Historical Background

Thomas Alva Edison (February 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931) was an American inventor and known as the Wizard of Menlo Park. Edison's favorite invention was the phonograph. In 1877, he created a way to record sound on tinfoil cylinders by using two needles, one for recording and one for playback. The first words that Edison recorded were "Mary Had a Little Lamb." Ten years later, in 1887, Edison formed the Edison Phonograph Company to sell the phonograph to the public. This marked the beginning of the sound recording industry. The first records sold by the Edison and Columbia Phonograph Companies were on wax cylinders. These were brittle and broke easily. Columbia ceased production of wax cylinders in 1909 when discs became popular. The Edison National Phonograph Company continued making cylinders and discs until 1929. Cylinder records and other recordings made throughout the twentieth century are valuable primary resources.For the first time in political history, candidates in the 1908 presidential election (William Howard Taft, Republican and William Jennings Bryan, Democrat ) recorded speeches that were sold to the public. Many institutions such as the Smithsonian and Library of Congress are trying to preserve recordings such as these under a program called Saving America's Sounds. To learn more about Thomas Edison and listen to early recordings, visit the Websites listed at the bottom of the page.



Photo of Edison with cylinder phonograph in 1878

CREDIT: Edison, Thomas A.. "Edison with Cylinder Phonograph; Washington, DC; April 18, 1878." 1878. Photo courtesy of U. S. Department of Interior, National Park Service, Edison National Historic Site.


Edison Advertisement from Munsey's Magazine December, 1908: Author's Collection

Edison Standard Phonograph


Edison Talking Doll 1890

In 1890, Edison introduced the first talking doll that contained a six-second recording of a nursery rhyme. Children were expected to turn a tiny crank at a constant speed in order for the cylinder to play. Needless to say the doll was a failure and only available for a short period of time. To hear a recording and read more about the history of the Edison Talking Doll, visit these Websites.

1890 Edison Talking Doll

Listen to a description of the doll and one of the recordings at this museum exhibit.

Edison Talking Doll

View original illustrations of Edison's Talking Doll and the mechanism that was used to play the recordings.

Edison Talking Doll of 1890

Listen to one of the spoken recordings from Edison's Talking Doll - Little Jack Horner in a variety of audio formats.


Photograph of Advertisement from eBay


Black Wax Cylinder


Listening Lesson Download the Printable Lesson

Directions: Listen to one of the cylinder recordings. Using the guide below, describe what you hear.
Objective Observations

Describe what you hear in the recording by investigating its parts. For example: Is the recording musical or nonmusical? Are there any recognizable instruments? If so, identify them. Are the words sung or spoken? Is there any slang or dialect used in the recording? Is a story being told? If so, what is the story about?

Knowledge

What was happening in history during this time period? Did history or culture have any influence on the words or music?

Subjective Observations

Describe your personal feelings and what you think about the recording. Always base your subjective reaction on something that is heard. For example, "I heard ..., and it makes me feel or imagine ..."


Do you have any Questions about the recording?

Cylinder Record List

The cylinders were played on an Edison Standard Phonograph and recorded using a Macintosh iBook with iMovie. The QuickTime movie files were then converted to wav and mp3 files. These recordings are from the author's collection. Please do not upload these files to other sites.

 


Children's Stories

Number Title MP3 Type Category Company Year
3157 The Story of Chicken Little - Edna Bailey 4M Blue Amberol Bed-Time Story Edison 1917 
2697 The Three Bears - Edna Bailey 4M Blue Amberol Bed-Time Story Edison 1915


Christmas Music

2482 Hark the Herald Angels Sing - Edison Mixed Quartet 4M Amberol Christmas Edison 1914
2478 O Come, All Ye Faithful - Edison Mixed Quartet 4M Blue Amberol Christmas Edison 1914
2091 Ring Out the Bells for Christmas - Edison Concert Band 4M Blue Amberol Christmas Song Edison 1912
8270 Santa Claus Song - George P. Watson 2M Black Wax Yodel Edison 1902
1606 Silent Night - Elizabeth Spencer, Harry Anthony & James F. Harrison 4M Blue Amberol Christmas Song Edison 1912
26067 Stille Nacht, Heilage Nacht - Steidl Quartet 4M Blue Amberol Christmas Song Edison 1913
10257 While Shepherds Watched - Edison Concert Band 2M Black Wax Band Edison 1909


