Edison Phonograph Cylinders
While wandering around last years' Tomato Festival in East Nashville we stumbled upon a vendor selling both these beautiful ~100yr old phonograph cylinders, and - if you've got deep pockets - the antique players to listen to them on. As collectors (coughhipsterscough) of shit way older than we are, Natasha and I gladly picked up these two with the intent of using them as decoration and in the hopes of keeping them nice and safe for decades to come.
Apparently these variety of cylinders were some of the earliest commercially sold music, reaching back to 1896. Sadly (?) the medium was overtaken by the more familiar disc style record by around 1910, so these guys are relatively rare-ish. I'd never seen or heard one before anyway, so hey, that's rare enough for me when it comes to tchotchke.
Here's some history from wikipedia:
Beginning in 1889, prerecorded wax cylinders were marketed. These have professionally made recordings of songs, instrumental music or humorous monologues in their grooves. At first, the only customers for them were proprietors of nickel-in-the-slot machines — the first juke boxes — installed in arcades and taverns, but within a few years private owners of phonographs were increasingly buying them for home use. Each cylinder can easily be placed on and removed from the mandrel of the machine used to play them. Unlike later, shorter-playing high-speed cylinders, early cylinder recordings were usually cut at a speed of about 120 rpm and can play for as long as three minutes. They were made of a relatively soft wax formulation and would wear out after they were played a few dozen times. The buyer could then use a mechanism which left their surfaces shaved smooth so new recordings could be made on them.
Cylinders were sold in cardboard tubes with cardboard caps on each end, the upper one a removable lid. Like cylindrical containers for hats, they were simply called "boxes", the word still used by experienced collectors. Within these "boxes", or tubes, the earliest soft wax cylinders came swathed in a separate length of thick cotton batting. Later molded hard-wax cylinders were sold in tubes with a cotton lining. Celluloid cylinders were sold in unlined tubes. These protective tubes were normally kept and used to house the cylinders after purchase. Their appearance motivated bandleader John Philip Sousa to deride their contents as "canned music", an epithet he borrowed from Mark Twain ... but that did not stop Sousa's band from profiting by recording on cylinders.
Think they're cool? They can be found online for nice and cheap. If you get some though, keep them safe. They're little slices of the beginning of the modern music age and won't be around forever.