And the answer is….A Klingsor gramophone, well done to those of you who answered correctly!
And the answer is….A Klingsor gramophone, well done to those of you who answered correctly!
Full points to Rob, Andy and Russell who deftly identified last weeks Mystery Object of the Week as an early Tin Foil Phonograph.
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.”
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.
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.
SOTH is delighted to welcome our latest contributor Brian Kehew who join’s our ever growing list of esteemed contributors. Brian is a LA based musician and music producer. He is a member of The Moog Cookbook and co-author of the Recording The Beatles book, an in-depth look at the Beatles’ studio approach. Kehew is also currently the Archives Historian for the Bob Moog Foundation. Enjoy!!
By Brian Kehew
Kevin Ryan and I spent about 15 years researching how the Beatles made their records – the technical and procedural side of things. Even with Abbey Road studios still in existence, the records and information there were incredible, but limited. We canvassed the rest of the world, seeking out anything that might illuminate the picture of that 1962-70 era. In our travels, we sometimes came across mention of “Hayes” or “CRL”, as in “They took that down to Hayes”, or “That was done at Hayes/CRL”. Both terms came up enough that we realised this Hayes-thing must be something to uncover. Whether it was a building, a town, or a company – we didn’t know at first.
Eventually, the concept became clearer, and quite a promising treasure itself. Hayes was indeed a town, an industrial suburb West of London. At the time we learned of it, Hayes was simply the location of what was called The EMI Archive – a group of buildings housing EMI’s own company history in a well-protected archive. The famous studios at Abbey Road had long connected with “Hayes”, or rather – the other way around: Abbey Road Studios was originally just a small subset of the gigantic EMI company, most of which was based in Hayes. Hayes was literally a small city of EMI holdings and development. There were many buildings, offices, plants, testing areas, factories, and more. The research lab there (CRL – Central Research Laboratories) was a ‘research and development” wing of EMI; CRL designed everything from microphones to radar, medical CAT-scan machines, guided missiles, computers, television apparatus, and some things not-so-ponderous: the classic home furniture cabinet (then called “radiograms”) containing turntable, radio, amplifier, and speaker that were found in almost every family’s main room. With EMI’s genesis and focus being recorded sound, the area was home to some of the world’s most innovative and influential audio work. (This spilled over, of course, into EMI’s worldwide studios, including the now-famous address at 3 Abbey Road…)
In Victorian and Edwardian times, there was a great vogue for female singers with deep, contralto voices, who drew huge audiences to concerts of arias from operas and oratorios as well as popular ballads. Clara Butt (1872–1936) was one of the most famous and was under exclusive contract to The Gramophone Company from 1899, when she made her first recording on a 7-inch Berliner disc. A number of composers wrote songs specially for her, including Sir Edward Elgar (Sea Pictures) and Samuel Liddle (‘Abide With Me’).
She was such an important artist that the company gave her an exclusive rich dark blue label. Imagine the shock at The Gramophone Company’s headquarters at Hayes when it became known in 1915 that Madame Butt had been poached by the company’s arch-rival, the Columbia Graphophone Company! She re-recorded all her principal repertoire for Columbia and remained with them until the end of her career. Sir Thomas Beecham once remarked of her powerful voice that on a clear day one could have heard her across the English Channel.
Listen to Clara Butt rendition of Land of Hope and Glory (Benson/Elgar) Recorded: June 25, 1930. If you’re a SOTH subscriber following by email please go to the actual blog to get the full posting.
Thank you to our friends at the EMI Archive Trust in providing these fine images.
We’ve stumbled across a wonderful book called “The Talking Machine Industry” written by Ogilvie Mitchell in 1924. It is a bit of a hack job to be frank. Mr Mitchell’s style is frothy and he gallops across a range of subjects to do with the history of recorded music at that point (i.e. less than 50 years after Edison invents the phonograph). The book is one of a series of books about Common Commodities and Industries and appears to have been partly financed by adverts from the industry in question (and in return features some product placement). Long since out of print, it’s a fascinating read. We particularly enjoyed the review of the four big UK companies of the day and will reproduce a section about each of the big four over the next few days, starting now with The Gramophone Company – the predecessor company to the modern EMI.
