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The 78 Rpm Record or the 'disc record' was the first disc-shaped phonograph record, and the second major medium for recording sound, preceded by Wax Cylinders. It was invented in 1888 by Emile Berliner.


The first 78s were made in 1888 by Emile Berliner. This medium was unpopular in comparison to the Wax Cylinder until c. 1914 when the patent expired and various companies began to make 78s. Many of the early disc records didn't play at 78 rpm, the speed varied from company to company until Victor Records set 78 rpm to be the standard speed in 1925. A year later, Western Electric developed electrical recording techniques, allowing superior sound quality, realism, and volume. The 78 continued to be the dominant medium for recording and playing back music until 1948 with the introduction of the Long-Playing Record and the 45 rpm Record.

Significance To The Recording And Documentation Of Folk MusicEdit

In the Foreword to The Anthology Of American Folk Music, Harry Smith says: "By 1888 many important recordings of folk songs had been cut on cylinders, but it was not until that year and the perfection of the gramophone disc by Emile Berliner that inexpensive records were made available to the public." (1). Even though many recordings of folk music were apparently made on wax cylinders. The introduction of the 78 allowed for a medium that was more durable and was more likely to last longer than the same recording on a cylinder, and they also took up less space. The equipment and the production also cheaper than wax cylinders. Because of it relative inexpensiveness the introduction of this medium open doors to field recorders, small record companies, lower-class citizens, and third-world countries, allowing them to make and buy sound recordings in a much cheaper way that was also superior in fidelity by 1914, and even more so by 1926, with the introduction of electrical recording techniques. However, majority of the folk 78s and the ones of the highest quality were made starting some time after World War I; when a representative of Okeh Records went to Atlanta, Georgia with portable recording equipment. The owner of a local store agreed to sell their records if he would make a record of popular Georgia fiddler, Fiddlin' John Carson. He recorded The Little Log Cabin Down The Lane and The Old Hen Cackled And The Rooster's Gonna Crow. The representative thought the music was so terrible that he didn't even put a serial number on it, thinking that as long as the dealer got his records that would be the end of it. They sent 1,000 copies that Thursday, later that night the dealer called the Okeh headquarters in New York requesting that they send 15,000 more copies. When the copies sold nationally got to 500,000, the Okeh staff got so embarrassed, that they had John come to New York to re-record the songs. Soon after, Okeh and the other record companies introduced a hillbilly and race series. Authentic commercial folk music recordings ceased to exist on major labels by 1943, having evolved into Blues, Country, and Gospel. Starting in 1952 with The Anthology Of American Folk Music, many folk 78s were re-released on Lp, CD, and cassette throughout the decades following. More record companies are doing this today than ever before.

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