Historical Information

Thomas Edison's tinfoil cylinder recording of Mary had a Little Lamb on December 6, 1877 precipitated a revolution in the history of music and recorded sound.

Edison's method of recording, patented in 1878, allowed for recordings up to three minutes duration. In the closing years of the ninetheenth century a number of competitive recording technologies were developed (including Tainter's lateral-cut records, Tainter and Bell's Graphophone, and Berliner's Gramophone).

Among the earliest examples of recorded music is that of Brahms' 1889 recording of the first Hungarian Dance.

By 1900 recordings could be reproduced using Lambert's patent for moulding durable celluloid and the stage was set for a viable industry of comercial recordings. The recordings in this collection represent the first generations of the music industry. The recordings are all done without microphones (which have yet to be invented). Many lasting features of the recording industry ranging from the distinction between ownership of medium and media, the length of popular music songs (a constraint of the cylinder), exclusive artist contracts,  and more, were institutionalized during this period.

Last updated August 23, 2002