLLECTORS' BLOG:
 
MAINSPRING PRESS RECORD COLLECTORS' BLOG

Enjoy exclusive features not found on the website, updated several times weekly — Short articles, research updates, new discoveries, vintage ads and photos, free MP3s and more



 
Free Online Articles from Mainspring Press

Latest Features:

TALES FROM THE COLUMBIA VAULTS: THE UNAUTHORIZED "TEST PRESSINGS"
By Allan Sutton
Modern blank-labeled vinyl pressings from very old masters often turn up on auction lists, usually misrepresented as “test pressings." The material is often of great interest, including exceedingly rare or commercially unissued recordings. Collectors have long been curious about the source and legality of these pressings. Now, thanks to the discovery of some correspondence between the late William Moran and a Columbia factory insider, we know the story behind the unauthorized Columbia re-pressings that were made during the 1960s.

TWO YEARS IN THE LIFE OF A STUDIO FREELANCER: ARTHUR FIELDS' ED KIRKEBY SESSIONS (1921–1922)
Compiled from the Ed Kirkeby logbooks
Ed Kirkeby is best remembered as the manager of the California Ramblers, but in the early 1920s he made a good portion of his living by brokering studio dates for pop singers. Details of his Arthur Fields sessions, preserved in his logbooks, offer a revealing look at the professional life of a typical studio singer, as well as the widespread shuffling of recording duties among the small independent studios of the day.

THE AMERICAN CYLINDER RECORD PROJECT: BUSY BEE CATALOG (1906)
The William R. Bryant Papers
Although manufactured by Columbia, some Busy Bee cylinders use alternate takes, or even entirely different recordings, than those used on the corresponding Columbia XP cylinders.

THE AMERICAN CYLINDER RECORD PROJECT: HARMS, KAISER & HAGEN COMPLETE CATALOG (c. 1898)
The William R. Bryant Papers
An extraordinarily rare catalog, featuring Harms, Kaiser & Hagen brown-wax cylinder listings and an illustrated ad for the unusual paper-fiber "Kaiser" horn.

THE AMERICAN CYLINDER RECORD PROJECT: THE U-S EVERLASTING "MYSTERY" CYLINDERS (1910)
The William R. Bryant Papers
An early United States Phonograph Company catalog listed 51 two-minute U-S Everlasting cylinders with numbers that precede the start of confirmed issues, and which are not known to have been issued.

A BERLINER GRAMOPHONE AD GALLERY (1896–1901)
A collection of rare advertisements for various models of the Berliner Gram-O-Phone, from hand-cranked and ear-tune equipped to the classic "trademark" model as pictured in Eldridge Johnson's earliest (pre-Victor) advertisements.

THE RECORDS MARCONI DIDN'T INVENT: The True Story Behind the Marconi Velvet Tone Records
By Allan Sutton
New research confirms that Guglielmo Marconi didn't invent the records that bear his name
and likeness. The credit goes instead to a long-forgotten Columbia engineer.
[Abode Acrobat or Acrobat Reader required]

THE ZONOPHONE RECORDS VICTOR HERBERT'S BAND DIDN'T MAKE: Evidence in the Case of the Bogus Herbert Zonophones
By Allan Sutton
Neither Victor Herbert nor his band had anything to do with the Zonophone records bearing their name, and in 1904 he successfully sued to stop their sale.


Earlier Articles and Features:
  

CURRENT TOPICS IN RESEARCH AND DISCOGRAPHY


Record Labels and Companies:
78-rpm and Other Disc Records
 

SEE BEE: PIONEER BLACK RECORD LABEL OF THE 1920s
By Allan Sutton
See Bee is remembered as the label that recorded Marcus Garvey in 1922, but it also tried unsuccessfully to emulate Black Swan, producing gospel and dance band records before quietly disappearing. Updated 7-5-2011

THE VICTOR BLUE AND PURPLE LABEL SERIES: AN ILLUSTRATED INTRODUCTION
By John R. Bolig
Victor's blue and purple label catalogs were amazingly diverse for their time, running the gamut from the latest Broadway hits to classical and obscure ethnic material. John Bolig explores the series' history. Illustrated with rare graphics from the Victor catalogs and supplements.

