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The North American Phonograph Company!

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Cylinder Record History
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Original North American Cylinders, as seen below manufactured from 1889-1894 can be easily identified by the channeled rim. And are Edison's first commercially available record. Some 1889 records have a string core. These can only be played with early phonographs such as Class Ms, Spring Motors, or other machines that have the automatic  or standard speaker reproducer. Or Columbia machines that have a floating type reproducer and ball stylus.

OF AN ORIGINAL NORTH AMERICAN RECORD! (1889-1894) From the collection of T.N.A.P.C

Below is  1897-1901  Edison National Phonograph Company Cylinders. The above North American and the below National Phonograph Co. brown wax cylinders  are to be played on pre- 1901 Edison phonographs that use Standard Speaker, and Automatic reproducers. These both are direct cut records, gold molding had not come out yet for commercial records, although some masters were said to be according to court  cases.  The 2 minute wax records are 100 grooves per inch, and the grooves are cut with sapphire rod  .04" diameter and played back with a reproducing ball about .036"  grooves about .01" wide. Many brown wax records are live recordings.  The musicians and artists would sing, or play into many recording funnels, leading to several recording phonographs with blank, brown wax cylinders.  When the blanks became recorded, the process was repeated, until enough copies were made to fill orders.  There is some brown wax records made by tube copies, where a recording phonograph is hooked to a reproducing machine by the use of a tube, the master on one machine and the blank on another and the record copied this way, there is a hollowness to these kinds of copies.  Another kind of  method was the pantograph.  The pantograph had mechanical linkage hooking a recording stylus to a reproducing sylus, and springs, and weights used to keep tension between the two.  A blank cylinder was put on the recording side, while the master cylinder mad of a direct recording on the other side, the pantograph copied the grooves and sound waves onto the blank cylinder. Some of the masters used for copying were either  2 and 1/4" standard size, or 5" cylinders, some were made of wax, and others were reported to be metal.
What I call wax is actually a metallic soap.

brown wax 1900

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Columbia Up to 1904 Columbia used non dyed brown wax for there moulded records and afterwards black wax moulded cylinder was sold as there regular "high speed, extra loud" talking  machine record.  The formula of the brown and black wax moulded Columbia cylinder seems to be very similar, and surprisingly the brown wax record seems to be of a harder compound.  Both Columbia moulded records have the same exact ingredients.    Columbia wax cylinders should be played with the standard speaker,automatic,and model B Edison reproduces and Columbia floating reproducers only.  Records designed to play Edison Gold Moulded records, or even the Lyric Columbia reproducers should not be used on Columbia wax records, the compound is soft compared to the Edison moulded formula. Columbia  brown and moulded wax wears out quicker than Edison Gold Moulded wax records.


columbia black wax

About 1908 Columbia stopped using wax for its records.  This is a celluloid indestructible record dating from about 1910 or so.  These can also be labeled Oxford and sold by Sears.  These celluloid cylinders can be 2 or 4 minute records. Two minute records  have the 1902 date without the addition of 4m.  A 4 minute celluloid indestructible  has the 4m written on it.


Edison in 1901 started to produce two minute Gold Moulded cylinders with a 100 tpi feed,  until he had enough to fill a catalog.  In  1902 the Edison  Gold Moulded record was offered.


In 1908 Edison increased the playing time of the cylinders.  From 1888-1902 the speed of the records varied so the record could fit the song, anywhere from 90-144rpm.  After 1902 the speed was standardized at 160rpm and 100 tpi.  In 1908 Edison cylinders changed from 100 grooves per inch to 200 grooves per inch. From 1908-1911 Edison  wax Amberols were made, these are a wax cylinder record. And these play with only sapphire stili, on the Edison Reproducers model H,L,N, N56, Model M, K,O. In 1912 Edison invented the Blue Amberol, it is a 4 minute record but made of celluloid with a plaster core.  These will play on all of the above reproducers plus the Diamond A,B,C,D on the Edison Amberola cylinder phonographs.  Edison Blue Amberols were made from 1912-1929.  Wax Amberols will not play with the Diamond A,B,C,D.

wax amberl

 Above, an Edison wax Amberol record 1908-1912. Four Minute.


Edison Blue Amberol Records,  were made of celluloid for the record print, and plaster for backing the thick celluloid shell up. These were made by a steam heated mold, with  an air bladder inside.  The outside of the mold was steam heated, and when up to temperature, a rubber bladder inflated inside the celluloid tube, forcing the celluloid to the grooves of the mold, and forming the top and bottom of the record, and printing the song into the hot celluloid.  The steam was turned off, and compressed air was circulated around the celluloid print, and the celluloid cooled, and shank.  The celluloid print of the record was put in a plaster filling device,  and baked at a low temperature in an oven, and when dry,  ribs and taper made inside the record on a lathe.  The titles were filled with zinc carbonate paste, the records cleaned to remove dust from the finishing operations, then packaged in boxes.  From 1912-1914 the Blue Amberols were made from direct recorded masters, and after 1914, the masters for the Blue Amberols were dubbed acoustically from Edison Diamond Disc records, and some titles in 1929, when production of music records ceased,  the master cylinders were electrically dubbed from Diamond Disc, and needle type records.  A business form of the Blue Amberol for the Ediphone was produced until 1960.


This is the Ediphone dictation cylinder. This 6" long cylinder is used on Edison office machines called Ediphones.   The purpose of this kind of record, was to produce a short term, clear cylinder recording, with  very low surface noise. It weas out rather quickly with repeated plays, and the surface is easliy fogged in an environment of  heat and humidity.   If you ever find unused Ediphone blanks, they usually are foggy or moldy.   When they are freshly shaved, they make outstanding recordings.  You will notice the surface noise will increase after a few weeks, and somtimes fog in the summer.   They are fine for making short term master recordings from which moulded records are made from, but not for long term storage.  They were made to be shaved almost immidiatly after use, for typing transcriptions in offices.


Edison Ediphone blanks are for use on Ediphones, these blanks play a few times and wear out, as they were made for quick dictation transcription, and erasure.