From the first recordings made on tinfoil in 1877 to the last produced on
celluloid in 1929, cylinders spanned a half-century of technological development
in sound recording. As documents of American cultural history and musical
style, cylinders serve as an audible witness to the sounds and songs through
which typical audiences first encountered the recorded human voice. And
for those living at the turn of the 20th century, the most likely source
of recorded sound on cylinders would have been Thomas Alva Edison's crowning
achievement, the phonograph. Edison wasn't the only one in the sound recording
business in the first decades of the 20th century; several companies with
a great number of recording artists, in addition to the purveyors of the
burgeoning disc format, all competed in the nascent musical marketplace.
Still, more than any other figure of his time, Edison and the phonograph
became synonymous with the cylinder medium. Because of the overwhelming
preponderance of cylinder recordings bearing his name in UCSB's collection,
the following history is, we admit, Edison-centric. Nonetheless, Edison's
story is heavily dependent on the stories of numerous musical figures and
sound recording technological developments emblematic of the period, and
it is our hope that we have fairly represented them here. Herein, a
Early Cylinder Recordings--The Beginnnings of Recorded Sound
Cylinders in the New Century--Edison Phonograph Cylinders
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|Thomas Edison's laboratory and factory, including the sound recording archives, is administered by the National Park Service as a National Historic Site.
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