Friday, August 30, 2013

Columbia Phonograph Company record labels for the year of 1902. A year of big changes in the labels and the company itself..

The Columbia Phonograph Company had a rather shaky beginning when it came to the flat disc record. First off, they did not have any patents to support the making of disc records when they started their venture in mid 1901. The beginning of the Columbia disc started in New Jersey. In Milburn. New Jersey to be exact. The head of the Columbia Company Edward Easton went to the Burt Company in Milburn to see about the ability of this company to manufacture disc records. It would not be a problem for them. They had dealt with discs before for a while with the Berliner Gramophone Company.  The Climax recordings would be made by the recording engineer Mr. English. Who incidentally was the recording engineer for the International Zonophone Company. It seems that much of the talent for the early Climax Records comes from the pool of talent that was recording for Zonophone.

The original deal set up in mid 1901 was that the Burt Company would create a company within called the Globe Record Company. Through this company would be records in which Columbia could sell. These records would be called Climax Records. In fact for the first 3 weeks of production, which was very limited. The first Climax Records had no affiliation on it's label to the Columbia Company. In fact it is not totally understood why they were made this way. Was it possible that the Burt Company was selling the records too? What ever the reasons for this short lived label it was within weeks replaced. The original label was no label at all, the information about the record was embossed on the disc itself. Within 3 weeks of this original style the embossed records had labels placed over the printed material of the record stating it was a Climax Record made by the Globe Record Company solely for the Columbia Phonograph Company. This whole scene gets rather confusing as you dig deeper. But for all of 1901 there was the Climax Record.

Now for the main point of this article, by late 1901 it was a pretty open secret that Columbia was behind the Climax Records and was producing them illegally. For what they were doing went against the patents of Emile Berliner, creator of the first commercial disc record.. Until October of 1901 there was little Berliner could do about this. Because he had been forced out of the industry by the Columbia Phonograph Company and their magnificent lawyer Phillip Morro. Mr. Morro had used a very liberal interpretation of an early Bell-Tainter patent to force Berliner out through an injunction. Now of course Berliner could seethe, but do little else. 

But on Oct 3, 1901 Eldridge R. Johnson and Emile Berliner joined forces and created the Victor Talking Machine Company. It's initials were VTM and that is very important. On December 10, 1901 Columbia received their first patent on disc recording that mattered. It was the Joseph Jones patent for making wax disc recording. Edward Easton and the Columbia crew breathed a sigh of relief. Now they can take a break and have a well deserved vacation. 

They had not given much thought to the Globe Record Company as of late or to the Burt Company who was not happy about that. Do to this fact Columbia had been very late paying bills. Not once, but several times and the Burt Company was understandably very upset. 


                               The January 1902 raid on the Globe Record Company

In the dawn of the new year Eldridge Johnson paid a visit to the Burt Company and bought the Globe Record Company from them. This is very important. Remember that the Globe Record Company was making the Climax Records for Columbia. Now the main competitor of Columbia and the possessor of all the Berliner Patents owned the company that made their records! 

After the purchase of the Globe Company Johnson arranged to have all the Climax stampers from Globe brought to the Victor headquarters in Philadelphia. There each of the Climax Stampers was affixed with a circle next to the label saying VTM in it's center.  When Edward Easton and the Columbia crew returned from their vacations they were shocked to discover that their recordings were being made by their competitor and not only that. Each of their records advertised and showed who owned the records, VICTOR!!

A lot of legal issues followed as Columbia and Victor prepared to do battle. But armed with the Jones patent, Columbia could do a lot of harm to Victor. However, armed with the Berliner patents Victor could do the same to Columbia. So after a few months of a severe staring match...both blinked. Victor sold the Globe Record Company back to Columbia and Columbia allowed Victor to use the Jones patent. Of course this pooling of patents and legal movements had a profound effect on the labels of Columbia records in the year of 1902. In fact there are 5 different styles of label for this momentous year. I have put them all together here to show what I think was the progression. By 1903 everything got more simple and the labels stayed somewhat the same. 


