Recordio Disc

Wilcox-Gay Recordio Disc, c. 1954

More obsolete media!

This disc, dated 1954 and listing a song on each side, popped up in the box with the 78rpm records. It’s a cardboard record, made for home recordings, of plastic-coated thin paperboard. It was manufactured by the Wilcox-Gay Corp; in 1939 they launched the Recordio device, which played records and also allowed the user to use a microphone to record themselves onto a blank record — a “Recordio Disc.” The Recordio machine recorded at 78 rpm.

You can find a short discussion about cardboard records at the Museum of Obsolete Media.

Tape Op magazine’s web site also has an interesting discussion of the history of the Recordio. It includes a reference list for further reading.

We are going to try to recover the recordings on this disc, which has sustained some damage over time. Wish us luck!

Magic Brain

RCA Victor Division inner record sleeve, c. 1940’s

While processing a box of 78rpm records I found this paper sleeve with an ad for the Magic Brain RCA Victrola. Immediately I thought I NEED ONE

Two hours of continuous undisturbed enjoyment.
No needles to change.
Records last indefinitely.

Unfortunately the technology was short-lived; the need for shellac in the manufacture of bombshells during World War II made 78 records scarce, and the industry turned to vinyl. You can find a contemporary description of the Magic Brain here in the International Arcade Museum Library website, and you can read about the history of the technology here at The Prudent Groove.

I found this video on the Magic Brain in operation here. It seems pretty rough on  the records.  If any of you have seen one of these in action let me know-

Charlotte and Maximilian revisited

Dr. Ruiz Razura presents her book to the Woodson Research Center

This week we had a return visit from our friend Adriana Ruiz Razura of the Universidad de Guadalajara, who researched the sheet music of Mexico in the Charlotte and Maximilian Collection.  Ruiz Razura collaborated with the Universidad de Guadalajara and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México to present concerts in May and August of 2017 celebrating the country’s rich musical history. She also wrote La Música del II Imperio en México to commemorate the events, and brought us this copy for the archives.

The book describes the historical context of the music and includes a USB drive with a recording of the concerts, which you can enjoy in the reading room.

Music in the Archives- Obsolete Media

I’m processing a local music collection from a 20th century performer who collected recordings in most of the formats of the last 120 years: CD’s, cassettes, vinyl records, 78’s in shellac, and this:

Edison Gold Moulded Records, 1905

Edison Gold Moulded Records, 1905








Thomas A. Edison invented the phonograph, the first device for recording and playing back sound, in 1877. In 1902, Edison’s National Phonograph Company introduced Edison Gold Moulded Records, cylinder records of improved hard black wax, capable of being played hundreds of times before wearing out. This cylinder was labeled “Rescue the Perishing”, a 19th century hymn- but that isn’t what was in the container. Someone over the years had changed out the contents to this:

“For Dixie and Uncle Sam”, George Wilton Ballard, Blue Amberol Record

This is a Blue Amberol recording, made out of a type of plastic similar to celluloid invented by Edison labs and sold beginning in 1912. These records were marked with the name of the music and the performer, in this case a tenor named George Wilton Ballard.  You can hear Mr. Ballard singing other songs in the Library of Congress site The National Jukebox – and you can learn more about Blue Amberol records and other cylinder records in the Museum of Obsolete Media.



Music in the Archives: Carlos Salzedo (1885-1961)

Carlos Salzedo publicity photo, undated

Carlos Salzedo was a French harpist, pianist, composer and conductor, regarded by many as one of history’s greatest harpists. At twelve years old he began studying the harp, and within a year was accepted as a harp student in the Paris Conservatoire. In 1909, Arturo Toscanini invited Salzedo to play in the orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera, and Salzedo moved to New York. From the 1920s onward, Salzedo appeared regularly as a soloist with orchestras such as the Philadelphia Orchestra, and on tour as a recitalist, harp ensemble leader and flute-harp-cello trio member. The guide to his papers in the Woodson Research Center can be found here.

Salzedo taught hundreds of students during his career. He began a summer harp school in Camden, Maine in 1930, which continued after his death under the instruction of his student Alice Chalifoux, who was the principal harpist of the Cleveland Orchestra for decades. We have a wonderful photo from the summer of 1946 of Salzedo serving lobster on the beach to some of his students (it’s a Life Magazine photo, so we can’t publish it online, but you can view it in the archives.) Instead, here is a class photo of the Salzedo Summer Harp Colony from 2000, with Penobscot Bay in the background:

Salzedo Summer Harp Colony , 2000

The lovely silver-haired lady with the dog at her feet is Ms. Chalifoux.


Architects in the Archives – William T. Cannady (1937- )

William Cannady, Rice University campus, 1977

Professor of Architecture at Rice University since 1964, and a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, William T. Cannady teaches both undergraduate and graduate design studios, focusing on sustainable design principles applied to real-world projects, and providing opportunities to the graduate studio for interdisciplinary collaboration with a wide array of consultants from outside the university and MBA students from Rice’s Jones School of Management.  In his architectural practice, he has designed and built over two hundred projects, and his firm has been honored with sixty awards for outstanding design. Cannady has contributed two collections of his ongoing work to the archives: his academic papers and his architectural projects records.

Will Cannady, President Kenneth Pitzer, William Caudill, and Thomas Vreeland at Rice School of Architecture Rice Design Fete, 1967

Cannady celebrated his 50th year of work as Professor at the Rice School of Architecture in 2014; I highly recommend this article in the Rice News, which includes a video celebration of his work. My favorite part of the article discusses his long work as chair of Rice’s parking committee: “I’ve enjoyed it because it’s been so hard,” he said.


I, Robot

We are currently processing the extensive archives of The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH) (see our previous post here.) Included in the collection are wonderful exhibition catalogues which give us a taste of previous exhibits/events at the museum. My favorite so far: “The Robot Exhibit: History, Fantasy and Reality” from the summer of 1985. Recognize a few of these?

Robot Exhibit photograph (cover of exhibit catalogue), 1985

The original exhibit, organized by the American Craft Museum in 1984, is documented here, with a few more images.

Our copy of the exhibit catalogue came with a Children’s Guide to Seeing, complete with a discussion of the robot revolution, discussion questions, and this friendly fellow:

Image from The Robot Exhibit: History, Fantasy and Reality, Children’s Guide to Seeing

Architects in the Archives – O. Jack Mitchell (1931-1992)

Jack Mitchell, 1992

O. Jack Mitchell came to Rice in 1966 to establish a master’s program in urban design, after completing graduate studies in architecture and urban design at the University of Pennsylvania. He was a nationally recognized architectural expert and served as Dean of the School of Architecture at Rice University for eleven years (1978-1989), greatly expanding the school’s involvement with the Houston community. As Director of the School of Architecture (1974-1978), he helped create and lead the Rice Center for Community Design and Research and the Rice Design Alliance.


Jack Mitchell, teaching 1983

Sadly, Mitchell passed away at 60, in 1992. The Woodson has his professional papers and the Rice University School of Architecture papers collected during his tenure in the department. You will find a wonderful post about Mitchell in the Rice History Corner.

Happy π Day

Time to celebrate the mathematical constant π, on, as the NYT says, a holy holiday for the mathematically inclined.

Lately it’s become a tradition to enjoy pie on Pi Day, so I leave you with this delightful recipe from the Rice University Cookbook of 1993, courtesy of Professor Emeritus Chandler Davidson: