Mystery Object of the week #10 Answer

Congratulations to Rolf Christian Holth Olsen who correctly identify this weeks mystery object – The Lioretograph Model 2 phonogragh – created by the Parisian watchmaker Henri Lioret in 1898.

Lioretograph Model 2 part of the EMI Group Archive Trust Collection

Lioretograph Model 2 part of the EMI Group Archive Trust Collection

This particular model – The Lioretograph Model 2 – came in a fitted case dating from 1899/1900. Lioret used his watchmaker’s knowledge to create a machine with a curious mixture of high-class clock work motors coupled with wire and cardboard for the acoustic mechanism.

On the front flap of the case are instructions for use in French, the rest of the case interior is finished in a green cloth.  A compartment to the left of the case contains cylinders housed in cardboard boxes (6 x 2m cylinders).

The reproducer is made form cardboard with spring-tension to the mica diaphragm and a series of graduated cardboard rings inside the drum-shaped body, leading to a short celluloid conical horn.

Unlike Columbia and Edison phonographs, the Lioretograph had no feedscrew, and its celluloid and brass 2 minute cylinders were held by a split taper-pin.

 Lioretograph Model 2 designed by Henri Lioret 1898 – Courtesy of the EMI Group Archive Trust Collection.

Mystery Object # 3 Answer

Full points to Rob, Andy and Russell who deftly identified last weeks Mystery Object of the Week as an early Tin Foil Phonograph.

Mystery Object # 3 Answer Tin Foil Phonograph Courtesy of  EMI  Archive Trust

Mystery Object # 3 Answer
Tin Foil Phonograph
Courtesy of EMI Archive Trust

Object: Modified Tin Foil Phonograph Maker Archibald H.Irvine, 1877

This is a rare hand-driven modified Edison tin foil phonograph on a heavy mahogany base with mahogany trunnions and speaker/reproducer mounts (one with diaphragm). It has brass fittings and an iron mandrel on a shaft threaded at each end, with a spoked hand-wheel. It has now been raised on wooden supports for angled display. It was constructed by Archibald H. Irvine (M.Inst. C.E.) for the first Phonograph demonstration and lecture, and exhibited before the Royal Institute by Sir William Priestly in December 1877. It was presented to the Gramophone Company by Sir Francis Fox (M. Inst. C.E.) in December 1912. Sir Francis Fox also donated some original tin foil strips to The Gramophone Company.”

Mystery Object # 3 Answer  Tin Foil Phonograph Copyright courtesy of  EMI  Archive Trust

Mystery Object # 3 Answer
Tin Foil Phonograph
Copyright courtesy of EMI Archive Trust

This is a sample of original tin foil for recording and reproducing on early phonographs. The tinfoil is stored between two heavy glass sides to ensure it remains flat. The paper covering the glass sides is written on in ink and reads “The Manager of The Gramophone Co Hayes Middlesex. Tin Foil for “Records” – for the original Phonograph made in the year 1876. With compliments Sir Francis Fox.

Sir Francis Fox also donated a Tin foil phonograph to The Gramophone Company.

Mystery Object # 3 Answer Phonograph Tin Foil Copyright courtesy of  EMI  Archive Trust

Mystery Object # 3 Answer
Phonograph Tin Foil
Copyright courtesy of EMI Archive Trust

The Hound thought you’d enjoy this clip of Michael Wolf demonstrating his own Tin Foil Phonograph.

Thank you to our friends at the EMI Archive Trust for allowing us to share their archive through Mystery Object of the Week.

Joe Batten’s Book: The Story of Sound Recording

SOTH would like to thank our latest contributor Michael Lloyd-Davies for his insightful review on the memoirs of Joe Batten – pioneer recording manager.   

By Michael Lloyd-Davies

 

 In his foreward to Joe Batten’s memoirs, Joe is described by Sir Compton McKenzie as “that other great recorder” bracketed with Freddy Gaisberg. Joe Batten’s story is perhaps wider in its horizons. The core of the book is the excitement of pioneer recording from wax-cylinder to L.P., in which mechanical hazards and progress are described as an explorer could write of his adventures.

The period before the First World War saw sound recording grow from being a novelty toy to become an industry full of innovation and eventually accepted as a serious medium and art form by both artists and the public.

Joe was one of the pioneers who began as a pianist accompanying vocalists in recording rooms as early studios were known, to become the artistic manager for Edison Bell, and later, the Columbia Graphophone Company which merged in 1931 with The Gramophone Company to form Electric and Musical Industries Ltd (EMI).

