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date: 18 February 2020


  • Ray Burford
  •  and Dave Laing


American (and sometime British) record company. The name is probably the longest-standing title of any record company, dating from the foundation in 1887 of the American Graphophone Company in Washington DC. At first the company used patents of Charles Sumner Tainter and Alexander Graham Bell and engaged, in association with Edison, in the manufacture and sale of cylinder machines for business use. The project soon failed, but the subsidiary Columbia Phonograph, active in the District of Columbia and the surrounding region, was still profitable and the name was used increasingly by the parent firm, which turned to entertainment when the sale of ‘graphophones’ for business proved unsuccessful. By 1891, a ten-page catalogue of entertainment cylinders was issued. The US Marine Band recorded for the firm as did the new Sousa Band in 1893. In 1894 the company produced clockwork playing machines (the collaboration with Edison, who favoured electric motors, had ceased). It moved to New York in ...

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