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Dead medium: Phonograph History Part 3
From: SeJ@aol.com (Stefan Jones)

A History of the Phonograph, with Special Emphasis on Dead Phonograph Formats

Compiled by Stefan Jones

Most of this material and all quotes come from *THE FABULOUS PHONOGRAPH* by Roland Gelatt, J.B. Lippincott, NY, 1955.

Part 3.

EUROPE

Europe was definitely a follower when it came to phonograph technology. Edison's tin-foil cylinder phonograph thrilled audiences, but failed to inspire imitators or empire builders.

The wax cylinder phonograph was introduced to Europe in 1888, via licensed subsidiaries. High prices kept the machine out of British homes for some time, but in France things were different. Around 1890, Paris bistro owners Charles and Emile Pathe put a Edison machine in their bar to the delight of their patrons. So many people offered to buy the player that in 1894 they began manufacturing "Le Coq," an inexpensive knock-off, and made cylinders as well.

(Aside: "So popular did the 'Cock' become that the swaggering bird was adopted as Pathe's trademark. It can still be seen and heard still at the beginning of Pathe's newsreels." Gelatt, page 102. Note the present tense! Newsreels were not a dead medium in 1955.)

Having famous opera stars convenient to their studios made Pathe's recordings an instant success. Their 1899 catalog featured 1,500 selections. Cylinders were the mode in France until 1908.

The rest of Europe favored the disk. Berliner's brother Joseph helped get a German branch of the gramophone manufacturer under way, and a robust British branch of the firm set up subsidiaries all over the continent.

In London in 1904, William Michaelis introduce the NEOPHONE, a hill-and-dale disc. Gelatt, page 169: "Neophone records were made of a plastic material laminated to a cardboard base; they were exceptionally light, exceptionally cheap(...), and exceptionally scratchy." The Neophone Company offered the "Repro-Neo" adaptor to allow gramophones to play the vertical cut discs. This, and innovations such as a twenty-inch record with a ten minute playing time, didn't keep Neophone from disappearing in 1908.

The Pathe Brothers introduced a vertical cut disc in 1906, eventually favoring it over their popular cylinder line. They sold their own disc players, plus an adaptor similar to the "Repro-Neo." The inexpensive discs sold widely, even in the U.S.A., but did not seriously challenge the lateral-cut discs. Pathe abandoned the hill- and-dale method entirely in 1920.

Stefan Jones (SeJ@aol.com)