History of Music Recording

  • Thomas Edison

    The idea for the phonograph comes to Thomas Edison while experimenting with a method for automatically recording telegraph messages. Edison becomes the first man in history to record his voice when he speaks the words "Mary had a little lamb" into the very first recording horn.
  • 1878

    The first patents are issued to Edison in January 1878, covering both disk and cylinder recording. The Edison "Speaking Phonograph Company" is formed. Edison gets so absorbed in perfecting the electric light that he gives up his work on the phonograph.
  • 1880

    Edison introduces the Wax Cylinder for sound recording.
  • 1881

    Chichester Bell and Charles Summer Tainter, two Washington experimenters, develop an instrument that plays wax cylinders instead of tinfoil. Bell's brother, Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, helps them with there research.
  • 1886

    Edison resumes work on the phonograph. Bell and Tainter patent the "Graphophon".
  • 1887

    The American Graphophone Company is organized. Emile Berliner develops the first disc record. He also patents a so-called Matrix system for making unlimited copies of the disc from a "master".
  • 1888

    Edison devises his own improved phonograph. The first recordings of celebrity voices are made on an experimental basis at Edison's lab in West Orange, NJ. The North American Phonograph Company is organized. The first classical music is recorded. Because the quality is so bad, many classical musicians are loathe to record fearing their reputation will be hurt. "Gang" recording becomes the commercial reproduction technique of choice wherein a group of individual machines are "ganged" together to m
  • 1889

    The Columbia Phonograph Company is incorporated. The first commercial gramophones and records are manufactured in Germany. The first coin operated phonograph are installed at the Palais Royal Saloon in San Francisco.
  • 1890

    Edison records small quantities of cylinders known at first as "phonograms," which were sold by North American Phonograph Co. The first recording list consists entirely of brass bands, parlor orchestras, instrumental numbers, and vocal quartets. German born Emile Berliner produces his "gramophone" using flat discs. The first commercial disc recordings are sold by Emile Berliner in Europe. The first commercial cylinder recordings are put on sale in the US.
  • 1891

    Nickel-in-the-slot phonographs catch public fancy. Gianni Bettini begins selling cylinder recordings by famous opera singers. Kinetoscope, an early kind of motion picture projector, is developed by Thomas Edison.
  • 1894

    Berliner markets the first disc recordings that were not toys. Pathe brothers begin manufacturing phonographs and cylinders in France. The American Graphophone Co. introduces the first spring-driven talking machines for home use. The North American Phonograph Company goes bankrupt.
  • 1896

    Edison organizes the National Phonograph Co. Regular production of wax cylinders under the Edison name begins.
  • 1897

    Eldridge Johnson produces an Improved Gramophone. Columbia establishes itself as the pioneer in making cylinders for use in slot machine parlors and penny arcades and for home entertainment.
  • 1899

    Frank Seaman begins manufacturing the Zonophone. Valdermar Poulsen of Denmark develops the first tape recorder. Gianni Bettini patents his Micro-Phonograph.
  • 1901

    The Victor Talking Machine Company is incorporated. Edison and Columbia make the first mass produced hard-wax molded cylinders. The Gramophone Co. issues the first Red Label celebrity discs in Russia.
  • 1901

    E. Johnson starts selling gramophones and records; he introduces the wax-recorded disc.
  • 1902

    Enrico Caruso records for the Gramophone Co. in Milan, Italy. Columbia issues disc records.
  • 1903

    Columbia markets first records made in America recorded by celebrities. Victor records it's first Red Seal disc. The Columbia Company and Thomas Edison begin routinely releasing music recordings. Columbia manufactures the first custom label for Sears and Harvard.
  • 1904

    Caruso becomes an exclusive artist for Victor records. The Fonotipia Company is formed in Milan. Odeon issues the first double-sided records. Columbia introduces double-faced laminated records. The first long-playing records, which were recorded on 20 inch discs, were produced by the Neophone Co. in London, England.