This page gives some brief details about phonograph cylinders.
These were the other carrier of recorded music during the late
1890s and early 1900s in the UK. Although gramophone discs were
also available at this time, these tended to be more expensive
and the quality of some of the early discs did not reach that of
The first cylinders carried no information about the song or
artist. As well as the cylinder being announced, often a paper
slip was included with the cylinder, some examples are shown
The early cylinders were recorded individually directly onto
brown wax and appeared in various sizes. The largest was the
concert size (5 inch diameter) shown below.
Sometimes the cylinder boxes were provided by the dealer
rather than the record maker
By 1902, a way of moulding duplicate cylinders had been
invented, which allowed for mass production. The main
international manufacturers were Edison, Columbia and Pathe
In the UK there were a number of smaller cylinder
manufacturers including Electric, White and Rex.
One of the biggest selling labels in England was Edison Bell,
together with Sterling and Clarion.
All the cylinders shown above played for about 2 minutes, but
in 1908, Edison introduced a 4 minute wax cylinder known as the
As the grooves in the cylinder were twice as fine as before,
special attachments were available to convert your old phonograph
to play the new records. In 1912, Edison introduced to England an improved
4 minute cylinder made from celulloid on a plaster of Paris core
and called the Blue Amberol. These cylinders represented the peak of phonograph cylinder technology.
The heyday of the cylinder was around 1900 - 1904. In 1904,
80% of all British record sales were on cylinder, but this had
fallen considerably within a few years. Edison continued to issue
Blue Amberol cylinders into the 1920s.