To learn more . . .

A short bibliography

Have a question or looking for a resource?

See the The Tinfoil Resource Center.

Looking for wax cylinder music on CDs?

See the Cylinder Music Shop.

Links to related topics

Photograph credits

  1. Courtesy Edison National Historic Site, West Orange, New Jersey.
  2. The Phonogram, 1891, pg. 226. Courtesy Library of Congress, Recorded Sound Division.
  3. Talking Machine News, September 1903, pg. 77. Courtesy Library of Congress, Recorded Sound Division.
  4. Scientific American, December 22, 1900, Front page. Courtesy Library of Congress, Adams Science Reading Room.
  5. Author's collection.
  6. From the collection of Sterling Morris.


  1. At the time, extending playing time was all the rage. Disk records of that time could play for over 3 minutes, so the rush was on to do the same for cylinders. Certainly, the wax cylinder two-minute limitation could not do justice to most symphonic works. But, on the other hand, many popular tunes were simply extended with musical "filler" to make up the extra playing time. And I have to confess my preference: There is a certain immediacy, vitality and even musical resourcefulness present in the two-minute cylinder works that you do not often hear in the "extended play" recordings. To me, once again Edison got it right – the two-minute playing time is an acceptable standard – even if market forces seemed to indicate otherwise.

  2. In this close-up you'll find, among other gems, an 1878 improved tinfoil phonograph, a few early 1890's Class M (electric) phonographs, a box of wax cylinders, and an 1890 Edison Talking Doll (regarding the failure of which Edison said, "The voices of the little monsters [was] exceedingly unpleasant to hear.")

  3. Only three photographs of recording sessions using multiple phonographs are known by me to exist. Each are presented here. I would very much like to be proved wrong. If you have seen or otherwise know of any others, please let me know: With only three extant photographs, the find of even one more would represent a huge increase in our body of reference material...

  4. Note the overhead wires and lever near the phonographs used to simultaneously operate the phonographs. The band playing is probably the Edison Concert Band. Note that the band is probably rehearsing because the conductor is blocking a few of the phonograph horns – something he would not be doing if they were doing an actual take. See related note 3, above.

  5. The soloist is Charles D'Almaine. Notice how close to the horns the soloist needed to get, but not too close because if he were to hit a horn, it would produce an audible "thunk" on the recording. The accompanying piano is elevated so that the loudest portion of its sounding board is closest to the horns. With this setup D'Almaine could easily have been performing Shepherds' Dance or Schubert's Serenade (as heard on the Cylinder Music Shop's Classical, Orchestral & Instrumental volume). Wires are seen running from the phonographs to a set of batteries which powered the phonograph motors. See related note 3, above.

  6. Street Piano Medley: It would be facinating to learn how this recording was engineered. If you have any theories, I'd love to hear them.

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