The Phonograph and the Gramophone

Until the end of the 19th century, families gathered in the evening and celebrated with musicians. Two major revolutions in sound technology —the introduction of the sound reproducer at the beginning of the 20th century and the invention of the radio in the 1920s — changed the daily lives of Canadians.

Edison's Invention: The Cylinder

The cylinder phonograph was invented by American Thomas Edison (1847-1931) and appeared in affluent Canadian homes after 1891, when Edison's company was marketing a series of music recordings on cylinders.

Berliner's Invention: The Flat Disk

After creating the gramophone, Emile Berliner (1851-1929), an American of German origin, invented the flat disk, which played at 78 revolutions per minute (rpm). In 1900, he set up a factory in Montréal. The success of his invention was immediate, and Berliner Gramophone published a catalogue of records that could be ordered by mail.

The three major players in the sound industry, Berliner Gramophone, Edison, and Columbia, captured the market. Department store mail-order services made the new entertainment machines available throughout Canada. In 1899, the Eaton's catalogue offered apparatus for cylinders for the first time: the Columbia Graphophone and the Eagle Graphophone, similar to Columbia's model B.

Columbia's Graphophone for flat disks first appeared in the Eaton's Catalogue in 1903, competing with Edison's phonograph. The 1904-05 edition of the catalogue offered seven-inch brown records and Berliner Gramophone's Model A gramophone. In 1903, Eaton's published a record catalogue in an effort to take advantage of the rapid market growth. In Berliner Gramophone's first two years in Montréal, the company produced 2000 records. By 1912, the company was manufacturing two million annually.

From 1907 to 1910, Eaton's introduced a record player called the Eatonia. The Berliner gramophones vanished from its catalogue. However, the company did continue to offer the Columbia brand as well as Edison phonographs. Models of the Victor Talking Machine, which were distributed in Canada by Berliner Gramophone, did not appear in the catalogue until 1910. For the first time, Eaton's offered a floor model with an integrated speaker, rather than a horn.
by Nicole Cloutier

© Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans