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Columbia Record Boxes (U.S., Standard-size): Chronology


phonogfp
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I'm not aware of a chronological presentation of standard-size Columbia cylinder record boxes, so I thought I'd offer a preliminary overview here.  I may have missed one or more variations, and if so I'd be pleased to add to this list if readers will contribute their additions.

 

Columbia's first cylinder boxes, like Edison's, were plain pasteboard boxes, so I won't picture one here.

 

TYPE 1, Columbia's first known labeled cylinder box featured a small image of Columbia holding a shield:

Col1earliest.thumb.JPG.27db5148f129615b1680498409d4802c.JPG

 

TYPE 2: Columbia's second known box was (except for a change of Chicago's street address) identical to Type 1, but with the addition of the Paris Office address:

  Col2Paris.thumb.JPG.05cf6ca5b23fd966293d41504f661822.JPG

 

TYPE 3, "First Flag."  The red, while, and blue palate was continued but with a substantially larger image of Columbia - now holding a flag.  A Type A Graphophone appeared beside her, with the decal lettering misspelled "GRAPHAPHONE."

1142690201_Col3FirstflagBuffalo.thumb.JPG.c507bd699ecc7a78d7188fd90f3beb6c.JPG

TYPE 3 detail:  Note below that the list of cities with Columbia offices ended with Buffalo, and the label cited a price:

233962887_Col3Buffalodetailprice.thumb.JPG.53857b0794485d9631bc1b6c92e2cfed.JPG

 

TYPE 4: The "First Flag" design was unchanged (including the misspelling), but no price was shown.  In addition to conventional brown wax records, Columbia's first moulded cylinders (also in brown wax) were sold in this style box:

1755950362_Col4noprice.thumb.JPG.a6ebfbede9de7dedefbaab491d527835.JPG

 

TYPE 5: In this "Third Flag" version, the misspelling was corrected to GRAPHOPHONE, San Francisco was added to the list of cities, and the price reappeared:

1222178694_Col5SanFran50cents.thumb.JPG.994d97fad9ec5a2f9e57b9ef9455e264.JPG

 

 

TYPE 6: In the "4th Flag" label (the final of the red, white, and blue series), the addition of "EXTRA LOUD, HIGH SPEED" made it clear that 160 rpm moulded records (although still in brown wax) had appeared.  This style box was evidently produced for only a short time:

1591230121_Col6new.thumb.JPG.587163603cae29a00234d8ae39954823.JPG

 

TYPE 7: The first "Blue Label" showed Columbia in blue on a buff background, and the image was noticeably larger than those which would succeed it.  The machine beside Columbia is a Type HG.  No price was listed.  The list of cities ended with San Francisco, and no patent dates were listed:

1425806325_Col71stblue.thumb.JPG.ee490062900445a44df78717f3bf72b4.JPG

 

A detail from the Type 7 box, showing the list of cities:

Col7detailSanFran.thumb.JPG.6bc8923f0ef08c2985c8bec083fd64ee.JPG

 

Type 8: The image of Columbia was noticeably smaller than Type 7.  A price of 25 cents was listed (this reduction was announced in the September 1903 issue of The Columbia Record).  The list of cities ended with Hamburg.  A list of patents was included, ending with March 10, 1903:

Col82ndblue.thumb.JPG.4313ddc17aa90b3dab2853a52f596472.JPG

 

A detail from the TYPE 8 label showing the list of cities ending with Hamburg:

Col8detailHamburg.thumb.JPG.06ae7ee0a03fd4cbb3301c81d4e7b956.JPG

 

TYPE 9: The "Third Blue" label appeared to be almost identical to the previous one, but a new list of cities ended with Hong Kong:

Col93rdblueHongKong.thumb.JPG.cbd1e16229fcb4a25650ebdded4a79f1.JPG

 

TYPE 10:  The "4th (and final) Blue" label appeared to be almost identical to Types 8 and 9, but the list of patents included "Reissue March 10, 1903," and Nov. 1, 1904.

