USBC Cylinder Audio Archive | In Honour Of Them | Genealogy

The UCSB LIbrary has a treasure that will bring you back to days long before you or even your parents were born.

This 19,000 piece, curated collection was invented by the late Thomas Edison in the late 1800s. It is the earliest commercial recording medium that long predates CD's, cassette tapes, and vinyl records. Phonographic cylinders resemble a pop can with grooves similar to a record in which the audio is embedded and can be played by a needle.

Culture and History

You can browse the list of recordings for free and listen online or download them, delving back into the early days of jazz, home recordings, historical speeches and the music our Ancestors danced to on a relaxing afternoon when they weren't working for survival.

I am so in love with the authentic sounds, the scratchy, popping noises and analogue playbacks. It reminds me of music in old movies or the old twangy country songs my Gramma played on Sunday afternoon with her old radio, when we came for our weekly visit.

These cylinders, made of tinfoil, wax or plastic, are so fragile they will break after being played only a few times. This project launched in 2002 following a large donation and has since become the largest online collection of downloadable historical sound recordings ever received recognition from the U.S. Library of Congress.

Photo by Felix Dong

Featured Photo credit: Dick Eastman Eastmans Online Genealogy