Thomas Kraemer’s spring-loaded tone arm was featured on Hawthorne & Sheble’s Star phonographs beginning in 1907. A key feature was a small coiled spring that was said to propel the reproducer, thus supposedly skirting Victor’s Berliner patent, which specified that the record groove served that purpose. The courts weren’t swayed by that argument, finding the spring was too weak to serve any real purpose. Victor eventually forced Hawthorne & Sheble into bankruptcy, over unrelated patent-infringement claims in the Starola enclosed-horn machines, in 1909. There’s much more on Hawthorne & Sheble in A Phonograph in Every Home, available from Mainspring Press and many major libraries.
If you’ve ever wondered how those circular dealer ads ended up on the inner rims of 78s, here’s the answer (from The Talking Machine World for November 1922) — the Impresad. In our admittedly very informal survey, these stamps seem to turn up most often on Brunswick, which also had its main office on South Wabash, just three blocks away from W. H. Wade. The the device was handled in Canada by the Musical Merchandise Sales Co., Brunswick’s Canadian distributor, and there’s even an uncanny resemblance between the two company’s logos.
This double-page spread appeared in a special supplement section of the November 1919 Talking Machine World.
At this point, Pathé was still issuing only sapphire-ball vertical-cut records under its own label, but it had begun producing universal-cut masters for several client labels, and standard lateral-cut discs were in the planning stages. Watch for Mainspring’s Pathé-Perfect Discography, Volume I (coming this November), which includes Pathé vertical-cut recordings that were later dubbed in lateral-cut form and reissued jointly on Pathé Actuelle and Perfect.
Vox LPs are well-known to classical collectors, but the German company had attempted to enter the American market long before the high-fidelity era. The ads below, from The Talking Machine World for November and December 1923, announced the company’s first arrival in the U.S.
Although Vox made a high-quality record, most of its artists were unfamiliar to the average American. For their early U.S. advertisements, Vox apparently settled on Feodor Chaliapin’s daughter Lydia as the one name that Americans might readily recognize. The recognition factor, probably coupled with some lingering anti-German sentiment, seems have doomed Vox’s attempt from the start. After failing to attract much attention, the Vox Corporation of America was dissolved on March 11, 1927. Vox’s second American venture, launched in the late 1940s, fared far better.
We’ve seen just one example of the a Vox domestic red-label disc (pressed from a foreign master). Although Vox called them “Red Seals” in the ad below, that name was a registered trademark of the Victor Talking Machine Company, and it does not appear on the label of the inspected copy. We’ve yet to see a Vox “Green Seal.” The domestic label design differs markedly from the designs used on Vox’s foreign-made pressings, which were exported to the U.S. for a time and still turn up on occasion.
This stunning double-sided ad ran in the May 1918 Talking Machine World. Paramount had recently introduced 10″ discs to replace its initial 9″ offerings; the last of the latter appear in the No. 6 Supplement, alongside the 10″ offerings. At this early stage, the trademark eagle perched on a phonograph rather than the more familiar globe.
The large structure to the left is the Paramount pressing plant at Grafton, Wisconsin, a converted water-powered mill that already had a long and varied history when this ad appeared — you’ll find the whole fascinating story of the Grafton complex in the new expanded edition of Alex van der Tuuk’s Paramount’s Rise and Fall. The smaller structure to the right would eventually house the studio in which the likes of Son House and Skip James recorded.
In 1918, however, Paramount was recording exclusively in New York, and doing its best to imitate Columbia and Victor. Note the usual NYC studio free-lancers — Henry Burr, Collins & Harlan, Louise & Ferera, Arthur Fields, Grace Kerns, the Shannon Four, et al. Even some of the portraits are the same as those used in the major companies’ catalogs. Fortunately for posterity, the powers at NYRL eventually realized there wasn’t much money to be made by following the pack, and instead turned their attention to the new race-record market (although there wasn’t much money to be made there either, as it would turn out).
So, who needs a pantograph? According to this 1914 Talking Machine World article, a box of gelatin, a little formaldehyde, and some plaster should work just fine if you need to scale-up or scale-down a master. Might be fun to try at home…
The U-S Phonograph Company’s Cleveland factory in 1912, from The Talking Machine World. (We’ve not found any photos inside their New York studio just yet, but recently got a lead on where some might be.)
One of a number of collapsible horns marketed in the early 1900s; these ads date from 1907. Other collapsible or portable models included fabric horns with folding umbrella-type metal ribs, and sectionals that bolted together for use.
In 1906 two of the major phonograph horn manufacturers— Searchlight and Hawthorne & Sheble — battled it out in the pages of The Talking Machine World, each taking full-page color ads in several issues. By 1910 the horn business was in sharp decline, victim of the new internal horn machines.
Emerson took a full-page ad in The Talking Machine World for April 15, 1921, to announce their exclusive signing of Noble Sissle. “Not only with colored folks is Sissle supremely popular,” Emerson boasted, “but with white audiences also, for there is not a theatre where he appears that he does not prove a magnet.”
Interestingly, the ad makes no mention of Emerson having signed Eubie Blake — the other half of the famous “Shuffle Along” team, who provided the sole accompaniment to Sissle on many of the Emerson releases. (He can be seen at the piano in this photo; personnel aren’t named in the ad). The Sizzling Syncopators didn’t make an appearance on Emerson until Sissle’s third release for that company. Here’s one of the less-often heard Sissle & Blake selections from approximately a year later:
NOBLE SISSLE (piano by EUBIE BLAKE): Boo Hoo Hoo (You’re Gonna Cry When I’m Gone)
New York: c. January 1922
Released April 1922
Emerson 10512 (mx. 42129 – take # not visible)
Takes 2 and 3 were confirmed as issued by members of the Record Research associates. Discographical details for all of Sissle’s and Blake’s Emerson recordings can be found in Emerson Records: A History & Discography (a 2014 ARSC Award for Excellence nominee), available from Mainspring Press and many major libraries.