10,000 wax cylinders digititzed and free to download

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Who holds the copyright? Is it feasible to use these to create sound collage?

This is good and important work they’re doing. I hope they can raise enough to keep the project going.

Unrelated, more products need to put a scowling b/w picture of their namesake on their packaging. Apparently Quaker Oats comes the closest to upholding this noble tradition:

I’m guessing these are old enough to be public domain, now.


Right… the switch over to discs happened quite early in the 20th century and Edison’s cylinders were probably entirely phased out by the 19teens, at the latest.

So, @Boundegar, remix away, I think!


Not if the RIAA has anything to say about it!

More seriously, is there a link to download them all? Or has anyone made a script that will do it? I can’t be arsed to keep clicking on a new link every two minutes.

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“Digitized”? Yuck.

I prefer only the original analog sound.

(Which, ironically, on a 100-year-old wax cylinder sounds worse than a low bit-rate mp3.)

Except, if these things aren’t digitized, we lose them forever. It might not be the best option, but the only option for people looking to study the origins of sound recordings in the future. How much of this have we lost already?

Also, you’re probably being sarcastic, aren’t you? :slight_smile:

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True, perhaps, but a sufficiently low-rate mp3 can make them sound worse, with psychedelic echoes and dodgy little artifacts.

Make LPs out of them? Cassingles?

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I see “Uncle Josh” as an example at the UCSB page. Oh, the memories that brings back, of a small museum near a campus in South Dakota (where I was visiting), which had a cylinder player. I asked the nice ladies there if it worked, and they weren’t sure, so I asked if I could try it, and they didn’t see why not. I carefully loaded up a Sousa March, and it played all right, but I got impatient (geez, a whole two minutes…) and took it off and tried “Uncle Josh at the Bug House.”

The first thing I noticed was that I had to keep a finger on the needle assembly, applying gentle pressure so it would advance and not play the same revolution over and over. Like the disk of “No News: Or, What Killed the Dog” that James Thurber wrote about, this had been played to death.

The second thing I noticed was that “Uncle Josh” (aka Cal Stewart) provided his own canned laughter, hooting annoyingly after almost every line he spoke. The joke of this piece was that U. Josh had spent a night or so at a rooming house run by a man named Bug. So it was the Bug House, see. The story from that point was a series of puns, or rather, the same demi-pun, over and over. “He seed the lightnin’, Bug did! A-HEE-HEE-HEEEE! He took a tumble, Bug did! A-HEE-HEE-HEEEE!” And so on and on, for the full two minutes. Two long minutes. (As my friend Mike likes to say, when confronted by the alien behavior of our forebears, “It was a simpler, more natural time.”) Humor-wise, he started to stink, Bug did. Hee.

Stewart’s character was so popular he had books (I think they collected newspaper stories Stewart wrote in character), and short Edison movies (which can be found at the Library of Congress’s “American Memory” page: brief tableaus of Josh seeing a ghost, and I don’t know what else), in addition to the records. “U.J. at the Bug House” was so popular it had to be re-recorded. Presumably, the master wore out from pulling so many copies. The fictional “Punkin Center” locale lives on in some real towns named after it, like the one I used to see on Colorado maps, down near Limon and Karval.

I didn’t know all this at the time. I was actually interrupted before I finished listening to the cylinder. My aunt came to get me, having finished some errand she was on, and I never got back to the museum, though I caught up with Uncle Josh a while back, finding a long playlist of sound files from his ancient hits at archive.org, which has a terrific collection of 78s in their sound recordings archive.

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Needs a SoundCloud playlist. Seriously, actually.

and if things are digitized, we lose them forever too because we have no plans for real data preservation or forward protection! :slight_smile:


20 years time… MP3? Maybe there’s an old conversion utility somewhere…

Do you mean in terms of long term storage of digitized archives - such as having servers dedicated to that which are backed up and locked down in some manner? Isn’t that the role that organizations such as the National Archives and our network of university archives? What do they need to do in order to make digital archives as ubiquitous, safe, and accessible as traditional archives then? What should the national archives do so that they make sure that records they have digitized are as accessible to my colleagues in 50 years as regular archives are to me now?

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50 years… It gets copied from harddisk to harddisk.
A decent backup and upgrade policy.

100 years… It’ll need a smart IT guy to mass convert mp3’s to whatever form is current. And onwards, endless conversions and duplication.

We only have a tiny fraction of literature from the Greeks and Romans. The stuff considered worthy of copying before they crumbled or turned to moldy mush.



Who knows how long digital information really lasts. It’s not even clear if optical discs will last more than a few decades. When the information is electronic 1’s and 0’s stored on a magnetic medium it’s not exactly set in stone; in fifty years even if we have the technology to extract it from that digital medium it may have degraded into gibberish. A book or a record just needs to be safely stored, electronic data needs to be continually backed up.

Of course, in terms of geologic time, everything is ephemeral. So it goes.

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We have no digital media or formats that can last as long or as well as these wax cylinders have.


Wow. I used to have a whole bunch of Uncle Josh 78’s, but I finally 86’d most of my 78’s.

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