Comic/Novelty Songs

2468 Aba Daba Honeymoon - Arthur Collins & Byron Harlan 4M Blue Amberol Comic Edison 1914
11098 The Arkansas Traveler - Harry Spencer & George Schweinfest 2M Black Wax Descriptive Talk Columbia 1901
2674 Bird Imitations - Charles Crawford Gorst 4M Blue Amberol Whistling Edison 1915
2347 Chicken Reel - Edward Meeker 4M Blue Amberal Comic Song Edison 1914
1949 Come Josephine in My Flying Machine - Ada Jones & Billy Murray 4M Blue Amberol Novelty Edison 1911
3476 The Darktown Strutters Ball - Premier Quartet 4M Blue Amberol Comic Edison 1917
2684 Gasoline Guss and His Jittney Bus - Billy Murray 4M Blue Amberol Novelty Edison 1915
32896 Ground Hog Day at Pumpkin Center - Cal Stewart 2M Black Wax Laughing Story Columbia 1906
2194 He'd Have to Get Out and Get Under - Billy Murray 4M Blue Amberol Novelty Edison 1914
9523 How Matt Got the Mitten - Ada Jones & Len Spencer 2M Black Wax Vaudeville Sketch Edison 1907
10021 The Last Day of School at Pumpkin Centre - Cal Stewart 2M Black Wax Comic Edison 1908
2556 The Little Ford Rambled Right Along - Billy Murray 4M Blue Amberol Novelty Edison 1915
4942 Oh You Can't Fool An Old Horse Fly - Billy Jones and Earnest Hare (The Happiness Boys) 4M Blue Amberol Comic Edison 1925
1534 Oh! You Circus Day Medley - Belmont 4M Blue Amberol Whistling Edison 1912
383 The Rube and the Country Doctor - Byron Harlan & Frank Stanley 4M Black Amberol Rube Sketch Edison 1910
2920 Since Mother Goes to Movie Shows - Billy Murray 4M Blue Amberol Novelty Edison 1916
3506 Snookey Ookums - Collins and Harlan 4M Blue Amberol Novelty Edison 1913
1767 Three Little Owls But Awfully Tough - Cal Stewart 4M Blue Amberol Comic Edison 1913
3890 Uncle Josh & Aunt Nancy Put up the Kitchen Stove - Cal Stewart & Ada Jones 4M Blue Amberol Comic Edison 1920
3862 Uncle Josh and the Honey Bees - Cal Stewart 4M Blue Amberol Comic Edison 1919
912 Uncle Josh at a Bug House - Cal Stewart 2M Indestructible Comic Columbia 1908
1583 Uncle Josh Buys an Automobile - Cal Stewart 4M Blue Amberol Comic Edison 1912
1714 Uncle Josh Keeps House - Cal Stewart 4M Blue Amberol Comic Edison 1913
2108 Uncle Josh in a Photograph Gallery - Cal Stewart 4M Blue Amberol Comic Edison 1913
3923 Uncle Josh's Birthday - Cal Stewart 4M Blue Amberol Comic Edison 1920
1594 The Village Gossips - Cal Stewart and Steve Porter 4M Blue Amberol Comic Edison 1912
2657 War Talk at Punkin Center - Cal Stewart 4M Blue Amberol Comic Edison 1915
4778 Yes We Have No Bananas - Billy Jones 4M Blue Amberol Novelty Edison 1923


Foreign Language

28221 Am Rheinland Bein Wein - Otto Coritz 4M Blue Amberol Song Edison 1915
26164 Der Tyroler Und Sein Kind - Julia Kubler 4M Blue Amberol Songs Edison 1914
26113 Die Grosse Kanone Potpourri - Johsn Strauss 4M Blue Amberol Orchestra Edison 1913
3611 Donna Juanita Selection - Creatore and his band 4M Blue Amberol Band Edison 1918
3661 La Danse Des Sorcieres - Solero's Band 4M Blue Amberol Band Edison 1919
28065 Unter Schwingen Des Deutschen Aars 4M Blue Amberol Marches Edison 1913
26187 Volksliedercouplet - Stolberg 4M Blue Amberol Song Edison 1914
26188 Volksleider Pot Pourri No. 2 - Military-Kapelle 4M Blue Amberol Band Edison 1910
26190 Wacht An Rhein and Deutchland and Uber Allies - Manhattan Quartette 4M Blue Amberol Natioanl Anthem Edison 1914