At EMI he formed the Special Recording Department which was located at new studios at Abbey Road. This venture began making sponsored shows for the Commercial Radio companies which were springing up in the mid 1930’s. The department was almost immediately shut down at the outset of the Second World War but re-opened to make recordings for the troops through ENSA up to 1945.

In the last five years of his 50 year career in the music industry, Joe made some notable recordings including two historical events, the silver wedding of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and the wedding of H.R.H. Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Inevitably Joe Batten amassed a vast number of friends and memories in the musical concert and light opera fields and it is fitting that the book (out of print since the first edition in 1956) should close with select memories of the life and times at The Savage Club, London’s last bohemian rendezvous where Joe Batten concluded his life as he began it – accompanist to those spontaneous musical evenings which from the West End to the East were once such a feature of London Life.

Joe retired in 1950 but died five years later before his memoirs were published.

Joe Batten’s Book: The Story of Sound Recording is now available via Kindle Book Store: www. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B007Q1U4RA

The saviour of the 1890’s record business – and possibly where Jonathan Ives got his inspiration for the ipod white bud earphones?

We’ve posted this picture before but hadn’t realised its significance.

Digging a bit further into the life of Fred Gaisberg (who was the Zelig of the early recording business), the relevance of the photo becomes clear.

Thomas Edison invented the phonograph system of recording and playing back sound that preceded the gramophone and used cylinders rather than discs. He set the invention aside for several years as he wasn’t sure what it’s commercial application would be. (Edison was very interested in the commercial application of inventions…)

Edison initially thought that the phonograph would be used to record business dictation that could then be written up at a later date. This would reduce the number of stenographers that a business would require. He targeted Washington as a likely market because of all the Government business being done there. In 1889, he set up a company called The Columbia Phonograph Company (as in Washington, District of Columbia) to market the device and in doing so created the longest running record label of them all; it would evolve into Columbia Records. Columbia’s initial business model was to rent their machines to the Government offices. It proved successful and a profit was quickly turned. The success was shortlived, however, as furious stenographers, who were threatened with redundancy at the hands of the new device, took the Luddite step of breaking the machines to safeguard their jobs.

Columbia was forced to take back a raft of damaged machines and the cost of doing so nearly sank the company. Edison looked around for alternative ways of making money from phonographs but the venture looked doomed to failure. The cost of manufacture at that early point made the new technology too expensive as a home entertainment device. According to Fred Gaisberg the company “seemed headed for liquidation” And how did the world’s first A&R man know about this………? Gaisberg had been employed by Edison in the first few months of The Columbia Phonograph Company in 1889. His first job out of school was for Thomas Edison!

Salvation came from an unexpected source. As Fred records: the company “was saved by a new field of activity which was created…without their knowledge, by showmen at fairs and resorts demanding records of songs….Phonographs, each equipped with ten sets of ear tubes through which the sound passed, had been rented to these exhibitors. It was ludicrous in the extreme to see ten people grouped around a phonograph, each with a listening tube leading from his ears, grinning and laughing at what he heard. Five cents was collected from each listener so the showman could afford to pay two or three dollars for a cyliner to exhibit”

So that is what the people in the picture are doing in around 1891. Saving the proto recording industry one cylinder at a time.

Plus ca change.....

Our First Plug!

 

This is very exciting. We’ve been asked to spread the news about a new book. Our first plug! 

And we are very pleased to say that the book in question is rather lovely; it’s  a lavishly-illustrated, information-packed hardback book printed on high quality silk paper with colour digital photographs, comprehensive descriptions, technical details, original purchase prices, production dates & quantities, etc etc  all about….

   It’s authors, Brian Oakley and Christopher Proudfoot, are good friends of the EMI Archive. In fact Christopher, in a previous life at Christies, helped to value much of the wonderful collection held at Hayes. This book, privately published, measures an impressive 30cmx22cm and contains over 250 pages of colour photographs and text on – as it says on the cover – ‘the acoustic instruments sold by The Gramophone Company in Great Britain 1897 – 1960”. In addition to sourcing information from old catalogues and using their own collections, Brian and Christopher spent several days at Hayes last year painstakingly photographing vital machines that were unavailable elsewhere.

 The Chairman of the EMI Archive Trust, David Hughes, has written the forward and he urges anyone interested in the origins of the music industry, to buy a copy. You can purchase a copy directly from the authors by contacting them: Brian (brian.e.oakley@btinternet.com) or Christopher (cproudfoot@firenet.uk.net) direct.