2085648310_Col104thbluereissueMarch101903.thumb.JPG.b2f323e3cbd00479aa363391d4df3f2b.JPG

 

TYPE 11: In late 1908, Columbia became the sole distributor of the Indestructible Record Company's output of celluloid cylinder records.  Existing inventory were given an identification strip showing it to be Columbia product:

Col11.thumb.JPG.35bcfd20dd1d02874889c316600257c1.JPG

Another view:

Col11detail.thumb.JPG.6748710d11f359fc191b957012675bda.JPG

 

TYPE 12:  Once the old Indestructible boxes were gone, new Columbia boxes appeared.  This is a 2-minute cylinder box:

Col12.thumb.JPG.bc3833903578adfa05f8273881aefa08.JPG

 

TYPE 13: A different design was necessary for Columbia's 4-minute cylinders.  (I could not locate a suitable box, so I borrowed this image from the internet):

Columbiabox.jpg.03acdcf2b70e3ab467989fc713839430.jpg

 

Finally, although not a standard-size cylinder record, perhaps the 1905-1909 "Twentieth Century Record" box deserves a showing here.  The record was of standard diameter but 6 inches long; allowing a selection of 3 minutes to be played (on a specially-designed Graphophone, of course).

Col13.thumb.JPG.038196cb57f86932aff66e0536e978a6.JPG

 

I hope some will find this entertaining and perhaps educational.  If I missed any, please feel free to contribute and I will gladly edit this post.

 

George P.

 

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Thank you George!

 

This is a wonderful guide. I now realize that there are 2 of the 2-minute boxes I don't have displayed (#6, 7, 10). I'll need to go dig through the stash of old moldies I have in the attic. I hope I get lucky! 

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phonoobsession

Thank you, George! It's a nice overview. As you already mentioned there are a few variations missing. I try to post photos of those when I have time to take them.

 

One question - are you sure about the chronological sequence of type 3 and type 4? I always assumed that type 4 (no prices shows) was before type 3. I mean, would it be logical, that the prices were shown on the first "flag" variation, just to disappear on the second and re-appear on the third version? I'd rather think that the first one had no prices (perhaps by mistake, as even the "shield versions before showed prices)  and then they were added from the second one onwards. 

 

Cheers,

Helmut

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9 hours ago, Fran604g said:

Thank you George!

 

This is a wonderful guide. I now realize that there are 2 of the 2-minute boxes I don't have displayed (#6, 7, 10). I'll need to go dig through the stash of old moldies I have in the attic. I hope I get lucky! 

Thank you, Fran - - I too hope you get lucky!

 

8 hours ago, phonoobsession said:

One question - are you sure about the chronological sequence of type 3 and type 4? I always assumed that type 4 (no prices shows) was before type 3. I mean, would it be logical, that the prices were shown on the first "flag" variation, just to disappear on the second and re-appear on the third version? I'd rather think that the first one had no prices (perhaps by mistake, as even the "shield versions before showed prices)  and then they were added from the second one onwards. 

 

 

Hi Helmut - it's good to hear from you!

 

You may be right about this.  I tended to think TYPE 4 came afterward because I have an example with OBL and the cylinder is a moulded example.  I was reluctant to believe that the "First Flag" label was produced for that long (ca. 1898-1902).  Still, this is a work in progress, and I'll happily edit the order if there's documentation to support it.

 

I should have pointed out that my intent was to offer a chronology of U.S. Columbia boxes.  I have changed the title accordingly.

 

Best,

George

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  • phonogfp changed the title to Columbia Record Boxes (U.S., Standard-size): Chronology

I think - but am not sure - that George's sequence is correct, but for somewhat different reasons.