Instrumental

1864 Alexander's Ragtime Band Medley - Fred Van Epps 4M Blue Amberol Banjo Edison 1912
3395 Ballet Egyptian No. 5 1&2 - American Symphony Orchestra 4M Blue Amberol Orchestra   1918
3733 Beautiful Ohio - Judes Society Orchestra 4M Blue Amberol Waltz Edison 1919
3844 Col. Stuart March - Conway's Band 4M Blue Amberol March Edison 1919
4667 Concert Fantasie - Huston Ray 4M Blue Amberol Piano Solo Edison 1923
1532 Dixie Medley - Fred Van Epps 4M Blue Amberol Banjo Edison 1912
3859 Echo - W. Moor & P. Capodiferro 4M Blue Amberol Duet Flute & Cornet Edison 1919
2329 Gippsland March - New York Military Band 4M Blue Amberol Band Edison 1914
12800 The Girl I Left Behind Me - Columbia Drum, Fife, & Bugle Corps. 2M Brown Wax Band Columbia 1899
2405 Humoreske - Samuel Gardner 4M Blue Amberol Violin Edison 1914
3129 In the Clock Store (Fantasia) - Edison Concert Band 4M Indestructible Band Everlasting 1907
3361 La Paloma - Indestructible Symphony Orchestra 4M Indestructible Orchestra Columbia 1911
4939 Let Me Call You Sweetheart -Harry Raderman's Dance Orchestra 4M Blue Amberol Waltz Edison 1925
2853 Massa's in The Cold, Cold, Ground - Fred Bacon 4M Blue Amberol Banjo Edison 1916
1539 Medley of Southern Plantation Songs - New York Military Band 4M Blue Amberol Band Edison 1912
9789 Merry Widow Selection - Edison Symphony Orchestra 2M Black Wax Opera Edison 1908
9434 The Mouse and the Clock - Edison Concert Band 2M Black Wax Band Edison 1907
1014 New Tipperary March - John J. Kimmel 2M Black Wax Accordion Solo Columbia 1909 
2149 The Nightingale - Henry Heidelberg 4M Blue Amberol Piccolo Edison 1914
51 Overture 1812 - Edison Concert Band 4M Amberol Band Edison 1908
1937 Silv'ry Bells Medley - National Promenade Band 4M Blue Amberol
Band - Two-step Edison 1913
9871 Turkey in the Straw Medley - Edison Military Band 2M Black Wax Band Edison 1904
2967 Walkin' the Dog - National Promenade Band
4M Blue Amberol Fox Trot Edison 1917
9107 Whistler and His Dog - Edison Military Band 2M Black Wax Band Edison 1905


Patriotic

2631 America - Mixed Quartette 4M Blue Amberol Patriotic Song Edison 1915
2964 Battle Cry of Freedom - Walter Van Brunt & Chorus 4M Blue Amberol Patriotic Edison 1916
3402 Camp Songs U.S. Army No. 1 - Chorus of Male Voices 4M Blue Amberol Patriotic Songs Edison 1918
3403 Camp Songs U.S. Army No. 2 - Chorus of Male Voices 4M Blue Amberol Patriotic Songs Edison 1918
2203 Columbian Exposition March 4M Blue Amberol March Edison 1914
1648 Dixie - New York Military Band Fife and Drum Corps and Chorus 4M Blue Amberol Army Song Edison 1913
3006 For Dixie and Uncle Sam - George Ballard 4M Blue Amberol Army Song Edison 1916
2325 Fourth of July Patrol - New York Military Band 4M Blue Amberol Patriotic Edison 1914
3603 General Pershing March - Imperial Marimba Band 4M Blue Amberol March Edison 1918
3243 It's Time for Every Boy to be a Soldier - Gladys Rice 4M Blue Amberol Recruiting Song Edison 1917
2633 Listen to that Dixie Band - I. Kaufman and Company 4M Blue Amberol Band Edison 1915
1574 Medley of War Songs - New York Military Band 4M Blue Amberol Songs Edison 1912
2029 National Emblem March - New York Military Band 4M Blue Amberol March Edison 1913
1804 On Parade Medley - National Guard Fife & Drum Corps. 4M Blue Amberol Patriotic Edison 1913
1626 Patriotic Songs of America - New York Military Band & Premier Quartet 4M Blue Amberol Patriotic Songs Edison 1913
32749 Roosevel's Inaugural Parade - Columbua Band with the Columbia Quartet 2M Black Wax Band Columbia 1905
4046 Semper Fideles - U.S. Marine Band 4M Blue Amberol Patriotic Song Edison 1920
2652 The Star Spangled Banner - Thomas Chalmers & Chorus 4M Blue Amberol National Anthem Edison 1915
2104 Stars and Stripes Forever - Sousa's Band 4M Blue Amberol March Edison 1913
1612 Spirit of Independance March - New York Military Band 4M Blue Amberol March Edison 1912
2845 Stop! Look Listen When I Get Back, etc. - Billy Murray & Chorus 4M Blue Amberol Musical Play Song Edison 1916
3219 Uncle Sam Medley No. 2 - National Fife and Drum Corps 4M Blue Amberol Patriotic Edison 1917
2919 Wake Up America - Joseph A. Phillips 4M Blue Amberol Song Edison 1916
997 Washington Post March - Edison Grand Concert Band   2M Indestructible March Edison 1909
2746 We'll Never Let the Old Flag Fall - Frederick Wheeler & Chorus 4M Blue Amberol British Patriotic Edison 1915
9256 You're a Grand Old Rag - Billy Murray 2M Black Wax Patriotic Song Edison 1906


