In 1887, Emil Berliner (1851–1921) invented the gramophone, the mechanical predecessor to the electric record player. Later, with the shellac record, he developed a medium that allowed music recordings to be mass produced. As a smart businessman, the German-American knew how to market his patents and founded one of the first major record labels.
Painting "Emile Berliner" (1990) by Gottfried Helnwein (*1948)Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
Emil Berliner (1851-1921) was the inventor of the gramophone and the shellac record.
The German-American's first significant invention, however, was the carbon microphone, which he developed at the same time as Hughes and Edison.
He sold his patent in 1877 to Alexander G. Bell in a lucrative deal, who used it as a component of the Bell telephone. The sale made Berliner financially independent, and as a result, he was able to found his own research laboratory.
Edison Standard Phonograph (1898) by Edison's National Phonograph Company (1896 - 1910)Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
The pioneer: Emil Berliner's audio experiments were inspired by the innovative inventions of Thomas Alva Edison (1847–1931).
Tinfoil phonograph in the style of Thomas Alva Edison (1878) by Edme HardyMuseum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
The first sound recordings
In 1877, Thomas A. Edison managed to successfully record sounds acoustically-mechanically, and to store and reproduce them with the tin foil phonograph.
The recording medium is the cylinder covered with tin foil.
If it is rotated and one speaks into the funnel, the sound is recorded in the vertical recording process.
Gramophone for the first 5 inch Berliner records (1890 - 1893) by Grammophon-Fabrik Kämmer, Reinhardt & Co. (1890 - 1895)Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
Berliner's inventions: In 1887, Emil Berliner obtained the US patent for the gramophone and the associated record. The mechanical predecessor to the electric record player was born.
A major improvement to his speech device, which was filed for patent in 1887, was the zinc record. Unlike the Edison cylinder, the sound track here is created using the lateral recording process on the recording medium.
The early gramophone had a horn made of papier-mâché, which is firmly connected to the tonearm and the sound box. The hand crank is used to set the record in motion, which produces the sound.
"Monarch de Luxe No. 15b" horn gramophone (c. 1905) by Gramophone & Typewriter Ltd. (1900 - 1907)Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
The finished product
The shellac record, with which a music recording could be infinitely reproduced, was available from 1896.
The gramophone was also improved technically and had a spring motor as a drive.
Gramophone shellac record and record case of the "Grammophon" brand (1935) by Deutsche Grammophon GesellschaftMuseum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
The label: Emil Berliner co-founded the record company "Deutsche Grammophon AG" in 1898.
He secured the trademark "His Master's Voice" and the dog "Nipper" as an advertising motif in 1900.
"The speaking letter from the front" (1942) by Metallophon; Deutsches Rotes KreuzMuseum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
In 1907, Emil Berliner sent a record as a 'spoken letter.'
A few years later, anyone could send such a record with their own voice message by post.
The gramophone era
In the first decade of the 20th century, large horn gramophones were considered modern. Later, trends changed and the horns disappeared inside the machines. Some gramophones were completely built into furniture such as cabinets, chests, or tables. Thanks to the portable suitcase gramophone that came along in the music-loving 1920s, it was possible to listen to music everywhere.
Guesthouse coin-operated gramophone "Mammut" with flower horn (1906-1908) by Mammut-Werke, Carl BelowMuseum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
The flower horn
At the Leipzig Spring Fair of 1906, the big flower horn was the sensation of the season in terms of gramophone design, often painted in bold colors.
Guesthouse coin-operated gramophone with gooseneck horn (c. 1910)Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
The guesthouse coin-operated gramophone
The automatic mechanism of the communal music player is set in motion, usually with a 10 Pfennig coin, and the music of the shellac records fills the room.
"Dressola Phonoplast" table top gramophone (1928) by Dressola Sprech-Apparatebau-Bau GmbHMuseum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
From the 1910s, general aesthetic trends changed and the gramophone horns disappeared inside the musical machines.
"Ultraphon" gramophone (1925 - 1932) by Deutsche Ultraphon AGMuseum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
Ultraphone reflects the tone!
This is the slogan for this gramophone, which simulates surround sound.
The pseudo-stereo sound is provided by 2 pickups, sound boxes, and sound outlets.
Gramophone cabinet of the "Burgspiel Instrumente" brand (c. 1930) by Musik Schulz, (Vertrieb)Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
The gramophone, including its horn, is completely built into a piece of furniture.
There is also extra storage space for accessories, such as records and gramophone needles.
Floor lamp with built-in record player (c. 1925)Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
The music player's motor and electric lights work thanks to a mains connection.
Hidden under a lampshade, the gramophone cannot be seen.
Suitcase gramophone "106" (c. 1935) by Electrola GmbH (1925 - 1972)Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
The portable gramophone
The suitcase gramophone is practical to transport.
It works entirely without power with a spring motor and was popular from the 1920s until the 1950s.
The electrification of the phono-object…
... began in Germany in connection with the distribution of radios in the 1920s. More and more households were now connected to the electricity grid.
Gramophone shellac record and record cover of the "Kristall" brand (1933 - 1937) by Kristall-Schallplatten GmbH (1933-1937)Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
New sound quality
The electric recording technique involving a microphone and amplifier revolutionized the record business in 1925–26 through an immense extension of the frequency range of sound recordings.
"EIa 103/1" record cutting machine (um 1930) by Telefunken Gesellschaft für drahtlose Telegraphie m.b.H (1923 - 1955); Reichs-Rundfunk-Gesellschaft RRG (1925 - 1945 [liquidiert 1961])Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
Live recording on flexi disc
In the early days of radio, speech was mainly broadcast live.
If you wanted to broadcast something later or multiple times, you could use flexi discs as a flexible storage medium.
"Louis Armstrong" Roentgenizdat (rock on bones) record (1950s)Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
Rock on bones (рок на костях)
This is colloquial term for black market, illegal music recordings on X-ray film in the Soviet Union in the 1950s to 1960s.
Arizona radio-phonograph (1970) by Blaupunkt GmbH [bis 1952 Apparatebau] (1945 - 2008)Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
The legacy of Berliner: vinyl as a lifestyle
Today we mainly store and consume music digitally. Gramophone and record players are already displayed in museums.
Nevertheless, the vinyl record is currently experiencing a revival.
Music lovers appreciate the look, the feel and longevity of the analogue recording medium.
The ritual of playing the record makes listening to music a fascinating event – as it did back then when Emil Berliner played the first shellac record on the gramophone more than 100 years ago.
For the record: Emil Berliner and the gramophonee
A virtual exhibition by the Museumsstiftung Post und Telekommunikation.
Curator: Helene Weidner
All objects from the collection of the Museumsstiftung Post und Telekommunikation.
Gauß, Stefan: Nadel, Rille, Trichter. Kulturgeschichte des Phonographen und des Grammophons in Deutschland (1900-1940), Böhlau Verlag, Köln, Weimar, Wien 2009
Große, Günter: Von der Edisonwalze zur Stereoplatte, Lied der Zeit Musikverlag, Berlin 1989
Haffner, Herbert: „His Master’s Voice“ Die Geschichte der Schallplatte, Parthas Verlag, Berlin 2011