“In England at the present time there are four companies manufacturing the higher priced records. Of these The Gramophone Company, Ltd., undoubtedly holds the field. The history of this extensive concern has already been referred to cursorily in a previous chapter, but we would like to lay before the reader a more comprehensive chronicle of its origin and rise. Like most of the other large firms engaged in the industry The Gramophone Company began its career in America. As previously stated, Berliner was the man who gave the term “gramophone” to his invention of a disc machine, though he never claimed an exclusive right thereto. In 1896 or 1897 Berliner sold his English patent rights, including, it is said, his rights in respect of certain patented improvements, to a private firm calling itself The Gramophone Company, taking its name from the instrument. In 1899 this concern transferred its business to a company incorporated under the style of The Gramophone Company, Limited, the object of which, as defined by its Memorandum of Association, embraced, inter alia, the manufacture and sale of gramophones and phonographs and gramophone discs and phonograph cylinders. The last mentioned firm continued to sell machines and discs made under Berliner’s patent until the following year, when it parted with its business to a company with a larger capital. This new concern had about the same time acquired an interest in typewriters, and was incorporated as The Gramophone and Typewriter Company, Limited. The same year the Tainter-Bell patent expired, and the engraving method being considered superior to etching, the company abandoned the latter process and adopted the former, continuing, however, to use the name of gramophone. There was nothing wrong in that, for the essence of the Berliner system was the sinuous line of even depth and the word “gramophone“ had come to denote a disc talking machine, as opposed to the phonograph and graphophone which were at that time operated by cylinders.
The Gramophone and Typewriter Company established a branch in England almost as soon as it was inaugurated, with Mr. Barry Owen as its representative, and some time afterwards dropped the typewriter section of the business, reverting to the old title of The Gramophone Company, Ltd. They had their offices in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, and so rapid was the growth of this British branch that a company was formed with a share capital of £600,000, the ordinary shares in the first instance being offered to the trade. Thereupon they removed to the City Road where they remained in full swing until the extensive works at Hayes, Middlesex, which were opened in 1907, were ready to receive the army of workers of every description attached to the firm. This enormous factory has been enlarged and developed since that date until it now covers twenty-three acres of ground.
Ever since the expiry of Berliner’s 1887 patent The Gramophone Company had arrogated to itself the sole right to the term “gramophone.” In its dealings with the trade it had consistently claimed monopoly rights in the word as denoting goods of its own manufacture only, and by warning circulars, legal proceedings and threats of legal proceedings, had done its best to support its exclusive claims. Other manufacturers refrained from describing their instruments as gramophones from the dread of infringing the alleged rights of the company. The gigantic bubble, however, was destined to be pricked.
In the year 1910 the company applied for power to register the term “gramophone” as applicable solely to the wares manufactured and dealt in by them. The most memorable case ever heard of in the talking machine world of this country ensued. It came before Mr. Justice Parker and lasted four days. Experts, legal and otherwise, were called, examined and cross-examined. The court was crammed with all the leading lights of the trade, who were there either as witnesses or as spectators. At length judgment was pronounced Power was refused, and the word “gramophone” became the property of anyone who had a disc machine to sell. A verbatim note of the whole proceedings was taken at the time by the Talking Machine News, and was published the morning after judgment was delivered. It was the only paper that printed the case in extenso.
In legal matters The Gramophone Company have been rather unfortunate, for previous to the case we have spoken of they lost one over the Gibson tapering tone arm in 1906. This was an invention for which they claimed sole rights. These were disputed and the action went against them. Nevertheless, if they have been unlucky in the courts it cannot be denied they have been marvellously successful in business. Before the war there were subsidiary companies in various capitals of Europe, and they were connected with the great Victor Company of America, which has now a large controlling interest in the concern. The Zonophone Company, too, has been absorbed by this firm.
During the war a portion of the huge factory at Hayes, the foundation-stone of which, by the way, was laid by Madame Tetrazzini, was given over to the manufacture of munitions. It is believed that The Gramophone Company was the first industrial concern, not normally engaged on Government contracts, to convert their plant. Within ten days of the declaration of war, the output of certain essential fuse parts was commenced. These required extraordinary accuracy and the mechanism at command of the company enabled them to make a beginning almost at once.
Of the artists exclusively engaged to make the famous “His Master’s Voice” records for the company we shall speak later, and in the chapter devoted to the “Talking Machine as a Teacher ” we shall have something to say of the firm’s efforts in that direction.”
We’ve been trying to find more information about the author but little is available. He appears to have written several pulp novels around the turn of the twentieth century and at least one song called Heroes. (Not the same song as was later recorded by David Bowie!)
As part of their Omnibus series, The BBC made a documentary about the history of recording in the late 1980’s which was called Memoirs of a Musical Dog. It aired on Friday May 27, 1988. It’s very good and thanks to the power of youtube, you can see it here:
Part One Early years of Edison and Berliner and Johnson including the origin of Nipper and His Masters Voice:
Part Two Fred Gaisberg recording Caruso recalled by his later assistant David Bicknell and Len Petts demonstrating a recording horn:
Part Three Electrical recording, Abbey Road, Menuhin remembering Elgar:
Part Four Gramophone accessories, Gracie Fields at the Hayes record factory, 1930’s picture discs, making 78 discs, recording messages home from the war:
Part Five The LP record, the 45 single, jukeboxes, The Beatles:
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 (email@example.com) or Christopher (firstname.lastname@example.org) direct.
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.