 Here’s a sample page to whet the appetite: 

It’s beautifully designed and reminds us of Kehew & Ryan’s brilliant “Recording The Beatles”

In the rush to publish this plug and offer a flavour of its contents, we have taken the liberty of photographing the cover/inside page. We’d just like to confirm that the quality of the whole book is much higher than our pictures suggest.

If you are ever irritated by those teenagers sharing an ipod’s headphones and ignoring everything around them LOOK AWAY NOW!

They were far more “sharey” in the 90’s. That’s the 1890’s, of course.

We stumbled across this photo the other day  but we don’t know much about it. It’s apparently a group of listeners trying out the new fangled phonograph on headphones, treating it like a sort of communal ipod. We think this was probably a way of promoting the new invention to a wider audience but we are not sure. So please, if you know anything more about these people and what they are up to please get in touch.

Whatever they are doing, they don’t look very happy do they? Probably listening to Joy Division or The Smiths…..

Glamorous gramophones and other early playback devices #3

This little beauty from the EMI Archive Trust collection is an Oratiograph Phonograph which was made by John Schoenner in Germany in 1902

Its described by the Trust as:
 
“…a is a fascinating small machine about which not much is known. They were made in Germany by the John Schoenner Factory in the early years of the 20th Century. The Oratiograph outfit comprises of a box containing the mechanism, a box containing the cylinders, and a collapseable paper horn. Once set-up, unlike other phonographs, the reproducer and horn remain static, as it is the madrel which moves beneath it. The cylinders were wax on a tin core and came in a red box with decorative lid.”

Thank you to the EMI Archive Trust for allowing us to show these pictures. You can find out more about the EMI Archive Trust (and even arrange a time to go and visit their gramophone collection) here.

We’d love to make contact with people who have an interest in these kind of devices. Please get in touch via the comments section below.

Glamorous gramophones and other early playback devices #2

This is a seriously cute piece; it’s another Phonograph called ” Le Mervilleux” (Meaning =  “Wonderful”) and was made by Henri Lioret around 1894.

Our friends at EMI Archive Trust, who own it, describe it thus:

“Henri Lioret was a respected clockmaker before turning his attention to phonographs. This unusual phonograph was made from around 1894, and based on the same mechanism that Lioret used in his Bebe Jumeau talking doll. The mechanism itself is mounted inside a pasteboard box and finished with a simulated leather covering. A side flap opens to allow access to the cylinders, and a top flap opens to reveal the integral-horn. This machine played only the smallest of Lioret cylinders, lasting a mere 30 seconds. Despite its simplicity and fragility, the Merveilleux plays extremely well for such an early phonograph. Their fragility too, makes them a relatively rare machine. It was also the first entirly Lioret machine to be sold, with a price tag of 16 francs.”

Lioret’s first commercial idea for playing back recordings was the talking and singing Bebe Jumeau doll mentioned above which had in effect a phonograph as innards. It looks like something from an episode of Doctor Who.

This strange looking toy, which was very successful in France, represented a step forward in recording technology as it was the first non-tin foil cylinder made in France. It contained improvements upon Edison’s original design including the fact that the cylinders were made out of celluloid and were the first unbreakable cylinders ever made. You can see more Lioret stuff, here.

So now you know!

Thank you to the EMI Archive Trust for allowing us to show these pictures. You can find out more about the EMI Archive Trust (and even arrange a time to go and visit their gramophone collection) here.

We’d love to make contact with people who have an interest in these kind of devices. Please get in touch via the comments section below.

Glamorous gramophones and other early playback devices #1

This is the first of a series of early playback devices that are owned by the EMI Archive Trust. Its actually not a gramophone; its a phonograph. An Excelsior Pearl phonograph which was made in Cologne, Germany, in 1904

This is how the Trust describes the piece “Excelsior phonographs were produced by the Excelsiorwerk of Cologne at the begining of the 20th Century.They were mainly of the Type Q Graphophone family with a cover-plate round the motor. Some however, like the Pearl, were made with a cast-iron bedplate and a motor concealed in a case below. Decoratively, the Pearl shares the common Excelsior finish of black with a red lining. This Pearl also carries its name and a landscape / floral motif on the oak case. Originally cost 32/6.”

You can see how it would have played back sound in this video of a reproduced phonograph:

Thank you to the EMI Archive Trust for allowing us to show these pictures. You can find out more about the EMI Archive Trust (and even arrange a time to go and visit their gramophone collection) here.

I’d love to make contact with people who have an interest in these kind of devices. Please get in touch via the comments section below.