Salvation Army Cylinder Recordings In 1878, Thomas Edison conceived and demonstrated a machine capable of storing and reproducing sound. This mechanism, which he called the Phonograph, or Speaking Machine used a tinfoil covered cylinder as the recording medium onto which the sound was impressed using a steel stylus.
Alexander Graham Bell and his associates further refined and developed these techniques to make the first permanent recordings by cutting the sound signal into a paper cylinder coated with beeswax. This lead to the formation in 1889 of The Columbia Phonograph Company
Cylinder record in the Salvation Army Museum Basel
One of the earliest documented Salvation Army recordings was made in May 1896 by the Trade Headquarters' Band, who played The Indian March, which was "received by the phonograph and accurately reproduced some five minutes later". Unfortunately the fragility of the wax cylinders and lack of suitable technique for mass producing the recordings meant that the phonograph remained a novelty to all but the wealthy. This changed in 1902, when a moulding process for duplicating solid wax cylinders was introduced. Inexpensive phonographs and cylinders soon appeared as Columbia went head to head with the Victor and Gramophone Companies' disc records and equipment.
In the autumn of 1905 the International Staff Band recorded eight titles including the selection Hebrew Melodies and the Marches Melbourne, Southall and Christchurch which were the three prize-winners in an International March Competition held earlier in the year. The Army's own Trade Department was keen to promote and sell not only the discs but also the equipment on which to play them. Advertisements in both The War Cry and The Young Soldier show a Phonograph complete with eight records for as little as ten shillings and six pence (0.52p or 0.8 Euro).
Two other cylinders also appeared during 1905, Onward Christian Soldiers and The Swedish March played by the Salvation Army Eastern District Band and manufactured by The Star Golded Record Company. The exact origins of these recordings is unkown but is suspected that they may have been "taken" from recordings made by the International Staff Band for the Gramophone Company Ltd, which were issued as disc records that same year, the name of the band having been altered in an attempt to hide the fact that they were counterfeit.
Salvation Army cylinder roll "Southall March"
Played by the Internation Staff Band
Whilst cylinder recordings enjoyed substantial sales in the early years of the twentieth century, moulding was complex and tedious compared to the simple stamping process used for conventional record and this led to the demise of the phonograph and cylinder records. Only thirteen Salvation Army cylinders, ten International Staff Band recordings along with three of the 1907 William Booth speeches, were ever issued and today they are rare and extremely sought after by collectors.
(Colin R. Waller, GB)