Leo Slezak in the Pathé Studio (c. 1913)

MSP-TMW-1914_slezak-patheThe location is probably Vienna, reputedly the site of Slezak’s 1913 Pathé session. The photo was reproduced in the September 1914 Talking Machine World, just as the New York–based Pathé Frères Phonograph Company (the French company’s U.S. licensee) was preparing to unveil Pathé discs to the American public. The company had only recently begun to make its own recordings and thus had to rely heavily on imported discs, like Slezak’s, to fill the initial catalog.

The oversized cylinder master, from which the disc masters would be transcribed pantographically, can be seen at the far right. This photo (along with others taken in the American studio and in various foreign locations) contradicts the popular anecdotal tale that Pathé’s recording equipment was a jealously guarded secret, hidden behind locked doors and never to be glimpsed by performers or the public.

The Playlist • The Roosevelts (1912, 1920)


You wouldn’t know it from the recent Ken Burns special, but Theodore Roosevelt was no stranger to recording. Here are two of his Edison cylinders, recorded in his Oyster Bay home — politicians were among the very few to whom recording companies would dispatch a mobile unit at the time. His sister Corinne’s only known commercial recording, backing Warren G. Harding in the 1920 presidential election, is among the rarest of the Nation’s Forum issues. And finally, we have a young FDR, in his first known recording, already touching on the themes that would put him in the White House twelve years later.


THEODORE ROOSEVELT: Social and Industrial Justice

Sagamore Hill (Oyster Bay, NY): c. July 1912
Edison Amberol 1147 (released September 1912)


THEODORE ROOSEVELT: The Right of the People to Rule

Sagamore Hill (Oyster Bay, NY): c. July 1912
Edison Amberol 1149 (released September 1912)



New York: July 18, 1920
Nation’s Forum N.F. 18 (Columbia mx. 49864 – 1)



New York: c. Late July 1920
Nation’s Forum N.F. 20 (Columbia mx. 49871 – 1)



U-S Everlasting Cylinder Artists (1911)

From various 1911 issues of The Talking Machine World:

MSP-TMW-1911_u-s-e_AClockwise, from top: Frank C. Stanley, Henry Burr, Arthur Collins, Charles D’Almaine, Ada Jones, Byron G. Harlan, Fred Van Eps, Vess L. Ossman. Stanley died just a few months before this ad appeared, but most of his records remained in the catalog until U-S Phonograph’s end.
MSP-TMW-1911_u-s-e-C MSP-TMW_u-s-e_B


This ad contains the only photo we’ve seen of the elusive Joe Brown, who also recorded for several of the smaller disc companies (including International Record, as early as 1906).

For details on all U-S Everlasting recordings, be sure to check out Indestructible and U-S Everlasting Cylinders: An Illustrated History and Cylinderography (Kurt Nauck & Allan Sutton), available from Mainspring Press and many major libraries.cover_indestructible-x200.

The Hoxie Pallophotophone (1922) — Roots of the Brunswick “Light-Ray” System

This article from the December 1922 Wireless Age is one of the earliest explanations of Charles Hoxie’s Pallophotophone electrical recording system. At this early stage it was being used to make optical sound recordings on film, but Hoxie noted that the system could easily be adapted to conventional disc recording.

The Victor Talking Machine Company experimented with the device beginning on December 8, 1922, under the supervision of in-house engineer Albertis Hewitt. After two weeks of testing, Victor management rejected it. The breakthrough for Hoxie came in 1925, when the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company — faced with Columbia’s and Victor’s strangle-hold on the new Western Electric system — turned to the Pallophotophone (which it promptly renamed the “Light-Ray” system) out of sheer desperation. Badly flawed, it was replaced with a more conventional system in 1927, but in the meantime the Pallophotophone allowed Brunswick to compete with the new Columbia and Victor electrical recordings.

Recording the ‘Twenties (available from Mainspring Press and many major libraries) includes four chapters detailing the conversion to electrical recording.