Tagged: wax

Sterling Record (1904 – 1908)

Sterling cylinder (with packaging)Sterling Records were black wax moulded phonograph cylinders produced in England, initially in 1904 by the Sterling Record Company, and then from 1905 by the Russell Hunting Record Company.

Up until 1903, the cylinder market in England had been dominated by Edison Bell, whose patents gave them control. Once their patents expired, the market was opened to new competitors such as Sterling Records and Clarion Records.

Like the contemporary Edison Gold Moulded Records, Sterling Records were classed as 2 minute cylinders (100 threads per inch), but were around ¼-inch longer so had a little more capacity.

Sterling Records sold well with the first million cylinders sold in the first 22 weeks of business, and the cylinders were well recorded and made. However, they were discontinued in 1908 when the Russell Hunting Record Company went out of business.

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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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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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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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Ediphone (1888 – early 1950s)

The Ediphone was one of two competing wax cylinder phonograph systems for voice dictation, the other being the Dictaphone system. The use of cylinders for voice recording pre-dated their use for music, although it wasn’t until 1888 that Edison switched from tinfoil to wax cylinders in response to the rival Graphophone system introduced in 1887 (that later became the Dictaphone system).

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 around 1910, the Edison system had adopted the name Ediphone, and technical refinements were introduced over time such as electric motors, foot control pedals, and eventually electrical recording in 1939.

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

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Brown wax cylinder (late 1880s – 1906)

Brown wax phonograph cylinders were the first mass market cylinder format, and were introduced in the late 1880s.

Early brown wax cylinder recordings would commonly wear out after they were played a few dozen times. The buyer could then use a mechanism which left their surface shaved smooth so new recordings could be made on them. The ability to record as well as play back sound was an advantage over the cheaper disc record phonographs which began to be mass marketed at the end of the 1890s.

Over the years the type of wax used was improved and hardened so that cylinders could be played over 100 times.

Most of the commercial recordings made up to the mid-1890’s were recorded directly onto the cylinder, making each cylinder unique. The first duplicates were made by connecting a playing phonograph with a recording one by the use of a rubber tube. A more practical solution was found in pantographic duplication machines, which recorded a blank more directly from the original cylinder, allowing about 100 copies to be made from a single master cylinder.

In 1902 Edison Records launched a line of improved hard wax cylinders marketed as Edison Gold Moulded Records, replacing Edison brown wax cylinders. The last commercially recorded brown wax cylinders were likely made in Europe by small labels until around 1906.

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Preservation / Migration

media stability 1obsolescence 1Brown wax cylinders are very brittle and easily damaged by handling or playing. They may be suffering mould damage, or oxides or oils may have migrated to the surface, both of which will damage the playing surface.

For playback, an Automatic or Model B reproducer should be used on the phonograph. Specialist systems with lightweight pickups can be used for transcription.

Gold Moulded Record (1902 – 1912)

Gold Moulded Records are a type of phonograph cylinder introduced in 1902 by Edison Records. The cylinders were made of a hard black wax, capable of being played hundreds of times before wearing out. They ran at a standard speed of 160 RPM and played for between 1.5 and 2.5 minutes (and were generally labled as 2 minutes).

They used a process that Edison had developed, that allowed a mould to be made from a master cylinder which then permitted the production of several hundred cylinders to be made from the mould. The reference to gold was that the master cylinder was coated with gold as part of the production process. Previously cylinders were recorded live or by hooking two machine together to copy from one cylinder to another, and they used softer brown wax which wore out in as few as twenty playings.

Gold Moulded Records were discontinued in 1912.

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