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The Edison Diamond Disc Record

Updated on February 7, 2017
Edison Diamond Disc
Edison Diamond Disc

Edison Phonograph Records


Non-collectors who come across Edison Diamond Discs characterize these records by their thickness, often times I hear "I saw these old records that were a quarter inch thick" --- Yes, they are thick records in fact the company at first stamped the catalog numbers on the edge of the records, you surely need a thick record to do that. Theses flat disc records are for the most part ten inches in diameter but could hold more music than twelve inch discs made by other companies of the period. Some Diamond Discs played up to five minutes per side and there were also twelve inch Edison Disc made in 1926, which were considered a long playing record and played up to 20 minutes per side.


The Flat Disc Record

Edison Records Poster
Edison Records Poster

Things You Should Know

There are a few things a beginning collector should know about Edison Diamond Disc, firstly the records were a unique product in the recording industry, they were not like Victor or Columbia prrecords from the same era. Some of the songs and artists are the same as what one would find on Victor and Columbia Records but the technology differs, the same way Beta differs from VHS or IBM differs from Apple they are simply not compatible. Edison Discs can not be played on those wonderful cabinet machines made by the Victor Talking Machine Company known as Victrola's. Another crucial fact, Edison Diamond Disc do not play with steel needles, you need a diamond stylus to play Diamond Discs which were designed by Edison engineers. A diamond stylus last a long time but not forever, so today's Edison machine owner should inspect the stylus to see if it needs replacing. Moreover, Victor products could not be played on Edison Disc Machines, unless the machine has a special adapter known as a "lateral" sound-box (diamond discs used a vertical sound-box).

Edison Blue Amberol Cylinders
Edison Blue Amberol Cylinders | Source

Edison Blue Amberol Cylinders

For a period of four decades beginning in 1877, Edison was committed to cylinders, which created an opportunity for Emile Berliner in the 1890's to develop a market in America for his flat record discs, Berlinger's company later evolved into the Victor Company. Finally, Edison decided that he was ready to enter the disc market, although he also issued cylinders, since they were very profitable, as cylinders cost very little to make and Edison Discs were relatively expensive to produce. You will find some of the same performances on the Edison Diamond Disc that you do on Edison Blue Amberol Cylinders. Edison dubbed from discs onto cylinders using a horn-to-horn process, with the first dubbing release in January 1915.

The Edison Company made good profits and some collectors claim Edison was out of touch making cylinders as late as 1929 but they forget that Edison was making profits from cylinders for much of the 1920s.

Edison Diamond Disc Etched Label "The Little Ford Rambled Right Along" Recorded January 18, 1915
Edison Diamond Disc Etched Label "The Little Ford Rambled Right Along" Recorded January 18, 1915 | Source
Edison Diamond Disc Paper Label "Twelve O' Clock Waltz" Recorded October 4, 1928
Edison Diamond Disc Paper Label "Twelve O' Clock Waltz" Recorded October 4, 1928 | Source

Dating Your Edison Records

Edison Diamond Disc were issued form 1912 to 1929. You can determine the decade in which an Edison Disc was manufactured by knowing two basic labels. From 1912 to mid-1921, Edison relied on "molded labels". A prepared plate was pressed into the record surface, leaving an engraved impression, most are solid black and are notoriously hard to read, except for the very early issues that have a gray background that highlights the lettering, this process was to expensive and time consuming and was dropped from the production line. Then beginning in mid-1921, paper labels were used on Diamond Discs. The Edison Company was better than other companies at keeping popular titles in stock, so songs recorded in the teens were often available into the 1920's and can be found with paper labels as well as on disc featuring the early engraved surface. Edison would have switched to paper earlier except for problems with "pressure-bonding" paper labels to the disc. Edison's first paper label came out on June 6, 1921 - #50818 "Sunnyside Sal" -- The label problem never seemed to be solved, often times you run across a label-less Edison Disc, why Edison did not use the label technology other companies were using at the time?

Beware of Water

As mentioned before the Edison Company first stamped issue numbers on the edge of the disc which turned out was a problem since moisture could enter the records through these stamped numbers. You never want Diamond Discs to get wet, they warp if exposed to moisture, so don't wash them. Edison Diamond disc cores were made from finely ground wood flour together with asphaltic bonder. In 1921 the core or "powder blank" composition was changed to include china clay and lesser amounts of wood flour. This was done because it was found that wood flour absorbed moisture readily whereas china clay did not, as a result the china clay disc were heavier, however china clay cores did provide protection from moisture, submersion tests at Edison's lab revealed that these records could stay submerged in water for about 15-20 minutes before moisture damage occurred.

Ear This

Although they may look pristine, some Edison Diamond Discs have bad surface noise which you discover after you play them. The discs from the earliest years and from the 1920s have better surfaces and better sound than the discs made around 1917 to 1920, the peak war years of production. Wartime shortages affected the quality also surfaces on pre 1916 discs are smooth since Condensite Varnish was applied to a smooth celluloid base, bonded to a wood flour core. Edison discs made from around 1917 to 1920 had an overly thin coat of Condensite sprayed onto a rough core. When output was high, few coats of Condensite were applied because of the time needed to dry. When output was low, around 1921-1922 when the economy was in recession, more coats were applied. --- There is no shellac in Edison Diamond Discs.

