flickr-free-ic3d pan white • edison.home.phonograph

AND 55 cylinders - 3 empty ∞ That means wax and home recordings, a hundred years ago ! Two and a half minutes max.


Cornwall, Vermont USA • A yard sale on the Robbins Farm (one of the most beautiful, original farms in the township) was a trip into the past.


---> Here's a YouTube demonstration. ∞ This model c. 1904 - 1909. SO much information at that link, including: 1903 was the peak year for cylinder production, and the disc machines afterwards began to outsell the Edison cylinders. Edison responded somewhat in 1908 by extending the playing time of his records to four minutes, going to 200 grooves/inch from 100 grooves/inch. These black wax records were known as Amberols; they were extremely brittle and suffered from poor compliance, that is, the stylus tended to break down the walls between the grooves. An adapter kit was sold to retrofit the old two minute machines to play the new records, and new models were offered with two and four minute gearing. Collectors refer to such machines as Combination models. Edison had adamantly opposed the use of celluloid, partly for patent reasons, but in 1912 he relented and introduced a four minute celluloid record in a brilliant blue color. These Blue Amberols were of excellent quality, but by this time the cylinder trade was becoming increasingly moribund. The last of the outside horn machines were cleared out around 1915, although an internal horn Edison phonograph known as the Amberola was manufactured as late as 1919.


All antique Edison phonographs played vertically cut records and were driven by a mechanical feed screw that advanced the carriage at a constant speed. These features were maintained during the life of the Edison phonograph partly for patent reasons, but there were some cogent reasons for them, at least early on. The stylus in a vertically cut record bobs up and down, as opposed to wiggling in the side of the groove. Because of this, and because Edison employed a jeweled stylus, Edison records are not as susceptible to wear as flat disc records; in fact, Edison advertised that his gold molded records could be played 200 times with no appreciable wear. Unfortunately the vertical cut cylinders tended to be less lifelike than the discs, with sounds such as sibillants disappearing into a phonographic never-never land. The mechanical feed compensated for some problems early on in the recording studio, but it also allowed another interesting feature: home recordings.


You rarely run into home recordings, but here is how it worked. A brown wax record was placed on the mandrel. A cut was taken off the record with a shaver. The reproducer was removed and a special recording head was inserted into the carriage. A special recording horn was placed on the recording head. You shouted into the recording horn, and voila, you were as big a star as Billy Murray and Ada Jones. The shaving attachments were dropped from most models after the Model A machinery, but you could still purchase a separate Edison Shaving Machine.


∆∆∆ Another informative site reports: Ever practical and visionary, Edison offered the following possible future uses for the phonograph in North American Review in June 1878:

• Letter writing and all kinds of dictation without the aid of a stenographer.

• Phonographic books, which will speak to blind people without effort on their part.

• The teaching of elocution.

• Reproduction of music.

• The "Family Record"--a registry of sayings, reminiscences, etc., by members of a family in their own voices, and of the last words of dying persons.

• Music-boxes and toys.

• Clocks that should announce in articulate speech the time for going home, going to meals, etc.

• The preservation of languages by exact reproduction of the manner of pronouncing.

• Educational purposes; such as preserving the explanations made by a teacher, so that the pupil can refer to them at any moment, and spelling or other lessons placed upon the phonograph for convenience in committing to memory.

• Connection with the telephone, so as to make that instrument an auxiliary in the transmission of permanent and invaluable records, instead of being the recipient of momentary and fleeting communication.

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Taken on October 16, 2004