Tagged: 1910s

Formats current at any point during the years 1910-1919

Record album (late 1900s – 1950s)

Sometime during the late 1900s, record companies began to sell sets of 78rpm disc records in hardback ‘albums’. These were much like photograph albums, but with paper sleeves for multiple 10-inch or 12-inch phonograph discs, and they allowed record companies to sell complete musical works such as operas or classical works. The 78 rpm records of the time were only able to contain around 3 minutes of playing time on the 10-inch version, and 5 minutes on the 12-inch versions, so a longer complete work had to be spread across several discs.

Around the same time, empty record albums became available to allow listeners to store and protect their own discs, write information about the contents on an index page, and display the album on bookshelves.

Record albums eventually came to be used to contain compilations by artist, or by genre, in addition to longer works, and a set of 4-5 discs could contain 8-10 songs. Later releases had cover artwork and liner notes.

With the advent of the Long Play microgroove record in 1948 that could hold the same number of songs on a single disc there was no longer a need for record albums containing several discs, and indeed by the late 1950s the 78 rpm disc itself was being phased out. However, the term ‘album’ continues to be used to describe a collection of songs, whatever the format.

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35mm film (1892 – )

35mm film was the most common film gauge for cinematography, and was also used in still photography (in the form of 135 film).

The name derives from the width of the film strip. When used for motion pictures, the image is across the film and each frame usually has four perforations giving 16 frames per foot, whereas when used for photography the image is lengthways along the film and each frame uses eight perforations. In conventional motion picture film, the image is 22 x 16mm (known as the ‘Academy ratio’). The shape and frequency of the perforations differed in the early years.

The 35mm format was introduced in 1892, soon after the introduction of transparent flexible film in 1889,  at a time when a large range of different film gauges were in use. By 1909 it became accepted as the international standard gauge and remained so until largely replaced by digital cinematography. Although other gauges have been used for cinematography, 35mm remained the most popular with professional film makers as it provided a good trade-off between cost and image quality.

Until the 1950s, 35mm film was made of cellulose nitrate which was highly inflammable and difficult to extinguish once alight. It was replaced with ‘safety film’ (cellulose triacetate). From the 1990s, film stock was made with a synthetic polyester safety base.

Sound was introduced around 1926, with Warner Bros. using synchronised phonograph discs. Later sound-on-film systems include optical analogue, optical digital, and magnetic strips. DTS soundtracks use a timecode printed on the film to synchronise with Compact Discs.

Between 2005 and 2015, most cinemas rapidly converted to digital projection, and in 2014 Paramount Pictures announced that it would no longer supply 35mm prints of movies in the US. Whilst 35mm film is still in use for both shooting and showing movies, it is rapidly becoming a niche format.

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Cigarette card (1875 – early 2000s)

Cigarette cards were a particular form of trade card, initially popularised by tobacco companies as a way of selling their products, and after World War II were also used by some other manufacturers such as tea companies.

Card was used as a stiffener in paper packs of cigarettes, and beginning in 1875 in the US, these cards began to carry images, for example of actresses, sportsmen or Native American chiefs. In 1878 they also began to include information about the image on the back of the card.

In 1887, W.D. & H.O. Wills began to issue cigarette cards in the UK.

The range of images expanded over time and began to be issued in colour, and the cards became popular as a way of viewing and collecting exotic images from around the world. They also began to be issued in sets, and around 1900 albums began to be produced to enable people to collect and store the cards together.

In 1939, cigarette card production virtually ceased in the UK as paper was in short supply during the war. After the war, ‘cigarette’ cards were issued by tea companies such as Brooke Bond in the UK, who issued cards until 1999. There have been some cigarette cards issued since, such as by the US tobacco company R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company who issued several series through a couple of its brand in the early 2000s.

Not all types of cigarette cards are the same size, but the standard size was around 67 x 36mm.

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Cabinet card (1863 – early 1920s)

A cabinet card consists of an albumen print (although later cards used matte collodion, gelatin or gelatin bromide paper) mounted on a standard sized card backing of 4¼  by 6½ inches. Like the earlier carte de visite, the card displayed details of the the photographic studio that took the photograph, either below the below the photograph, on the back of the card, or both.

They were introduced in 1863 by a British photographic studio, Windsor & Bridge, and became widely used for portrait photography (initially, they were intended for landscape photography), superseding the smaller carte de visite. Cabinet cards were placed in albums like the carte de visite, although it was a few years before albums specifically for the larger size of cabinet cards became available, or could be placed on stands or in frames for display (often in parlour cabinets, hence the name). They reached a peak in their popularity in the 1880s.

The introduction of the simple and inexpensive Brownie camera by Kodak in 1900, meant home photography became much more affordable and the studio portrait less necessary, but cabinet cards continued to be produced as late as the early 1920s.

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Organ cobs (late 1880s – late 1920s)

Organ cobs or rollers were used in roller organs, and consisted of a cylinder of wood with pins in them that pressed on the keys in the organ to actuate them. Roller organs were a type of reed organ introduced in the late 1880s by the Autophone company of New York, and were an inexpensive and popular means of entertainment for the US market.

The smaller organ cobs could play 20-note roller organs (such as the cheapest Gem Roller Organ), but larger roller organ models (such as the Grand Roller Organ) were also available that could take larger cobs that could actuate 32 notes. Over 1,200 titles were produced on organ cobs.