Did You Know ??

Until 1924 or so Thomas Edison personally decided what was issued, approving or rejecting takes. Edison preferred simple melodies and basic harmonies, disliking jazz. This created tension at the Edison Company with the A & R staff fighting with Edison over choices of titles issued.

Edison did record such artist as Fletcher Henderson, Clarence Williams and Eva Taylor, Red Nichols, Josie Miles, Red & Miff's Stompers, the Five Harmaniacs, Viola McCoy, Chas. Mason's Creole Serenaders and other greats. Some of the jazz and blues performances were so "hot" that one wonders if the marketing folks at Edison Company had to sneak these records past the inventor as he napped.

Many Disc offer great performances of classical music, with some opera discs being highly collectible. fine singers who made Edison Disc include Frieda Hempel, Claudia Muzio and the tenors Zenatello, Martinelli and Urlus and the great pianist Rachmaninoff.

Collectors seek early classical Edison Discs in the original fancy cardboard boxes (very rare). Most Edison Discs came in paper sleeves, many of which discussed the artist and songs, however these notes were gone by 1921. On early discs so artist go unidentified, with the record merely saying "baritone" or "soprano". This allowed Edison to change artist but not change the label

In Closing

The fact that a deaf and musically untrained Edison decided what music was issued by his company is testimony to his stubbornness. Edison scoffed when Victor and Columbia switched in 1925 to an electronic recording process (the microphone). The Edison Company eventually made changes to keep up with his competitors, even by late 1927 adopting the electric recording process and by 1929 making needle-type discs that could be played on competitors equipment. sadly changes came to late, when the last Edison records were issued in late 1929 (cylinders ceased with the June 1929 list), an era came to an end.

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    • profile image

      boogie101 9 years ago

      Thomas Edison had his hands in everything.

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      chickadddee 9 years ago

      as children we would sit aroun the victrola and listen to records for hours on end.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      Very interesting since I just ran across 4 Diamond discs...I'll have to check artists and see if they may be "collectable".

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      hi to all, I bought at a missouri antiq mall a carton of 100 blank thin see thru red plastic records 45 rpm style records, they look like recording blanks, they are each marked "Thomas A. Edison Inc. Diamond Disc with each side marked "a" or "b" they are blank with no grooves, from what I can see on the net, I can't find where they ever made 45 records, any help appreciated, my email is mathrocks4@hotmail.com thanks

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      I have found an aray of old records . bout 7 old 1/4 inch edison records some have engraved stamps on them i got them from an elderly lady that passed away. Plus I have tons of old lp fom the days. I do not know what they are worth , but some seem very rare. Anyone that knows the value or is interested in purchasing these email me at paranormal661 at aol dot com.. the most rare are, garden of rose walts elise brooks new york military bandside stamp 50155 on top s 2630-b-2-59 :: the dark strutters ball shelton btooks male voices with orchestra premier quartet side mark 50468 top number 5962-h-4-97:::: caprice viennois fr. kreisler op.2 violin solo piano accompanioment side mark82067top mark 3324-a-14-50 Mostly no sleeves but in old style books. If interested email me or if you can share any info I would appretiate it ty these are thomas a edsion

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      Jennifer ... enjoyed info im a victrola enthusiast interesting to learn about edison thanks

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      Does anyone know how to find out the value of Diamond Discs?

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I have about 300-400 diamond disks from my grandmother they are early with sleeves the one Im looking at is charge of the light brigade # 80137 Howard glover if you are interested in these contact me at bass862003@yahoo.com Eric

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      @anonymous: I'm interested in the Diamond Discs. Would you please send me a list of the titles, artists, and whether or not they are in decent shape? Send it to jpmadore@frontiernet.net.

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 6 years ago from Vermont

      I remember my uncle using old phono records for target practice ... sheesh. I wonder how much of a fortune he shot down with the 22?

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Jason,

      I have an Edison Disc Record which is the first issued, number 50001. It is Midnight in Jungleland/South of the Mason Dixon Line. It appears to be in decent shape. Does it have any significant value?

      Thanks,

      Jerry in Indiana

      jllongindy@aol.com

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      i was just given my grandfathers edison diamond back it just had one record that was playable and it was in need of some repair to the outside cabinet i need to find someone to repair it and not for an arm or leg but i do want it done right

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      I have what seems to be like a hard backed photo album binder that has approx 16 sleeves w/edison disks in them all bound into the album. Anybody interested in them or know where I could go to sell them please reply to puppydogdoug@yahoo.com

      Thanks!

      Doug

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      I have some edison disc"s.How do I find out how valueble they are? You can email me at kenfreve@shaw.ca.

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