CAMDEN, PHILADELPHIA, OR NEW YORK? THE VICTOR STUDIO CONUNDRUM
(1900-1920)

By Allan Sutton
Newly discovered evidence confirms that Philadelphia, not Camden, was the site of most early Victor recording sessions, and clarifies the early role of the New York studio.

THE CAMDEN CHRONOLOGY: EVOLUTION OF THE VICTOR TALKING MACHINE CO. FACTORY AND STUDIO COMPLEX (1899 - 1929)
By Allan Sutton
A year-by-year account of Victor studio and factory construction, and associated activities, based on the memoirs of recording engineers Raymond and Harry O. Sooy.

VICTOR RECORD SALES STATISTICS (1901–1941)
Victor's sales figures by label color, entered into evidence in the Decca "red-label" lawsuit.

EDISON DIAMOND DISC MANUFACTURING PROCESSES (1920 - 1929)
By Paul B. Kasakove
In July 1920, Paul Kasakove was hired to streamline Edison's Diamond Disc production. Here, he recalls the disc-manufacturing process in detail.

EDISON DISC RECORD AND PHONOGRAPH SALES STATISTICS (1912 - 1928)
Courtesy of Raymond Wile and the Edison National Historic Site
A sampling of yearly Diamond Disc record and phonograph sales totals, from the original Edison files.

"DISCONTINUING RECORD PRODUCTION" (1929) - DOCUMENTS FROM THE FINAL DAYS OF EDISON'S PHONOGRAPH DIVISION
Courtesy of Raymond Wile and the Edison National Historic Site
A selection of internal memos and reports documenting the closure of Edison's recording operations during October - December 1929.

THEATER-USE RECORDS AND THE "TALKIE" TRANSITION
Theater-use records like Victor's Pict-Ur-Music series bridged the gap between silent and sound films during the none-too-swift conversion to "talkies" in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

THE BIRTH OF HOME THEATER: FILMOPHONE, CINE-TONE, AND THE HOME-TALKIE
FILMS AND RECORDS (1927 1929)

Home theater is nothing new. After several similar ventures failed, Home-Talkie films and synchronized records finally gave movie fans a way to watch sound films by major vaudeville stars in the comfort of their homes.

THE VICTROLA IN THE RURAL SCHOOLS (1919)
Excerpts from the 1919 publication, showing the Victor School Machine in use in country schoolhouses

“A MINIATURE CONCERT”— The Earliest Issued Victor Electrical Recording
The Victor Talking Machine Co. had been experimenting with electrical recording since 1922, but to no avail until February 26, 1925. On that day, a test of acoustic vs. electric systems produced the first Victor electrical recordings accepted for issue, featuring the Eight Popular Victor Artists.

EDISON DISC RECORD ODDITIES: PROTOTYPES AND SPECIAL-USE RECORDS AT THE EDISON NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
Courtesy of the Edison National Historic Site
An illustrated sampling of ENHS rarities, including the Selectatune and Slogan Reproducing Machine records and a Brunswick-Edison hybrid disc.

IN THE EDISON STUDIOS (1905–1928)
Courtesy of Raymond Wile and the Edison National Historic Site
Rare photographs and blueprints of Edison's various recording studios

THE SEARS-ROEBUCK LABELS: AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY (1905–1950)
By Allan Sutton
Sears built its reputation by offering major manufacturers’ good under its own cut-rate brands, and phonograph records were no exception.

WHEN DID MARSH LABORATORIES BEGIN RECORDING ELECTRICALLY?
Orlando Marsh was the first to produce and issue electrical recordings on a regular commercial basis, but the date at which he first used his system has long been debated. A recent discovery may answer that question.

EMERSON'S TEN-CENT CARUSO RECORD
It was only a snippet, but what more could one ask for a dime? The story behind Emerson's only release by Enrico Caruso.

THE ARTHUR FIELDS SONG SHOP AND ARTHUR FIELDS MELODY RECORDS
In 1923 Arthur Fields teamed with the chronically ill-fated John Fletcher to produce his own Arthur Fields Melody Record label.