This is the Standard early 1902 Climax Record made by the Globe Record Company when it was owned for a short while by the Victor Talking Machine Company. Note the VTM at the 2 o clock position. This label would be produced for a few months in the beginnings of the year as all the legal battles ensued. Note also the brass grommet in the center. Also note that there is no information anywhere on patents.

There was a transformation of the Climax Label as Columbia was starting to produce their own records. However, most of the recordings owned by Columbia were announced at the beginning as a Climax Record. So while a massive recording program started to make records with Columbia announcements The Climax's were sold with the VTM on it. You will see here as well on this mid 1902 Climax the VTM is also at the same 2 o clock position as the previous. This would be the last Climax label. It would be killed in middle of the year.  You will also see no patent information and the brass grommet is used like the previous.

The first Columbia label produced in the first few months of 1902. There are several telling factors. First off this is a Climax record. There was a massive mix of Columbia and Climax recordings in the early months of 1902. Through much of the year labels would be confused, masters confused, Title's confused as the Climax Record was phased out and the Columbia Record was phased in. So here we have a very early Columbia Label. It is a Climax Record as you can see the VTM at 2 o clock.  What you will see here also is no patent information. No information at all on the record. However for a very short time the Climax grommet would be carried over to the new Columbia Label.

 A slightly later Columbia Record from the middle of 1902. Note that the grommet is now gone. However here we have another example of a Climax Record. Oddly the stamp this time is at the 10 o clock position. This is due to the label just going the other way and the VTM is upside down. I gather by this time the less people that saw that or read it the better. This is the beginnings of a large amount of production of Columbia Discs. The Climax Record was no longer being produced. However this year many of the old Climax stampers were used till they wore out as Columbia needed to re-record nearly every one of their records. The records without announcements made for Climax would be used for years by Columbia. But this is the last of the no information labels

Finally we come to the last of the 1902 labels and it has the information we were looking for. Patents! By the time this record came out there were very few if any Climax records being pressed anymore.  I am sure the Columbia Company heaved a sigh of relief when the this label made it appearance. Finally the Columbia disc had come of age and was legal.  

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Len Spencer..1867-1914 One of the greatest recording artists in history.. His life and death dealt with recorded sound.

Leonard Garfield Spencer Feb 12,1867- Dec 15, 1914..

Len Spencer as he was known was the son of the inventor of the Spencer method of writing. He grew up in Washington DC. That area in the 1880's into the early 1890's was the center of recording activities. In this small area of Washington DC was the Bell and Tainter Graphophone Company, the Berliner Gramophone Company, and the Columbia Phonograph Company.

Spencer and soon later his brother Harry would become major players in the phonograph industry. Len Spencer made several thousand recordings in his career that spanned over 20 years.  He was on every label on disc recording and every cylinder record company as well. So in short he recorded for everyone! If anyone is familiar with the famous Edison advertising cylinder (I am the Edison phonograph), it was recorded by Spencer.  If anyone watches the History Channel and listens to William McKinley speak, it isn't McKinley, it is Len Spencer. If you find early recordings of Jekyll and Hyde it is Len Spencer. In any batch of early recordings you will always find Len Spencer. He truly was everywhere.

 A Zonophone label from 1907 containing the voices of Spencer and recording partner Ada Jones.

A 1902 recording of Spencer on the newly formed Victor Talking Machine Company.

A Columbia recording of Spencer and Jones again in 1906.

Spencer made recordings with everyone and was on many group recordings such as Minstrel recordings for Victor, Columbia, Zonophone, Edison, American Record Company, Leeds, and others...

In his later years he opened a music business and theatrical agency. Here he hired George Washington Johnson to be the doorman. It was at this agency that he dropped dead at his desk on December 15, 1914. His funeral was held at Campbell's Funeral home where many other great performers funerals would be held. What was most unique about his funeral was this...

He was the speaker!

He had recorded pieces earlier to used in the case of his death. So he read the 23rd psalm at his funeral and also recited the Lord's Prayer.   After this show and after all was done his widow and children went with the body to a crematorium and after that the ashes were brought to the family plot in Washington DC.

