"Thomas Alva Edison
Cylinder Phonograph"


Thomas Alva Edison was born on February 11, 1847. He invented and completed the first cylinder gramaphone in December, 1877. He later named it a 'phonograph' and although the market for cylinder recordings peaked in 1913, Edison continued to produce and distribute cylinders until the demise of the Edison Company in 1929.

Cylinder recordings, the very first commercially produced sound recordings, provide us with a view of musical and popular culture in the decades around the turn of the 20th century..


Cylinders on which music was recorded were either brown wax or Blue Amberds. Wax cylinders were delicate, Blue Amberds were introduced later and were unbreakable. The heydey of the cylinder record was over 90 years ago (early 1900's) and, for the most part, have not been re-released commercially in a modern medium. That is, until now.

There is a project presently under way to preserve and digitalize early recordings. The project is being spearheaded by the Special Collections Department of the University of California at Santa Barbara. The University of California has over seven-thousand cylinders in their collection.

Our ancestors listened to these recordings sitting around a wooden Edison Phonograph or a Columbia Graphophone, absorbing waves of sound through an acoustic horn—the music itself, and its spirit, has not changed. Perhaps, our taste in music may have undergone some change in the ensuing years, however.

By now, you should be listening to "Alexander's Rag Time Band Medley," which is brought to you as an mp3 digitalized version of the original Blue Amberds cylinder originally released by the Edison Company in 1913. The performer is Fred Van Eps (1878 - 1960). Fred Van Eps was also the composer. Alexander's Rag Time Band Medley," is a banjo solo, with orchestra accompaniment. The medley includes "Alexander's Rag Time Band," Ragtime Violin," and "Grizzly Bear."

Haven't heard anything yet? The file is an mp3 file that is 3.67MB. If you have a dial up connection it will take awhile to download. Please be patient.

Thomas Alva Edison was a truly talented individual, an inventor of extraordinary abilities. His most fameous invention of course was the electric light bulb and the creation of General Electric. But, during its heydey, the cylinder recordings brought pleasure to many. Thomas Alva Edison died in West Orange, new Jersey on October 18, 1931.



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