Songs

10522 Alexander's Ragtime Band - Billy Murray 2M Black Wax Song Edison 1911
8860 Back, Back, Back to Baltimore - Arthur Collins & Byron Harlan 2M Black Wax Duet Edison 1905
1330 By the Light of the Silvery Moon - Ada Jones 2M Indestructible Song Columbia 1909
5173 Bye Bye Blackbird - National Male Quartette 4M Blue Amberol Song Edison 1926
1550 Casey Jones - Billy Murray & Chorus 4M Blue Amberol Song/Story Edison 1912
2719 Daisies Won't Tell - Helen Clark & Joseph A. Phillips 4M Blue Amberol Duet Edison 1915
1860 Darling Nellie Gray - Metropolitan Quartet 4M Blue Amberol Vocal Quartet Edison 1913
2948 Don't Bite the Hand that's Feeding You - Walter Van Brunt 4M Blue Amberol Vocal Edison 1916
1829 Down by the Old Mill Stream - Vernon Archibald 4M Blue Amberol Vocal Edison 1913
2868 Down Where the SwaneeRiver Flows - C. Ballard and Chorus 4M Blue Amberol Song Edison 1916
9611 Every Little Bit of What You've Got Makes Just a Little Bit More - Arthur Collins & Byron Harlan 2M Black Wax Duet Edison 1907
3222 For Me and My Gal - Billy Murray 4M Blue Amberol Song Edison 1917
3498 K-K-K-Katy - Billy Murray and Chorus 4M Blue Amberol Song Edison 1918
3765 The Glowworm - We Girls Quartet & Lincke Orchestra 4M Blue Amberol Song Edison 1919
3315 Hail Hail the Gang;s All Here - Shannon Quartette 4M Blue Amberol Song Edison 1917
5185 Hi Diddle Diddle - Billy Jones and Ernest Hare 4M Blue Amberol Song Edison 1926
3255 I Want to be Home in Dixie - Billy Jones and Ernest Hare 4M Undestructible Song Columbia 1925
4553 In the Little Red School House - Billy Jones & Ernest Hare 4M Blue Amberol Song Edison 1922
3206 In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree - Walter Van Brunt 4M Indestructible Song Columbia 1911
1597 Kentucky Days - Billy Murray & Chorus 4M Blue Amberol Song Edison 1912
8722 Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis - Billy Murray 2M Black Wax Song Edison 1904
725 The Mockingbird - Joe Belmont 2M Indestructible Whistling Solo Columbia 1908 
2451 Navajo Indian Songs (with drums) - Geoffrey O'Hara 4M Blue Amberol Baritone Edison 1914
9012 Nearer My God to Thee - Lotus Quartet 2M Black Wax Hymn Columbia 1904-1909
5032 New River Train - Vernon Dalhart 4M Blue Amberol Song Edison 1925
7484 Old Black Joe - Arthur Collins & Byron Harlan 2M Black Wax Duet Edison 1900
3031 Old Black Joe Side A & Swanee River Side B 4M Indestructible Peerless Quartet Edison 1910
2584 Old Folks at Home - Christine Miller & Chorus 4M Blue Amberol Vocal  Edison 1915
5241 The Old Hicory Cane - Ernest V. Stoneman 4M Blue Amberol Song Edison 1926
10227 The Old Oaken Bucket - Nat. Wills 2M Black Wax Parody Edison 1909
3194 Pop Goes the Weasel Medley - Charles D'Almaine 4M Indestructible Violin Solo Albany 1902
3019 Pretty Baby - Gladys Rice 4M Blue Amberol Song Edison 1916
1882 Put Your Arms Around Me Honey - Ada Jones & Chorus 4M Blue Amberol Song Edison 1915
5028 The Runaway Train - Vernon Dalhart and Company 4M Blue Amberol Song Edison 1925
9562 School Days - Byron Harlan 2M Black Wax Song & Chorus Edison 1907
1547 Silver Threads Among the Gold - Will Oakland 4M Blue Amberol Song Edison 1912
3988 Swanee - Al Bernard and Frank M. Kamplain 4M Blue Amberol Duet Edison 1920
4863 That Old Gang of Mine - Billy Jones and Ernest Hare 4M Blue Amberol Song Edison 1924
1062 TRANS-MAG-NI-PI-CAN-BAM-DAM-U-AL-I-TY - Byron Collins 2M Indestructible Song Columbia 1909
1915 WaiLae - Toots Paka's Hawaiians 4M Blue Amberol Hawaiian  Edison 1913
1897 Waiting for the Robert E. Lee - Arthur Collins & Byron Harlan 4M Blue Amberol Duet Edison 1913
2547 When You Wore a Tulip - Walter Van Brunt & Chorus 4M Blue Amberol Song Edison 1915
4898 The Wreck on the Southern Old 97 - Vernon Dalhart 4M Blue Amberol Tenor Edison 1924
32900 Yankee Boodle - Billy Murray 2M Black Wax Baritone Solo Columbia 1906