So ended the career of a remarkable recording artist..who entertained while alive and dead. To this very day Len Spencer is still heard often. After 99 years it is a rewarding fact to any recording artist to be remembered.  I can say most truthfully that I will never hear most of Len Spencer's output, cause it just is so much. Few recorded as well, often, with more dialects, and was as well respected by many in his field than Len Spencer.

Report of the commission on the renovation of the Executive Mansion. Official report published by the Government Printing Office in late 1952.

Between the years 1948 and 1952 there was a massive restoration of the White House. In many ways of thinking it was more a total destruction of the building (save the walls) than a restoration or renovation.

The entire building was gutted and rebuilt with a steel inter structure as used in all modern buildings. The White House today is a modern building that has little relationship with it's great history.

The only thing that really is original structurally save for a few items inside is the outside walls. This report is on the destruction and rebuilding of the White House. So the word renovation, although in the minds of many means to restore. In this case it means rebuild.

The definition of the word renovation...

Definition of RENOVATE

: to restore to a former better state (as by cleaning, repairing, or rebuilding)

The term fits. But most people are not aware that the White House is really a new structure.

 Although this project was done a little over 60 years ago, the methods used today are 180 degrees different than what was used then. For today we try to preserve what is original, rather than just tear everything down.

This report goes through everything

In this copy I have there is a mimeograph copy of the letter sent to the Secretary of the Army with regards and requests to have this book for his personal library and to give out some others to various other officials.

The cornerstone of the "new"White House.   Which was built in the 1948-52 period, not restored.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Indentured Servant document from 1681

Here is a rather rare and unusual document from February of 1681. It is a document of indenture. Basically becoming a slave for a period of years. This document is long and detailed and I could not copy all of it. But, here is a much of it and the signatures on the back of this velum document.

So just a unique piece from well over 330 years ago.

 Indenture says it all doesn't it?

On the top of the picture above  you will see the writing of the date. Written in a script and in a very long form.

 I wonder what ever happened to the servant who was here signing much of his life away long ago.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The very rare sleeve for Marconi Velvet Tone Records. 1907-08

Now many in the record collecting world are quite familiar with the famous and to a degree infamous Marconi Velvet Tone Record. Which was introduced by Columbia in 1907. It was a very well made record that was not only unbreakable, but also flexible. In an age of easily broken 78 RPM recordings it seemed to be a great answer to the problem.

 However, it was not. It was an advanced recording that was produced with just mediocre pressings of existing Columbia records. One of the recordings I have has an announcement! Announcements were discontinued in 1903! This gives an idea of what was being put on these records. Some good stuff, but also some rather old and out of date recordings as well.

 By 1908 they were gone. They were too ahead of their time and the needles needed to play them caused them the greatest pain. Cause you could not remove them from your phonograph till it was worn out. So it required you to play only Marconi records or regular records. You could not mix. This was one of their great problems.and soon they were dropped. 

However, there was a short number tried in the South American market in 1908 in double disc format. These are quite rare today. 

 But nothing is more uncommon than the original sleeves for these records. The sleeves were made of a heavy cardboard and had a thin cellophane window in the place for the record label. Some what reminiscent of Victor's and G&T's celebrity record sleeves of the 1903-1905 period. They had a picture of Marconi and info on the records. But most of all the sleeve announces to all that this invention of the Marconi record is as wonderful as wireless! 

 The regular Marconi label after they put up the picture of him with his hairpiece.(See an earlier article on these records)

 The back with all the do's and don't's of the Marconi Velvet Tone.

The quite rare record sleeve in it's original form in 1907

As you can see it was really a big thing to Columbia as these records were as wonderful as wireless.

The last straw and the South American Marconi Records in double disc form in 1908

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The sales book for the McKinley assassination memorial book.. Late September 1901

In mid September 1901. The 25th President of the United States died from the effects of an assassins bullet. As soon as the funeral was into swing there were memorial books on the planning board. There would have been several hundred of these thin sales books printed. The book was still being formulated a week after the assassination but, it was in the works. So this book and books like it were brought door to door by hundreds of sales people, The final finished book was a big seller and of course this door to door campaign was quite successful.