Cobs were inserted into the roller organ and pinned in position. As the hand crank is turned, the bellows are operated and the cob is turned. As the cob turns, it shifts to the right, and goes through 3 revolutions, providing about a minute of music.

Roller organs were produced until the late 1920s.

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Tintype (1850s – 1930s)

Tintype (front)The tintype (also known as a ferrotype) was a type of photographic process invented in the 1850s that involved using a thin sheet of iron (not tin as the name suggests) as the backing for the image (as opposed  to film, paper, or glass).

Tintypes became popular in the 1860s and 1870s, but were used into the 21st century despite growing competition from prints on paper, and are currently enjoying a revival in interest. Tintypes could be taken outdoors provided the equipment needed to prepare and develop them was at hand. The process was often used at carnivals and fairs for taking inexpensive novelty photographs in a short amount of time, and a photographer could prepare, expose, develop and varnish a tintype plate in a few minutes. The resulting photograph was sturdy and did not require mounting.

Tintype photographs succeeded the ambrotype, which had some similarities. Ambrotypes also used the wet collodion process, but on a piece of glass that was dark in colour or painted with a black backing. The iron used in tintypes was also coloured black, and the resulting image was actually a negative that appeared positive.

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Pathé cylinder (1894 – 1914)

Pathé cylinders were introduced by the Pathé Freres company in France around 1894, after switching from selling Edison brown wax cylinders. By 1898, the first catalogue offered nearly  800 recordings.

Different sizes were available at various times during the course of production, including a standard size cylinder (2¼-inches in diameter), the ‘Salon’ cylinder (3½-inches in diameter), the ‘Stentor’ (5-inches in diameter, equivalent to concert cylinders by other manufacturers) and the ‘Céleste’ which was the largest cylinder record produced, measuring 5-inches in diameter and 9-inches long. The Céleste variant only lasted from 1903 to 1905.

Initially, Pathé cylinders were made of brown wax, but like other manufacturers, Pathé switched to a harder black wax formulation in 1903. Pathé’s recordings were made on large master cylinders and then dubbed to Pathé’s cylinder and disc formats. The repertoire of Pathé cylinders is entirely French.

Pathé cylinders were successful in France, but failed to make headway in the UK or US (Pathé disc records had more success outside France). Pathé cylinders ceased to be sold in the UK by 1906, but carried on being sold in France until 1914 despite Pathé having introduced disc records in 1905.

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Indestructible Record (1907 – 1922)

Indestructible Records were a type of phonograph cylinder made by the Indestructible Phonographic Co of Albany, New York starting in 1907.

Unlike the competing Edison cylinders (Gold Moulded Records and from 1908, Amberol Records) that were still made of a wax compound, Indestructible Records were made of celluloid making them much more durable. In addition, Indestructable records had a thick cardboard core, and metal rings at both ends.

It wasn’t until 1912 that Edison also began making celluloid cylinders (in the form of Blue Amberol Records).

As well as being sold directly, Indestructible Records were also distributed by Columbia Records, and were available through Sears, Roebuck and Co. under the Oxford Records label. Two and four-minute (from 1909) cylinders were available, and over the course of production 1,598 titles were available.

Indestructible Records were made until 1922, when a factory fire ended production.

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Amberol Records (1908 – 1912)

Amberol Records were a type of phonograph cylinder, introduced in 1908 by Edison Records. They were successor to the Gold Moulded Record, and by doubling the number of grooves to 200 threads per inch, Amberol Records doubled the playing time to 4 minutes.

The wax used in Amberols was a harder compound than previously and this new compound also began to be used in Gold Moulded Records at the same time. The process of making Amberol Records was the same, using a gold-coated mould made from a master cylinder, and like Gold Moulded Records, ran at 160 RPM.

Machines designed to play the older cylinders had to be modified to play Amberol Records, and phonographs were introduced in 1909 that could play either by moving a switch.

Although Amberol Records increased interest in cylinder records, there were problems as they cracked easily, could shatter during playback, and wore out rather quickly. Amberol Records were replaced in 1912 by Blue Amberol Records that used a different formulation (celluloid reinforced with a plaster of Paris core) to overcome some of these problems.

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Preservation / Migration

media stability 4obsolescence 4

Graphophone / Dictaphone cylinder (1887 – early 1950s)

The Dictaphone was one of two competing wax cylinder phonograph systems for voice dictation, the other being Edison’s Ediphone system. The use of cylinders for voice recording pre-dated their use for music when, in 1887, Alexander Graham Bell, his cousin Chichester A. Bell, and Charles Sumner Tainter put into production a wax cylinder system for recording and reproducing speech (Edison then switched from tinfoil to wax cylinders in response in 1888).

Until 1907 the Dictaphone system was known as the Graphophone.

The main difference between the two rival systems was the recording method, with Edison using ‘hill and dale’ recording, while the Graphophone used lateral (side to side) recording. The cylinders could have a layer of wax shaved off, to enable re-use.

By the mid-1940s, new dictation technologies were rapidly being introduced such as Dictaphone’s own Dictabelt, Edison’s Voicewriter, the Gray Audograph and the SoundScriber, and both Edison and Dictaphone stopped supplying wax cylinders in the early 1950s.

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