The first music industry format war hots up: cylinders v discs

(This blog entry is a bit of a catch up in the story of the Gramophone Company…..)

In 1899, Alfred Clark left Emile Berliner’s employment and went back to working for Thomas Edison’s rival business which sold cylinders rather than discs. Clark, you may remember had set up the world’s first record (disc) shop in Washington at the same time that Fred Gaisberg set up the first disc-recording studio in 1897. Fred and Alfred became firm friends during that time.

Fred had moved to London to help grow The Gramophone Company in 1898, leaving Clark behind in Washington. The opportunity of working with Edison gave Clark a chance to follow Gaisberg across the Atlantic but rather than move to London, Alfred Clark took up residence in Paris at the very end of that city’s “naughty nineties”. It must have been a great posting.

As you can see from this handwritten letter by Thomas Edison, Clark was Edison’s representative in the city and his role was to market the Edison cylinders and phonographs. He was also instructed to begin a programme of recordings to rival that being made by Fred Gaisberg. This would put Gaisberg and Clark head to head as they pursued new recordings for their rival companies.

The handwritten letter was kindly shared with us by the EMI Archive Trust. If you’d like to know more about the Trust and the artefacts that they look after, why not get in touch with them, here.

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