See Len Watts and Frank Andrews, HD 108, 1979. Ebonoid records appeared in 1909. There were only ever six of them, catalogued as 10001 – 10006. They were 10″, vertical cut with a fine groove, and 5 minutes playing time per side was claimed for them. Their price was 3/- (15p). They were made by the Premier Mfg. Co. Ltd., the makers of Clarion Cylinders and discs, and also the new Ebonoid cylinder record, of 200 tpi, for which ‘nearly 5 minutes’ playing time was claimed. Unfortunately, at the time, the Premier company was in financial difficulties; the Ebonoid cylinders were short-lived, and the discs probably shorter. No further discs were issued, and Ebonoid discs entered oblivion. They are obviously rare; but we recently acquired three. Most sides play just over 4 minutes at 78 rpm; but the other side of 10006, a compressed version of the Weber clarinet concertino by the celebrated Charles Draper attains 4 mins. 42 sec. This is indeed ‘nearly 5 minutes’, so all is well, apart from a slight pain in my wallet! Interestingly, the master numbers, in a 5000 series, have ‘Edison Bell’ take symbols. We have 5011 followed by a cross in a circle; 5004 followed by a triangle, and 5007 followed by a square. These are the take 1, take 2 & take 3 symbols used on various Edison Bell labels. This is undoubtedly because the Premier concern was created by two or three ‘defectors’ from Edison Bell. These take symbols are also to be found on Marathon records; but that is because Edison Bell made those recordings on behalf of Marathon.
See Frank Andrews, HD 230, 2000. The proprietor of these scarce discs is unknown. The master number is usually written in stylo at the edge of the label. It is a 6000 series, and terminates with the initials KV. Dr. Rainer Lotz kindly informed us that this almost certainly identifies Karl Vogel, an early recording expert active from 1899, who eventually took up residence in Egypt, at Alexandria. This 6000-KV series seems to consist entirely of British repertoire; for although I only have 10 examples of this master series, all are London recordings, though, as the discs inform us, they were ‘Pressed Abroad’ – i.e. Germany. They are also to be found on (one sort of) Apollo, plus Globophon and its clone Festival, and (one sort of) Playwell-Regent. The label would date from ca. 1909-1912 or perhaps even a little later.
There is so much already written about Thomas Alva Edison’s disc records, that it would be futile to attempt any summary here. We might just say, that they are usually called ‘Edison Diamond Discs’, but as you can see, that name does not appear on the example above. It’s simply an ‘Edison Record’. Thanks to Mike Thomas for pointing that out, as well as contributing a scan of a very desirable ‘Hot Dance’ item. We can only briefly add, that they were around a quarter of an inch thick; were only ever pressed in the U.S.A. and imported here, beginning in 1920. They were vertically cut with a fine groove that allowed a playing time of up to four minutes. And oh yes – they could only be played on Edison machines, which had a feed-screw which transported the reproducer with its diamond stylus, across the record. The sound quality of these discs, when played on a well-adjusted Edison machine, is extremely impressive. But such machines were expensive, as were the records themselves, so they did not flourish here. They were available right through most of the 1920s. At first they had no paper labels, the information being etched onto the disc, as seen above. Later, paper labels appeared. The proof that the Georgia Melodians is a genuine ‘British’ Edison is in the Bert Feldman copyright stamp. This is for 1.75 pence, i.e. 3.5 pence for both sides. Since this represented 5% of the retail price, we can calculate that a discerning member of the public once paid around twenty times that for this disc. Nominally 70d., that would equate to say 5 shillings and sixpence (~27p). The fact that perfectly good electrically recorded HMV and Columbia discs could be had for three shillings apiece (15p), while the Edisons were still recorded mechanically (acoustically) can only have contributed to their low sales.
The C.L.P.G.S. Reference Series booklet No.41 carries a detailed written history of Edison Bell, by Frank Andrews and Bill Dean-Myatt. It contains a CD-ROM having nearly 17,000 Edison Bell masters (Bell Disc, Electron, Radio &c as well as Winner) listed in a MS Excel file, fully searchable & sortable. It costs just £16. Go to https://www.clpgs.org.uk/reference-series.html for more info & other such ‘new wave’ label listings.