EVOLUTION OF THE VICTOR RECORD LABEL (1900–1905): An Illustrated Guide

THE KIDDIE RECORD WARS (1917–1930)

ODEON RECORDS IN THE UNITED STATES
   


Record Labels and Companies:

Cylinder Records

O'NEILL-JAMES BUSY BEE CYLINDER CATALOG (1906)

THE HARMS, KAISER & HAGEN CYLINDER CATALOG (c. 1898)

U-S EVERLASTING MYSTERY NUMBERS (1910)

STALKING LEEDS & CATLIN'S RADIUM CYLINDERS
By Allan Sutton
Leeds & Catlin re-entered the cylinder record business in early 1907, with their new line of Radium cylinders. Samples were shown to the trade, and an initial list was published in the trade papers, but where did the records go?

ADA JONES: Edison Blue Amberol Cylinderography

ARTHUR FIELDS: Edison Blue Amberol Cylinderography

A GALLERY OF EARLY CYLINDER PHONOGRAPH ADVERTISING (1896–1900)
    


Artists and Recording
Industry Pioneers

Recording Artists:

 

JACK KAUFMAN'S PERSONAL SCRAPBOOK (1910–1925)
Courtesy of Phil Kaufman
Rare Kaufman Brothers photos and memorabilia (1910-25) from Jack Kaufman's scrapbook, courtesy of rock-legend grandson Phil ("The Road Mangler") Kaufman.

THE KAUFMAN BROTHERS: A PREHISTORY OF PHIL, JACK, AND IRVING
By Allan Sutton
The original Kaufman Brothers act — Phil and Jack — were a hit in vaudeville long before they made their first records, while other brother Irving pursued a career that landed him with the Avon Comedy Four.

A HISTORY OF THE AVON COMEDY FOUR
By Allan Sutton
The legendary vaudeville team of Smith & Dale scrambled their way from Bowery saloons to top billing at America's and England's premier theaters as front-men for the Avon Comedy Four. Irving Kaufman, Arthur Fields, and Eddie Miller were some of the supporting members who came and went during the act's long life.

BILLY MURRAY'S RECORDING CONTRACTS: A CASE STUDY
By Allan Sutton
Murray's recording contracts provide a deeper understanding of his recording career, as well as a glimpse into the legal workings of the early American recording industry.

BILLY MURRAY'S VICTOR RECORDING CONTRACTS - THE COMPLETE ORIGINAL TEXTS
From The Billy Murray Pages
The complete, unaltered texts of Murray's 1909, 1919, and 1920 recording contracts, made public here for the first time, along with additional amendments and riders restricting his broadcasting and touring.

PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST IN DECLINE: Billy Murray's Comeback and Final Year
Compiled from the Martindale–Walsh letters
Martindale, a noted legal publisher, was closely involved with Murray's later comeback attempts. His letters to columnist Jim Walsh provide an intimate first-hand look at the the singer's later years.

'GENE GREENE'S VICTOR RECORDINGS: An Illustrated Discography
Compiled and annotated by Allan Sutton
Updated from the Victor files, and featuring rare Victor advertising for recordings by "The Ragtime King".

“RAGTIME” BOB ROBERTS: From Studio to Stage
By Allan Sutton
The son of a prominent mime-turned-theatrical manager, Robert A. "Bob" Roberts was one of the foremost exponents of the syncopated song. In a reversal of the usual process, his recording career preceded his success on the vaudeville circuits.

FLO BERT: A CASE OF DISCOGRAPHIC MISTAKEN IDENTITY
By Allan Sutton
Flo Bert and Florence-Cole Talbert were not the same individual — in fact, they were not even the same race — despite the claims of two eminent discographers.

SYNTHETIC COUNTRY: Fred Hall, Arthur Fields, and the Creation of the Hillbilly Stereotype
By Allan Sutton
In the early 1930s, New York entertainers Fred Hall and Arthur Fields pandered to urban audiences with their take on country music. In partnership with businessman Rex Cole, they concocted an artificial — but quite popular — "mountaineer" band employing the same stereotypes later perpetuated by the likes of "Li'l Abner" and "The Beverly Hillbillies."

THE SCANLAN SCANDAL: THE REST OF THE WALTER VAN BRUNT STORY
By Allan Sutton
The saga of Walter Van Brunt's reinvention as "'Walter Scanlan," his rise to fame in the theatrical world, and the bigamy charge that made national headlines and possibly ended his career on the New York stage.