One must remember it was dealing with an assassination of the president. But if you were over 42 years of age at this time you would have seen this as the third assassination of a president in just 36 years! For there had been two before McKinley and they were in a rather close time period.  Lincoln in 1865, Garfield in 1881 and then McKinley in 1901.

So this book would be filled with not only a story about McKinley. But it was filled with Victorian styled grief and overkill. In one of the illustrations it has McKinley being brought into the "Hall of Martyrs" in Heaven. But this book would sell well as McKinley was so universally grieved for.It is odd that he is so little remembered today, considering his popularity then.

Of course it had instructions to sales agents

An example of the title page and a few chapters to give a certain gist to the book that was to be.

Showing who else had been shot and killed in the last 36 years.

The assassin

Lastly, the order form

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The first commercial recordings of birds... Bremen, Germany 1910

In 1910 the German branch of the Gramophone Company made a series of unique recordings at the Aviary of Karl Reich in Bremen. This was a very adventurous jump in the field of acoustic recording. For in this case the recordings were made onto wax masters that could not be stopped or started once the recording began. Everything was done on a single take. Just the thought of that makes it so remarkable. But the Gramophone Company was not there to record one of the canaries of the operatic stage, They were there to record the voices of birds! These first recordings were on red seal records.

The Nightingale recording was done first. In fact there were several Nightingale recordings made. Some with great results and of course a few that were problematic. Of course these birds were remarkably loud and sang a lot. It is interesting as you listen to the recording made over 100 years ago you can hear the bird bouncing around in it's cage. 

The Gramophone Company which had just changed it's name back from being the Gramophone and Typewriter Company was rightly proud of these recordings made by it's German branch and by the recording engineer Max Hampe. The process was explained in literature put out by the Gramophone Company and also by it's sister companies in other parts of Europe and in the United States. The pressings shown here are from the pressings by the Victor Talking Machine Company in the 1913-15 period. In it's description of the recording process a cage was placed directly before the recording horn and the bird was allowed to sing. It was quite amazing how much the birds did sing. The recordings were an acoustical triumph. They are remarkably lifelike and are stilled used in digital form on some bird sites. 

The following recordings were made in the 1910 to 1912 period.  They would be pressed in much of Europe till 1914 and in the United States till 1916. During the war anything German was banned. But these wonderful recordings were re-released by 1920. These recordings were the first and are still highly regarded in the field of bird song recordings. Who would have thought that one hundred and three years ago.

 A 1913 pressing of the 1910 original and first recording of captive Nightingale. These recordings were remarkable. But quite understandably were not massive sellers. Today they are quite rare. Putting the bird on a red seal record was an odd choice. This label was used for the most famous opera singers and classical instrumentalists. But for a while this Nightingale from Bremen, Germany was one of the great stars on red seal records. The Nightingale was in the company of Caruso, Tetrazzini, Melba and other singers that many would call canaries.

In this adventurous recording there is a duet. Two birds in front of a recording horn from the 1910-1912 period. All of these blue labeled Victor recordings were pressed in the 1913-15 period..Rather than being on the Red Seal the other birds were on blue label records. in which all would be in time. But this is an example of an early 1913-15 style label.

Here is the lovely song of a Sprosser (also known as a field Nightingale)

The second recording of a Nightingale made in 1910.

Lastly the song of a Thrush. Recorded in the 1910 -1912 period. Recorded before the World Wars and the dreadful destruction of the of the age in which these recordings were made.  A rare and unique series of recordings.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Deaths on August 2, 1921, 1922, 1923. Three major deaths on the same day over three years.

August the second is a day in the minds of those who are into opera, invention, and the American Presidency. For on that date in three consecutive years died one from each of these categories. I found it rather interesting that each of these individuals were very prominent in the field they represented. Since I am very interested in all three fields I am interested in each of them.

In Naples, Italy on August 2, 1921 died the greatest voice of a generation. The great operatic tenor Enrico Caruso.

In Canada on August 2, 1922 died one of the great inventors of the age. The inventor of the telephone Alexander Graham Bell.

In San Francisco, California  on August 2, 1923, Warren G. Harding the 29th President of the United States died

They always say things come in three's.  From 1921 to 1923 on August the second they sure did.