 

In January 1897, the company opened an office in NYC with some fanfare (and a modified record announcement).  The Type 1 box coincides with this period though, given its rarity, I don't think if was used for long.  The Paris office opened about a year later.  Record announcements were augmented accordingly as was this box with the Paris address added under the shield (Type 2).  However, this box change appears to have been short-lived while the Type 3 design was developed.  Since, by this time, Columbia's record business was exploding, they may have been concerned about a growing list of office locations cluttering up the front of the package.  Hence, these were moved to the side.

 

The record side of Columbia has a through-line of chaos that's reflected in the Type 3 box.  Despite its being one of the most eye-catching record packages ever produced, it has two typos.  The Graphophone banner is one.  Also, the box designer dutifully copied the addresses on the Type 1/2 boxes, misspelling Chestnut Street for the third time!  This error was corrected when these boxes were reprinted (Type 4) and pricing information was briefly dropped.

 

The growth of the company precipitated another re-printing - and a change in cylinder announcement - in early 1900 when the company opened an office in London (Type 5). 

 

During this period, the company decided to drop location names from their recordings altogether.  The announcement was changed from New York & London to Columbia Phonograph Company (no city) until they started molding brown wax in late 1901.  Concurrently, recording speed was (finally) standardized at 160 rpm and the announcement was changed to Columbia Record.

 

Having seen 1000s of Columbia brown wax cylinders, there's something fishy about this box sequence that George has discovered too.  One would expect the prevalence of box types to parallel the prevalence of cylinders produced during the same time, but they don't.  There are relatively few Type 5 boxes during the 2 years prior to molding.  Furthermore, the Type 6 style is much less common than the prevalence of molded brown wax cylinders would imply.  Yet, the Type 3/4 boxes show up a lot.

 

Like George, I have found cylinders with announcements from later periods in Type 4 boxes.  Of course, it's plausible that a subsequent owner created the mismatch, sometimes gluing a label on the box or lid.  But, my empirical guess is that the company had a significant oversupply of these and used them after giving up on announcements and packages with aligned office locations.  I also believe that, having achieved great prominence in the record business, Columbia chose to adopt a more staid look (Type 7).  This design not only gave the company an established, solid look.  Its 2-color design was also cheaper to print.

 

John

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phonoobsession

Thanks John!

 

Indeed the continued typo (Chestnut Street) on TYPE 3 and its correction with TYPE 4 is a strong proof for this sequence. All your other explanations are also very conclusive. Great information!

 

I just can't agree with you that Columbia TYPE 3 was "one of the most eye-catching record packages ever produced". ;-) It was quite nice, given it was an early printed record label and compared with other American cylinder boxes. But some European cylinders had much nicer labels. A few examples: http://www.phonoobsession.de/cylinder_record_boxes.html That's why I am working on a book about cylinder record boxes - there were so many beautiful ones. ;-)

 

Cheers,

Helmut

 

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John - - I never caught that "Chesnut Street" misspelling!  Thanks for your excellent observations on chronology and production.

 

Helmut - - You have some outstanding images of truly beautiful cylinder record boxes.  I must agree that most U.S. cylinder boxes (and talking machines too) cannot approach Europe for decorative design.  I'm looking forward to your book!  (Don't I still owe you a few pictures?  If so, please send me an email reminding me of what you need and I'll get on it.)

 

George P.

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FWIW, IMO Helmut is 100% correct about Type 3/4 Columbia boxes standing out compared with AMERICAN boxes (emphasis added).  An astonishing number of European companies produced more elaborate designs and packages than American record labels.  

 

At the risk of introducing cultural and personal bias, there are legitimate reasons for this.  By the late 1890s, the American cylinder business was aiming at a mass market.  Package design was targeted for mainstream American taste with predictable results.  Concurrently, in Europe, the phonograph was aimed at the carriage trade with a lot of emphasis on expensive machines and records.  Hence, package design was more sophisticated as was repertoire.  

 

Helmut, we need you to complete your book!

 

John

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