Marconi Velvet Tone Record – 1907

MarconiVT 048


“Strauss Autograph Waltz”
Columbia Band
1902 (Marconi Velvet Tone 048)
Autograph Waltz – Columbia Band

Here is a recording on the rare Marconi Velvet Tone label, a product of the American Graphophone Company which also manufactured Columbia records.

Unlike the heavy shellac discs of the era, Marconi Velvet Tones were light-weight and made with a paper core and a laminated celluloid surface.  The records required special gold-plated needles which were good for up to twelve plays –  playing them with standard single-use but inexpensive steel needles would destroy the soft surface of the discs.   The Marconi records were not commercially successful and production was discontinued only a few months after the first ones hit the market in late 1907.   The only known contribution that Guglielmo Marconi made to the product beyond authorizing the use of his name was a 1906 tour of Columbia’s Bridgeport Connecticut pressing plant.

The content on Marconi Velvet Tone consisted of recordings that had already been issued on Columbia discs.   The records cost 75 cents  – which, in today’s currency, would be in excess of $17   For that, one got exactly what you hear – a single-sided record with just under three minutes of music.

This particular recording was recorded in early 1902 and originally issued on Columbia 561.   It was reissued again in 1908 paired with “At A Georgia Camp Meeting” on Columbia A-86 when Columbia came out with its new double-sided discs.

“Strauss Autograph Waltz” was written by British born composer Alfred E. Warren who moved to Boston in 1861.   The song was published in 1872, the same year that Johann Strauss II made an American concert tour with performances in Boston and New York.  For many years, the song was widely but incorrectly mistaken as an actual Strauss composition as a result of its publication in England being credited to Strauss.   Given the number of references to it in period publications, the song was apparently fairly well-known in the USA during the years immediately after its publication.

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8 Responses to Marconi Velvet Tone Record – 1907

  1. Don says:

    I had never heard or read of the Strauss’ Autograph Waltzes being
    attributed to anyone else except Johann Strauss II.

    It was registered with the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington
    in 1872 even though it’s not quite sure how Strauss conveyed the work to the
    publishing house (White & Goullaud of Boston). But there seems to be no doubt
    that he did.

    There is some speculation that the publishers’ house arranger may have had a part
    in some modification of links between some waltz sections. This may have added to
    the suspicion that it’s not a Strauss piece.

    Maybe Warren was only an arranger for the band piece presented here and as such got his name on the label. Even the title is different, in not showing Strauss as possesive amd Waltz singular as Strauss’ Autograph Waltzes.

    I would be most interested in reading any data that contributes the waltz to some one
    other than Strauss.

    You may read more about this piece by going to this link and then select ‘About this Recording’

  2. dismuke says:

    Hi Don –

    There are actually several mentions I saw online stating that Warren was the composer of the Strauss Autograph Waltzes.

    One is from the website of the Johann Strauss Society of New York website. See (note: this is a .pdf file): Scroll down to the section “Strauss’s American Waltzes” and read pages 4 and 5 for details (though the rest of the document is interesting reading). It states that the Autography Waltzes are generally recognized as not having been authored by Strauss and were “probably” composed by Alfred E Warren.”

    Another source of information is the 1889 book A Hundred Years Of Music In America which you can read in this 1900 edition available online: at this link. The appropriate pages are the section about Alfred E Warren on pages 108 and 110.

    Another source of information is the label on the Marconi disc which has Warren’s name in composer credit section.

  3. The MARCONI Velvet Tone Record that I have is most identical to the 1907 (No. 048) shown, except for the number: 0309 and title: BARITONE SOLO THE PREACHER AND THE BEAR Sung by Arthur Collins with Orchestra Accompaniment ( It does not mention: MILAN, 1906) THE FLIP SIDE IS THE SAME. I would say it is in fair to good condition. If you are interested in having another one, you can make me an offer for this one. Regards, Jim Hans

  4. I’m sorry if my reply came across excessive. I recall Arthur Collins singing The Preacher and the Bear from another recording and did not care for the song, so I did not reply about that. Also, in my haste, I neglected to mention that the Marconi record comes with the original cardboard sleeve albeit an inch cut off the top and part of one side. A two inch photo portrait of “G.MARCONI INVENTER OF WIRELESS TELEGRAPHY” is 99% complete, as is the name MARCONI half missing from the title : “MARCONI DISC RECORD”. The rest of the sleeve is complete, stating: “WONDERFUL AS WIRELESS” and “NEW MATERIAL – NEW SURFACE –
    PERFECT TONE – LIGHT and FLEXIBLE” and stated in a box: ” IMPORTANT Use only especially prepared Gold-plated Needles with this record. They may be used A Dozen times before discarding. ALL OTHERS WILL RUIN IT. CAUTION Don’t remove, re-insert or change position of needle until you are ready to discard it entirely. If you do you may ruin record.” Jacket sleeve is blank on reverse. Also with this is an original published portrait photo of “GUGLIELMO MARCONI”(standard old post card size), (blank on reverse), (fair condition), (he slightly younger looking than the one on the record sleeve). number “2697.” A two-line message is hand written in Italian(?) at the very bottom border space.

  5. I’m not sure how this “Post a Comment” works in its entirety. Should I be expected to
    continue to reply, but only in moderation? In this case does “moderation” mean much smaller than
    the given space allows?
    Jim Hans

  6. dismuke says:

    Hi Jim –

    Sorry for any confusion about “moderation.”

    What it means is that any replies submitted first go into a queue where they can only be seen by a moderator (in this case, me). Once the moderator approves the posting, it is then made visible to the public.

    Unfortunately, this moderation is necessary in the comments section on blogs such as this as they are hit very heavily by spammers – sometimes many dozens in a day. I use a service that automatically filters out postings by known spammers. Happily, so long as there are no glitches with the service I subscribe to , whenever I get email notification that somebody has left a comment, most of the time it is legitimate. But there are enough that still get through the filters that it is necessary for me to review comments manually.

    Sorry again for any confusion on that.

  7. Jan Broneer says:

    I have 2 of these. One is “Vaudeville Specialty, Musical Moke” #o395
    The other is “Angel’s Seranade” #0165
    They are both in one jacket cover marked “B & C Sound Co.”
    Can you give me an idea of their value? Thank you

  8. Jerry Dade says:

    I have a Marconi Velvet Tone Record, one-sided with the “Notice” by American Graphophone Company label on the back. Last patent printed on label is December 18, 1906. The “No. 015” is on the label and the selection by the Columbia Band is – Hands Across The Sea March – “Sousa” is below that. It’s been in a cabinet with some other old items. I’d be interested in a value (not that I’m that anxious to sell it, although, who knows). Thanks.

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