Acoustical Recordings
1900 - 1925


This section specializes in music from the acoustical era of recording, which ended with the advent of the microphone and electrical recording in 1925.   All selections are in streaming Real Audio and come from my personal collection of 78 rpm discs.  

I have segregated the acoustical and electrical recordings into two separate sections simply because many people who grew up in an age that asks "is it live or is it Memorex?" have a difficult time enjoying acoustical records.  To them, they sound flat and tinny - which, of course, they are.  Experience has taught me that people are far more receptive to the music of the early decades of this century when they are first exposed to electrical recordings.  Nevertheless, a lot of great recordings were made in the acoustical era. This site will feature a wide variety of musical styles ranging from ragtime to opera, early jazz to marching bands, light classical to World War I patriotic tunes. Hopefully you will discover that, despite the primitive technology of the time, these recordings are still capable of providing great entertainment.  

In spite of the fact that I have been collecting old records since childhood, I am still amazed that it is possible for me to listen to sounds that were made over 90 years ago.  The experience is about as close to time travel as one can ever get.   So while we may consider the technology to be primitive, if you stop and think about it, even today it is still quite remarkable.

 About Acoustical Recording
Acoustical recordings were made by using large horns to amplify the sound enough to cause the recording stylus to vibrate and cut indentations into the master record's grooves. For vocalists, it was necessary  to stand close to the horn and sing quite loudly.  Some instruments had a difficult time being picked up by the acoustical recording horns.  Violins, for example, were outfitted with a small horn in order to make them louder. These were known as Stroh violins.  

Recorded sound dates back to Edison's invention of the phonograph in 1877.  However, it wasn't until around 1889 that the first commercially produced records became available to the general public.  The earliest records were cylinders.  With the sole exception of Thomas Edison - who steadfastly continued to produce them until the onset of the Great Depression forced him out of business - by 1912 the cylinder had been completely  supplanted by the discs that we today refer to as the 78rpm.   The earliest disc records  were made in the 1890s by Emile Berliner.  Since I do not collect cylinder records and have yet to acquire any Berliner Records, this site will only go back to the early 1900s.

For more detailed information on acoustical recordings, and record collecting in general, I refer you to The Wolverine Antique Music Society's highly informative website.  Included is an article specifically about acoustical recording as well as an article by Paul Whiteman, the 1920's most successful dance band leader,  discussing his experiences making recordings both acoustically and electrically.

 To The Music 
Current Selections
Volume IV     Posted August 1999
(19 Recordings)
Featuring:  Fletcher Henderson,  Arthur Pryor's Band, Collins and Harlan, Victor Arden & Phil Ohman, Carl Fenton's Orchestra, The Cotton Pickers, Wilbur Sweatman's Original Jazz Band, Blue and White Marimba Band, Irving Kaufman and more

Index of Previous Updates
Volume III       Originally Posted October 1998      14 Recordings
Featuring:  Bessie Smith, Enrico Caruso, Paul Whiteman, Prince's Band, The Georgians, Collins & Harlan, Henry Burr, Original Dixieland "Jass" Band and more

Volume II         Originally Posted June 1998           14 Recordings
Featuring:  Vess L. Ossman, The Brox Sisters, Ted Lewis, Mabel Garrison, Lanin's Famous Players, Abe Lyman's California Orchestra and more.

Volume I          Originally Posted April 1998           15 Recordings
Featuring: The Zon-o-phone Orchestra,  Rudy Wiedoeft, Collins & Harlan, Giuseppina Finzi-Magrini,  Billy Murray, Prince's Dance Orchestra and more.

Don't forget to visit my 
1920's & 1930s section
It features vintage jazz and dance band recordings from the era.  And, in contrast to the recordings in this section, all selections are electrically recorded.

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