CAL STEWART'S RECORDING CONTRACTS
By Allan Sutton
Cal Stewart's impact on the early recording industry went far beyond the success of his "Uncle Josh" records. His insistence on being paid royalties, at a time when other studio artists accepted modest flat rates as a matter of course, was revolutionary for its day.

UNCLE JOSH'S PUNKIN CENTRE STORIES: CAL STEWART AS WRITER, PUBLISHER, AND ENTREPRENEUR
Behind Cal Stewart's country-bumpkin stage persona was a successful author and businessman. His Punkin Centre Stories, initially self-produced, later passed through the hands of multiple publishers.

A PREHISTORY OF ADA JONES (1889 - 1905)
By Allan Sutton
Before she was a phonograph star, Ada Jones led a checkered career, singing in Broadway flops and dime museums, and sharing billing with "The Eight Fat Women" and "Signor Monstrom's Troupe of Boxing Monkeys."

EVERYMAN'S McCORMACK: A JOHN STEEL BIO-DISCOGRAPHY
John Steel was no John McCormack, although he attempted to emulate the great Irish tenor. But he was a colorful personality and a major stage star of the 1920s whose full story is finally emerging.

THE BILLY MURRAY PAGES: DISCOGRAPHIES, ARTICLES,
PHOTOGRAPHS AND EPHEMERA


   
Index to an extensive archive of articles, photographs, ephemera, and
discographic data relating to the "Denver Nightingale"


Recording Industry Pioneers:

 

THOMAS EDISON'S OPINION OF OPERA SINGERS
Courtesy of Raymond Wile and the Edison National Historic Site
Excerpts from Thomas Edison's personal comments on operatic singers used in the 1910 - 1912 experimental disc sessions.

STEVE PORTER, GLOBAL ENTREPRENEUR
By Allan Sutton
Stephen Carl Porter was hardly the dimwitted bumpkin he liked to portray on records. From his pioneering work in India as a recording engineer to his successful Port-O-Phone hearing-aid business, Porter was a far more ambitious and accomplished man than his records might lead one to believe.

VICTOR'S SINGING EXECUTIVE: HARRY MACDONOUGH
By Allan Sutton
Record buyers had no idea that singing was a sideline for tenor Harry Macdonough, who in real life was Victor Talking Machine Company executive John S. Macdonald.

THE OTHER SIDES OF VICTOR H. EMERSON
By Allan Sutton
An inveterate tinkerer, the founder of the Emerson Phonograph Company had numerous patents to his credit (including an early attempt at magnetic recording), dabbled in side-businesses ranging from children's picture discs to aluminum home-recording blanks, and financed Georgia's first pressing plant.

JOHN FLETCHER: FROM SOUSA'S BAND TO BLACK SWAN, AND BEYOND
By Allan Sutton
John Fletcher began his career as a cornetist with Sousa's Band, recorded for Indestructible cylinders, then founded Operaphone in 1914 — the first in a long string of failed ventures that included the Olympic label and his ill-fated partnership with Harry Pace in Black Sawn.


Jazz and Blues Features

 

JAZZ COMES TO NEW YORK (1917–1918): A GALLERY OF EARLY JAZZ BAND ADS
The Original Dixieland Jazz Band's success at Reisenweber's in 1917 brought an influx of would-be competitors to New York, some of them historically significant, some of them noisy novelty acts, and some not jazz at all.

RE-DATING THE NEW YORK RECORDING LABORATORIES' L-SERIES MATRIXES
By Alex van der Tuuk
The author of Paramount's Rise and Fall examines the evidence — ranging from the markings on issued 78s and test pressings, to dates of historic events, and even Wisconsin's weather on a given day — to arrive at more accurate dates for Paramount's legendary Grafton sessions.

PARAMOUNT'S 1929 "MASKED MARVEL" CONTEST
Blues legend Charley Patton went incognito for his introduction to Paramount record buyers.

