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Re: [ARSCLIST] Phonograph Cylinder Storage
Darren Ingram explained and asked:
>I need to specify some storage drawers for a phonograph cylinder
collection. I want to ensure that it will fit all 4 minute and 2
minute cylinders with their packaging. Is there any published "max"
dimension so that I can locate suppliers in Europe for this?
No, unfortunately, the manufacturers of cylinder records did not publish
industry-wide dimensional standards for their records, nor for the boxes
used to package the records.
The dimensions of so-called "standard-size" cylinder blanks and records were
derived from the axial length and end diameters of the tapered metal mandrel
developed by Thomas Edison between 1887 and 1889. By 1889, Edison had set
the nominal length of his phonograph mandrel at 4.75 inches. Most of the
competing manufacturers of cylinder phonographs adopted Edison's taper and
produced machines with a mandrel between 4.50 and 4.75 inches long.
The "swing arm" (or "end gate") mechanical-bearing configuration of the
Phonographs and Graphophones made before 1897 prevented the use of records
longer than 4.75 inches -- setting an upper limit for the axial length of
While the inside and outside diameters of entertainment cylinder records
were controlled to fairly tight tolerances, axial lengths varied widely,
from type to type, and from brand to brand. Similarly, different types and
brands of cylinder boxes exhibit considerable variation in their height.
To make a long story somewhat shorter, I can report that my preliminary
survey work finds that historical boxes for standard-size cylinders do not
exceed 5.0 inches in height, with the lid securely placed on the body.
The Cylinder Subcommittee of the ARSC Technical Committee is working to
develop an Archival Cylinder Box (ACB), commissioned by the National
Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress. The objective is
to define, design, and produce an optimized, low-cost, archival-quality
container for use in safely storing a single "standard-size" cylinder
Our ACB design calls for protective features not present in historical
boxes. These features tend to increase the height and diameter of the box,
compared to the simple paperboard boxes made decades ago. Nonetheless, we
are striving for an overall box height no greater than 5.0 inches.
As Sue Stinson mentioned in her excellent posting describing cylinder
storage at the Belfer Audio Laboratory and Archive (at Syracuse University),
a cabinet with drawers assuring plenty of clearance for a 5-inch-tall object
is suitable for most types of cylinder records, stored upright in their
boxes. A drawer height of 5.25 inches or more should allow safe storage of
the majority of historical and modern cylinder boxes. This includes some
larger-diameter cylinders, such as the "Salon" or "Intermediate" type, and
the "Concert" or "Grand" type. The 5.25-inch height permits the use of a
cushioning sheet of archivally-stable plastic foam (perhaps 0.125-inch
thick), lining the bottom of the drawer, as Sue advised.
Of course, several less-common types of cylinder records are too long to be
stored upright in a 5.25-inch high drawer. Most dictation blanks are
nominally six inches long, as are a few types of entertainment cylinder
records. Other oversize types survive, which must be individually
I do recommend that all cylinder records be stored upright, so that the mass
of the record is supported by the opposite-title end rim, rather than the
I hope that these remarks will be helpful. Please contact me directly, for
more detailed discussion.
Chair, ARSC Cylinder Subcommittee
13532 Bass Lake Road
Chardon, OH 44024
Telephone: +1 (440) 564-9340