Indestructible Cylinder Records
1907-1922

The first decade of the recording industry, the 1890s, already saw experiments to replace the fragile wax that was being used to make cylinder records. Thomas A. Lambert, an inventor in Chicago, patented a new process using celluloid in 1899 and a record company was launched in 1900 under his name but controlled by investors and largely operated by other technicians. His cylinders were made by slightly expanding blanks inside a mold and letting them shrink back down for removal. They were first white, then pink and finally black as the problem of reducing background noise was worked on. However, warping and shrinking remained stubborn problems and Edison's legal challenges piled on further troubles until the company went bankrupt in 1906.

That same year George J. Snowden, a wealthy oilman with interests across the country, bought Lambert's patents on behalf of the Indestructible Phonograph Record Company, recently established in Maine. Offices were soon moved to New York City and a factory was set up in Albany. Plans to manufacture and market phonographs were also sporadically announced over the coming years but the only products ever issued were the records themselves. Warping was addressed by adding a cardboard backing and two metal rings of slightly different sizes on either end of the cylinder. This also solved the conflict with Edison and Columbia over their patented tapered interior of solid wax cylinders that held their records on the mandrel. Shrinkage remained a problem and can make Indestructibles hard to play today without skipping. That's because the tonearm on a cylinder phonograph is not free-swinging like on disc turntables but is instead geared to the motor and moves across the record at a set speed. However, they were very durable as advertised and survive in great condition in numbers today higher than their original market share would suggest.

Two-minute Indestructible cylinders went on sale in 1907 for the company-set price of 35 each. Popular music was the main focus, along with some old standards. Classical music found no home in the catalog and a few ethnic series were very short-lived. Famous artists weren't signed and the roster was filled with the common phonograph artists who recorded for all the companies like Billy Murray, Ada Jones, Cal Stewart and Henry Burr. Yet, Indestructible's marketing was far superior to the Lambert Company's and a national distribution was established within a year. Its durable celluloid versus wax of the other companies was the main selling point. Edison, earlier dismissive of celluloid due to surface noise, now wanted to use it but was blocked by Indestructible's patents. He especially needed it for the new four-minute cylinder format he wanted to introduce because of the smaller, more-delicate grooves it entailed. However, he was forced to use wax for them from 1908 until 1913 when he was able to buy Lambert's British patent and refine the process for his own celluloid Blue Amberol Record.

Columbia did one better, they bought the Indestructible company in 1908. However, management and everything else was left in place with the only change being that the cylinders were now marketed under the Columbia name. That same year Indestructible also became the supplier for Sears, Roebuck & Company's Oxford label. Montgomery Ward and their Lakeside label followed in 1913. Another clever marketing strategy was to not print the company's name on the cylinder's rim so records could be placed into whatever label's box was needed at the time in order to fill an order. Spoken announcements with the company name at the beginning of performances were not made, and as a matter of fact they were not made at all since the titles stamped on celluloid didn't wear away as they did on wax. This acquisition allowed Columbia to immediately discontinue their own wax cylinder records and focus entirely on their introduction to the market of the double-sided disc record in 1908, a move that caught Victor off-guard and gave Columbia a big boost in market share. Columbia/Indestructible also introduced their own four-minute cylinders in 1910 in answer to the public's growing dissatisfaction with Edison's delicate four-minute wax Amberols.

Columbia turned the company loose in 1912 and it remained independent again until 1917. U-S Everlasting licensed some of its four-minute masters to Indestructible for pressing in 1913 as the former went out of business. The Indestructible Company faced its own demise in 1917 when the music-publishing firm of Leo Fiest, with the support of ASCAP, sued for unpaid royalties. The suit was eventually dropped but legal expenses took their toll. Yet, the Federal Record Corporation was chartered in Albany under different owners that same year and it took over the brand. Manufacture continued until 1921 but quality slipped and a line of disc records was introduced and took center-stage. Federal's factory burned down in 1922 and it sold-out to the Scranton Button Company, which didn't produce cylinders.

Encoded Speed: 192 Kbps

Women
Male Quartette
Indestructible #713
released February 1908
New York, New York

I'd Rather Be a Lobster Than a Wise Guy
Billy Murray
Indestructible #728
released February 1908
New York, New York

Bon Bon Buddie
Billy Murray
Indestructible #794
released July 1908
New York, New York

Calvary
Frank C. Stanley
Indestructible #829
released ca. August 1908
New York, New York

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Male Quartette
Indestructible #928
released ca. December 1908
New York, New York

Gee Ain't I Glad I'm Single
Bob Roberts
Indestructible #971
released January 1909
New York, New York

Naughty Eyes
Walter Van Brunt
Indestructible #1079
released June 1909
New York, New York

O Come, All Ye Faithful
Male Quartette
Indestructible #1224
released December 1909
New York, New York

What's What and Who's Who
Arthur Collins
Indestructible #1226
released December 1909
New York, New York

Silver Heels
Band
Indestructible #1244
released January 1910
New York, New York
Note: Skip at 1:54.

Red Wing
Frank C. Stanley and Henry Burr
Indestructible #1366
released July 1910
New York, New York

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