Speeches and Recitations

3708 The Farmer and the Businessman - Theodore Roosevelt 4M Blue Amberol Speech Edison 1919
3756 Let Us Not Forget - Thomas A. Edison 4M Blue Amberol Speech Edison 1919
1651 Lincoln's Speech at Gettysburg - Harry E. Humphrey 4M Blue Amberol Recitation Edison 1913
2539 Out to Old Aunt Mary's - Harry E. Humphrey 4M Blue Amberol Recitation Edison 1915
1652 Patrick Henry's Speech - Harry E. Humphrey 4M Blue Amberol Recitation Edison 1913
3707 Right of the People to Rule - Theodore Roosevelt 4M Blue Amberol Speech Edison 1919
3709 Social and Industrial Justice - Theodore Roosevelt 4M Blue Amberol Speech Edison 1919
8656 Uncle Tom's Cabin (The flogging Scene) - Len Spencer 2M Black Wax Talking Edison 1904
1654 Washington's Farewell Address - Harry E. Humphrey 4M Blue Amberol Recitation Edison 1913


War Songs

3215 American War Songs No. 2 - American Brass Quartet 4M Blue Amberol War Songs Edison 1917
3726 How Ya Gonna Keep Em Down on the Farm - Byron Harlan 4M Blue Amberol Vocal WWI Edison 1919
1516 Just Before the Battle Mother - Will Oakland & Chorus 4M Blue Amberol Civil War Edison 1912
1888 Marching Through Georgia - James F. Harrison & Chorus 4M Blue Amberol War Song Edison 1913
3497 A Submarine Attack - Premier Quartet & Co. 4M Blue Amberol Military WWI Edison 1918
3569 When I Send You a Picture from Berlin - Billy Murray 4M Blue Amberol WWI Song Edison 1918
 


Early Recording Artists

Recording Artists

Visit this Cyberbee researched page to learn more about early artists who recorded for the major record comapnies like Edison, Columbia, and Victor. Geoffrey O'hara recorded Navajo Indian songs, Edna Bailey told bedtime stories, Harry Humphrey recited famous speeches, Ada Jones and Billy Murray were popular singers, Christine Mille demonstrated tone tests and sang beautiful songs. Cal Stewart enterained audiences with his Uncle Josh stories. Discover these "Oldies, but Goodies" and teach music using primary sources.

Websites for Learning and Listening

Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project

With funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the UCSB Libraries have created a digital collection of nearly 8,000 cylinder recordings held by the Department of Special Collections. In an effort to bring these recordings to a wider audience, they can be freely downloaded or streamed online. The online catalog can be easily searched by keyword.

Edison Sound Recordings at the Library of Congress

This site features 81 disc sound recordings, and other related materials, such as photographs and original magazine articles. In addition, histories are given of Edison's involvement with sound recordings, as well as a special page focusing on the life of the great inventor.

Edison National Historic Site

The archive at Edison National Historic Site includes approximately 48,000 disc and cylinder records produced by Edison in West Orange, New Jersey, between 1888 and 1929. Many of these, including unreleased and experimental recordings, have been at the Laboratory since Edison's lifetime. Ranging back to the first years of the invention and development of the phonograph, some of the earliest examples of recorded sound in existence are preserved within this unique collection. This site contains a compilation of selected recordings arranged by genre such as comedy sketches, documentary and political speeches, and popular songs.


Updated December 18, 2012
© 1996 - 2012 Linda C. Joseph
All Rights Reserved