The various labels produced under the venerable ‘Edison Bell’ marque were actually made by a succession of companies, each one of which led to, or evolved, into the next. The Edison Bell labels, including Velvet Face, Bell Disc, Little Champion, Phona-disc and Winner, all have separate entries to make them easier for the novice collector to find. Here we have the sole entry for Edison Bell itself – a 6000 series made for export only. Exactly where, we do not know. The sides were recorded in February 1914, but the design of the label is much later, possibly as late as 1925. As the 1920s progressed, Edison Bell became very active indeed in producing records (and record labels) in many different European countries, and even further afield: see Vielophone, Minstrel &c.
See Frank Andrews, BRI, and Michael Kinnear, NR. An excessively obscure and rare British label. It was originally conceived, in 1907, to take advantage of the existence of many recordings of Indian origin. These had been recorded in Calcutta by the rcently-defunct Nicole concern, but were still available to make new records, which would be pressed by the Disc Record Co. of Stockport, who owned them. Besides these Indian masters, new recordings were also made in London by Lyrophon. German and French repertoire has also been found, as shown above. Elephone records were advertised in India in December 1908 with both Indian and European recordings. But a year later, it was announced in The Sound Wave (British trade magazine) that all stocks of Elephone records had been bought up by one G Bowron, 57 Edgware Road, London. Therefore the venture must have come to an end. The French items came from the collection of the late Leonard Petts, who meticulously marked correct playing speeds on many of his discs. These are marked 95, and indeed sound most plausible at this very high figure. Also, the earliest Jumbo records, which appeared around this time, had a blank space where the elephant’s head should appear – this was almost certainly a precaution against infringing the Elephone trade mark, which, inevitably, consisted of an elephant; though with gramophone horns in place of tusks. The démise of Elephone soon allowed Jumbo to appear on his eponymous discs.
It may come as a surprise that the U.S. Emerson label should have been sold here – but sold it was, as the packet of A Adler & Co. attests, along with Grafton, Brunswick, Guardsman, Columbia, Imperial &c., each of which issued Jewish material. Also the exact date they were available is not known – but the example illustrated is mechanically recorded. It is assumed that Adler had these Emersons imported in quantity rather than singly, to special order. This is rather crucial, for our very flexible definition of a ‘British Record Label’ is any label that was held in stock and freely available over the counter of a shop in this country.
EMPIRE – 1.
See Michael Kinnear, NR. This first Empire label is extensively covered in the book NR. Dating from about 1906 – 1908, they were pressed from masters of the recently-defunct Nicole Record Co. John Watson Hawd had bought plant and masters, and set up the Disc Record Co., initially in Stockport. These 7″ discs were apparently all double-sided. Label colours could be unpredictable: the centre pair is actually a coupling! 10″ discs were made too, but all are very scarce. Note that the violet label states: ‘Made in London, England’. The DRC did indeed move to London, but not until mid-1913. It is difficult to imagine 7″ (or indeed any) Empire – 1 records being made as late as that. Their usually-assumed lifespan is as stated above.
EMPIRE – 2.
See Frank Andrews, HD 230, 2000. You must read Frank’s article to understand the complexities of the two (or even more) companies who had ‘Empire’ records, besides Empire – 1 above. The Empire above is clearly produced by Dacapo, and is thought by Frank to have been a ‘tallyman’ label. (See John Bull for explanation). It is not known who had them made. 236 has a German AMRRE copyright royalty stamp. Before 1914, it was permitted to pay the royalty in the country of manufacture rather than the country of consumption. Later, probably soon after the end of the 1914 – 18 War, this was no longer allowed.
This half-label – which had been removed from its disc before we acquired it – implies that it may have been over-stuck on another make. If so, which one (or ones) is unknown. The label device is the same as found on Pelican discs; these appeared in September 1913 and disappeared early in the 1914-18 War, so we can only assume a similar period for this sticker – if that’s what it is.
