1911: Discography of American Historical Recordings

not the old but the new

Collins and HarlanA friend wrote to me, and the query led to the Discography of American Historical Recordings.

“I have a bunch of Edison diamond disc records. One thing about these records is that the labels come off as they were put on with cheap glue. So I have bunches of records that have the Edison catalog number stamped onto them, but I have found no way to easily identify them. I am trying to find a searchable database of Edison records.”

But then he found, on his own, this link concerning 5,000 Edison Recordings Online. “Over the past two years, editors have added a complete discography of Thomas Edison’s disc recordings (1910-1929) to DAHR.” It is “documenting more than 14,000 recording sessions that resulted in more than 8,000 published discs. Over 5,000 of these recordings from UCSB’s collection have been digitized and are available online to scholars and the public for free.”

The public, as in YOU.

I checked the book A Century of Pop Music by Joel Whitman for songs that hit #1 in 1911. Using the Discography of American Historical Recordings basic search field, I put in the label number. No artist, song title, or even label. And I found 10 or 11 of these, not just Edison discs. I should note that searching shorter numbers provided more false hits. If the label number was 123, you’d also generate 4123, 1237, and 51236, et al.

The big hits!

Alexander’s Ragtime Band  – Arthur Collins and Byron Harlan (Victor 16908), 10 weeks at #1. Some years back, I remember reading that this was one of the most significant of the early songs no longer under copyright.

Let Me Call You Sweetheart – Columbia Male Quartet (Columbia 1057), 7 weeks at #1. It’s a very familiar song, but I didn’t realize how old it was.

I’m Falling In Love With Someone  – John McCormack (Victor 64174), 7 weeks at # 1.

Mother Machree – John McCormack (Victor 64181), 5 weeks at #1.

 Under the Yum Yum Tree – Arthur Collins and Byron Harlan (Columbia A943), 5 weeks at #1.

Put Your Arms Around Me, Honey  – Collins and Harlan (Victor 16708), 5 weeks at #1. These last two cuts are considered comedy cuts.

Come, Josephine In My Flying Machine  – Ada Jones, Billy Murray, and the American Quartet (Victor 16844), 3 weeks at #1.  

Mother Machree – Will Oakland (Edison Ambersol 583), 2 weeks at #1. “Victor ledgers indicate this as having been mastered but EDVR data associate no catalog number.” I couldn’t find it at DAHR, but I did retrieve it on YouTube.

 I Love the Name of Mary  – Will Oakland (Columbia A969,) 2 weeks at #1. Mary was, by far, the most popular name  among females in the 1910s, by almost a 2:1 margin over the second place name, Helen.  

Come, Josephine In My Flying Machine  – Blanche Ring (Victor 60032,) 2 weeks at #1.

Down By the Old Mill Stream  – Arthur C. Clough and the Brunswick Quartet, 1 week at #1. This search didn’t quite work as I planned. Columbia 1057 gave me three other songs, including Let me call you sweetheart by the Columbia Quartette. This link is to Edison 80215 from 1914.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

3 thoughts on “1911: Discography of American Historical Recordings”

  1. I have a couple CDs of (mostly later, and mostly remastered) John McCormack stuff. Yes, it’s kind of the sentimental Irish Tenor stuff, but I like it.

    Somewhere I have a biography of him, which I found in a used book store, but never yet got around to reading

  2. This is wonderful, and gives me lots to explore. Thanks!

    We did a long road-trip yesterday, and Blind Willie Johnson’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” came on the car stereo. It occurred to me that if someone went back to 1927, when it was recorded, and told Blind Willie that nearly a century later, a couple of older, mostly-secular, white folk would be hearing and singing along to and loving that exact song in an electronic format that did not require any 78-rpm acetate record players, in Northern Arizona, while driving 80+ miles per hour down a four-lane highway that cut through a mountain, he’d have been most inclined to take a bet against such things happening, ever.

    It’s really sort of inspiring to pause and think about the ways we can go to Youtube or iTunes or elsewhere and immediately experience music from that long-ago era that was so hard to produce in its time, and also so hard to acquire outside the markets where it was created. Makes me wonder, if I look 100+ years ahead of us, if our descendants will have similar experiences, since (I think) today’s digital musical technologies will be proven far more ephemeral than those paper sheet-music and acetate sound documents created way back when . . .

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