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Edison Chinese Cylinders

Edison Chinese Cylinder

An old valet carries a letter / Performer unknown. Edison Records in Chinese: 12769. 1902.

In 1902, Edison sent recordist Walter Miller to San Francisco to record 46 cylinders of Chinese content for sale to Chinese speakers. It is not known if they were also sold in China as well as to the Chinese community in the United States. The records stayed in the catalog for a number of years and included songs, Chinese opera, and, naturally, comic recitations and band music. Many of the pieces were too long to fit on one cylinder and were spread over multiple cylinders, which was an unusual practice for the time period.

Chinese selections in the 1905 Edison catalog of British, European, Canadian, Mexican, and Asiatic records. (Courtesy of Wang Gang, Zhengzhou, PRC.)


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Some instruments recorded better than others with the acoustic recording process. Typically loud instruments like brass recorded well, while softer instruments like violins didn't.

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