JELLY ROLL MORTON'S PRE-VICTOR BAND RECORDINGS (1923–1926):
A COMPARATIVE DISCOGRAPHY MODEL

By Allan Sutton
An analysis of conflicting data and questionable sources in published jazz discographies, using Morton's early Paramount, Okeh, and Autograph band recordings to demonstrate the challenges facing a new generation of jazz discographers.

PASSING FOR BLACK: DISGUISED WHITE PERFORMERS ON BLACK SWAN RECORDS
Although Harry Pace claimed his Black Swan records would use only black talent, many issues were actually by white performers using the aliases listed here.

REDISCOVERING SAM MOORE
By Allan Sutton, with Betsy Loar
Sam Moore's 1921 "Laughing Rag" is a pioneering blend of Hawaiian, ragtime, and Southern folk influences unlike anything previously recorded. Aside from his guitar work, Moore championed unconventional instruments ranging from the sublime to the utterly ridiculous, and for a time even jaded New Yorkers sat up and listened.


Early Radio and
Broadcasting

 

PHONOGRAPH STARS ON THE RADIO — The Wireless Age Interviews, 1922–1923
Some revealing comments by Aileen Stanley, Nathan Glantz, Rosa Ponselle, Tita Ruffo, and other stars on their transitions from recording-making to broadcasting.


Current Topics in Research
and Discography

 

TALES FROM THE COLUMBIA VAULTS: THE UNAUTHORIZED "TEST PRESSINGS"
By Allan Sutton
An exposé of unauthorized re-pressing of historic masters in Columbia's Bridgeport plant, from correspondence between the late William Moran and the factory insider who was responsible for the scheme.

THE ARTIFACTS OF RECORDING HISTORY: CREATORS, USERS, LOSERS, KEEPERS
By Tim Brooks
A report on the resources available to record collectors and researchers, their accessibility and state of preservation, the dangers those materials face, and what might be done to ensure their continued survival. (Courtesy of the ARSC Journal)

CARUSO AND DISCOGRAPHY: A CONVERSATION WITH JOHN BOLIG
John Bolig, interviewed by Barry Ashpole
The author of Caruso Records: A History and Discography and the Victor Discography Series discusses his research into Enrico Caruso's records, and his views on the current state of the discographic art, with the editor of the ARSC Journal.


  Artist Discographies

JACK PENEWELL AND HIS "TWIN SIX" GUITAR: An Exploratory Discography
A preliminary discography of this popular Midwestern radio star, complied from the Autograph catalog and original discs.

THE BILLY MURRAY ONLINE DISCOGRAPHY

ADA JONES: Edison Blue Amberol Cylinderography

ARTHUR FIELDS: Edison Blue Amberol Cylinderography

JAMES REESE EUROPE & THE HELL FIGHTERS BAND: The Revised Discography*

MAMIE SMITH: The Revised Discography*

ORIGINAL DIXIELAND JAZZ BAND: The Revised Discography*

* Adobe Acrobat Reader is required


Photograph Galleries

 

BROADWAY CANDID: The Stars Offstage (1915–1920)

ENRICO CARUSO: The Bain News Service Photos (1918 – 1921)*

INSIDE THE EARLY RECORDING STUDIOS

A BILLY MURRY ICONOGRAPHY: Rare Ads, Photos, and Memorabilia (1902–1953)

BILLY MURRAY AT HOME: The Bain News Service Photos (1919–1920)*

ADA JONES AT HOME: The Bain News Service Photos*

ARTHUR FIELDS AT WORK AND PLAY: The Bain News Service Photos (1919)*

IRVING KAUFMAN AT HOME: The Bain News Service Photos (c. 1919)*

VERNON DALHART AT HOME: The Bain News Service Photos (c. 1919–20)*

PIONEER STUDIO STARS AT WORK AND PLAY

* Courtesy of the Library of Congress (G. G. Bain Collection)


Phonographs and Audio Equipment

 

PLAYING CYLINDERS ELECTRICALLY: The Archeophone and the ACT Reproducer
There's amazing sound in your cylinders. These two devices, at either end of the price scale, can help you recover it.

BEWARE OF THE CRAP-O-PHONE!
They're counterfeit, they're junk, and they're everywhere — from eBay (especially eBay!) to upscale antique shops and mail-order catalogs. Hold onto your wallets until you've read our exposé of these truly crappy 78 record players.




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