See FA, letter H&D 195. Encore records are very interesting. You got two (short) selections on each side. Under the labels on 551 may be seen the handwritten numbers 40924/40842, which means a Beka product. Yet the discs are 10.5″ (~27cm) in diameter, while Bekas in this country were, as far I know, only ever 10″ (25cm). The two selections play successively, with a small gap with a scroll-groove between them. Steven Walker reports that Encores may be found in which the two ‘bands’ are slightly eccentric. This means that after the first track was recorded, the wax master was removed from the lathe and set aside, the second selection being recorded later, with the wax not being perfectly re-centred. I suppose this would have happened if both artistes were not in the studio at the same time. However, the normal practice must surely have been to record both tracks in real time. 585 has two instrumental tracks, and 560 has a soprano and a baritone, both with piano accompaniment. After the first selection, the cutting head was lifted, and then replaced a little farther on, the artistes changing places before the horn. The scroll grove was engraved in later. We do not know who had them made. 40842 dates from the second half of 1910. Not many Encore records seem to have been issued, but they used to turn up quite often years ago. The Veni Vedi Vici label at the right is included here simply because it is the same as Encore. It has just one track per side in the normal way and bears the Beka trade mark. It was presumably recorded in what is now the Czech Republic, and features a ‘folk-dance’ band from Rozdalovice, a village north east of Prague. You can hear this side on YouTube: http://youtu.be/gtq0-Lod4hU . The little clarinets in G are very jolly!
See NR, p264; also Frank Andrews, HD 231, 2000; BRI. The New Polyphon Supply Co. were wholesalers of various musical products, and introduced the German-made ERA disc in late 1906. There were single- and double-sided ERAs, selling at 2/- (10p) and 3/- (15p) respectively. They carry Beka masters. 40071 dates from 1907; 40325 was issued as a single-sided Beka in June 1908, and 40360 in late 1908. A gorgeous label, but hard to find in good condition; or at all, come to that. The life-span of this first single sided ERA label was probably just a couple of years. The double sided version had a different label, and is extremely scarce. Dr. Rainer Lotz kindly sent a monochrome image of Era 266, while in March 2020 the Australian discographer Adrian Smith contributed Era 360 in resplendent full colour. They are clones of U.K. Beka issues, dating from October 1910, and even carry the same catalogue numbers. Also, they bear the Lindström trade mark – surely its first appearance in the U.K?
See Frank Andrews, HD 231, 2000. A very rare label. The proprietor was Adelbert Bornand, 170 Bishopgate, London EC; the trade mark was registered to him in March 1912. Material from ‘Edison Bell’ and ‘Grammavox’ is known. All the above are from ‘Edison Bell’. The label is strikingly handsome with its red, white and gold; but for all that must only have sold in tiny quantities.
See Frank Andrews, HD 231, 2000. Gold printing on a purple label usually characterises the rare Excelophone label – if you ever find one! However, Malcolm Johnson has just kindly sent us a red-label example. This is derived from Winner – perhaps all from that source have red labels? Frank knows that Excelophones were sold in Australia, being handled by John G. Murdoch; the question is, were they only sold there? Excelophone was certainly a registered trade mark in Australia, dating to October 1913. For such a rare label, Frank cites a wide variety of masters: Invicta/Guardsman, Polyphon/Pilot (both of these may also be overstuck with a half-label), and Edison Bell Winner. Any derived from Polyphon/Pilot must date before August 1914, such as 5657 above, which is indeed ‘Pressed in Germany’, and a direct equivalent of Pilot 5657. Equally, Winner and Guardsman sides from 1915 are known; 480 above is a ‘clone’ of Guardsman 490, while the un-numbered one is a clone of Guardsman 450. This elusive label can, therefore, probably be assigned to ca. 1913-1916. By 1915, wartime exigencies had produced an Excelophone that was simply a Guardsman record with an Excelophone half-sticker – thanks again to Malcolm Johnson for this elusive item.
See Frank Andrews, HD 231, 2000. EXO was a label confined to just one retail outlet: Moorhouse Ltd., of Padiham, Lancashire. The bi-coloured labels are both sides of one disc – D-6 – and is a very rare example (like Encore above) having different coloured labels on each side of the disc. D-6 was made for Moorhouse by Grammavox and bears the same catalogue number as its original issue. These are very elusive indeed. Although the black labeled EXOs, made by Edison Bell, are quite scarce too, over 90 of these have been listed. They date from late 1911 to late 1914. EXO has been one of my favourite ‘early labels’ ever since I first saw one in a junk-shop when I was about 14 years old – in 1958. It struck me as very exotic, and was being examined by another customer. To my chagrin, they had the temerity to buy it. It was nearly 50 years before I managed to acquire one for myself, and as a ‘mark of defiance’, include here an EXO needle tin, bought on eBay several years ago, at ruinous expense even though it is in poor condition. All I need now is an EXO gramophone – yes, they do exist– and the ‘EXO ghost’ will finally be laid… 8^)