Museum Talk

Tuesday, August 5, 2014
Records on display at the BI Museum.

A new addition to the Buffalo Island Museum is a collection of Thomas Edison Diamond Disc records, donated by Barbara Burgess. They were named "Diamond Disc" because the matching Edison phonograph was fitted with a diamond stylus for playing them. The grooves on the two sided records are smooth and have a variable depth. They played longer than their competitors, nearly five minutes per side. The 80 rpm records are one-fourth inches thick and filled with wood flour, later filled with china clay. Some of the titles are Aloha Land (1917), Beautiful Ohio Waltz (1919), Fancy Little Nancy (1919) and Wait Until the Roses Bloom (1920).

Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877. After inventing and patenting this invention, he turned his attention to the electric light. Around 10 years later, he turned his attention back to the phonograph and the phonograph cylinders. He started the National Phonograph Company in Orange, New Jersey on Jan. 27, 1896. The public seemed to prefer the disc records over the cylinders, so Edison began to experiment with disc records and introduced the Edison Diamond Disc records in October 1912.

His records were superior to the other companies, but were more expensive. Still they were the third best selling records. During World War I, materials for making the records was in short supply, and inferior material was used. After the war, disc quality improved but several things led to the records demise. Edison's musical taste was old fashioned heart songs and he was out of touch with the "Jazz Age" public.

The records needed to be played on a Edison reproducer and actually came with this warning "The true musical value of Edison re-creations can only be played with the Edison reproducer. We decline responsibility for any Edison creation which may have become damaged by playing with other than a genuine Edison Disc Reproducer." In October 1929, the record company closed down and employees attention was focused on radio manufacturing.

These antique records are highly collectible today and can be played on a modern stereo turntable with a 65U stylus.

Buffalo Island Museum hours are Friday and Saturday 1-4 p.m. Admission is free. The museum is currently featuring an exhibit of over 60 vintage hats once worn by area residents. The annual quilt show is scheduled for Sept. 27. It is free to enter a quilt for this show and it is free to attend.

For more information, check out the museum's Facebook page.

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