Edison Records — The 30-rpm Edison Radio Transcriptions (1928-1929)

The Edison 30-rpm radio transcriptions of 1928-1929 are among the company’s rarest and least-known output. After taking many twists and turns, the Edison transcription story finally ends with an unlikely Russian connection in 1931.

Full technical and discographic details of the Edison transcriptions, from the original Edison files, can be found in Ray Wile’s Edison Discography: 1926-1929, available from Mainspring Press and many major libraries. A detailed history of the transcription program is in preparation for the Mainspring Press website; in the meantime, here are some highlights from the supporting documentation:

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This 1928 letter, from G. C. Cosden (of Edison’s Special Sales Department) to a National Radio Advertising executive, lists the disc’s technical specifications. Chicago-based NRA at that time was seriously considering the Edison transcription. But the company alienated NRA with uncompetitive pricing and overly restrictive licensing terms, and raised doubts over its ability to meet NRA’s looming deadline to start production.

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Rebuffed by National Radio Advertising over pricing, Edison reworked its estimates. Still, Edison insisted on retaining ownership of the discs (even though NRA was to pay for their production in full), and continued to draw out negotiations for so long that by the time other issues were finally resolved, NRA’s deadline to start production had passed. NRA instead went with the much more nimble and accomodating Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company, which proved to be a highly successful (and for Brunswick, lucrative) collaboration.

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With the National Radio Advertising account lost, Edison instead contracted with WAAM, a Newark radio station. This 1929 memo lists the contents of two transcriptions prodiced for the station. They were recorded in Edison’s Columbia Street studio on April 23, 1929 (using a two-microphone setup, one for bass and one for treble) with Ernest Stevens at the organ and Cosden himself the supplying the announcements.