Get Your Groove On: The Vulcan Cylinder Record Company
By James Grahame
Unbelievably, the Vulcan Cylinder Record Company still manufactures phonograph cylinders. Their modern process incorporates a molded resin cylinder that is considerably more robust than historical recordings. Each is hand crafted in Sheffield, England and their catalog is available by mail order. They can even make custom cylinders from your recordings, if such a thing tickles your fancy.
Prices start at £13, with hits like the 'Charleston Fox Trot' and 'Everything is Hotsy Totsy Now' priced at £15 each. Incidentally, one of the main reasons cylinders fell by the wayside was that they were challenging to duplicate in large quantities. A standard record can be duplicated using a stamping process, but you'd be lucky to get 100 copies from a master cylinder before the artist had to re-record it.
The photo features Thomas Edison (circa 1878) with an early phonograph recorded on tin foil. The glass plate negative is part of the Library of Congress collection, and the high resolution scan underscores the simplicity of the era - the base and fittings of the machine are well worn from constant use, and the foil appears to be partially recorded. As for 31-year-old Mr. Edison, the grime under his fingernails reveals that he spent the vast majority of his time squirreled away in his machine shop.