Sunday, July 29, 2007

An Epochmaking Invention

The article May 1930

In the Baltimore Afro-American an article was published, that I won't withhold you from. The title was: Process Speeds Record Stamping 100 Times. Date: 24th of May 1930. Thanks to Guido Van Rijn I can share it with you.

Mr. Hal T. Beans demonstrates the flexible Durium record

The article reads: Phonograph record making has been speeded 100 times by the discovery of durium, figures announced today by the makers of the "Hit-of-the-Week" record show. While 700 ordinary records are being made, 70,000 of these new durium-processed discs can be turned out, it is shown. This article was published a few month after the releases of the first Hit of the week records January 1930 in New York and fits into the advertisement campaign of Durium. Its cardboard records were an invention of a Columbia University professor Hal T. Beans and Joseph Reilly, who invented a way to produce gramophone records on a piece of cardboard covered with a resorcinol-formaldehyde resin.

A printing press for Durium records (1932)

The making of an ordinary shellac record was a semi-automatically labour-intensive process. Thanks to this new invention the productive capacity could be increased. Unlike ordinary records, which require time for hardening, the durium records can be made at the speed of a printing press, for the durium of which they are made hardens so rapidly it is impossible to time the action. As a result the discs can be stamped out six at a time from metal dies, instead of requiring molding.

Each plate could make 12 discs in one time ( in Slough)

Research has given me information about the process of how these records were made. I found detailed information and some pictures from the machines itself, used for printing. The Durium factory in Slough, near London, started its production early 1932 and pictures of the factory have been archived. It seems, as if the machines in Slough were a bit more progressive then in New York, as it could print 12 at a time instead of 6, as mentioned in the article.

The factory of Durium in Slough ( near London) ca. 1932

The stream of records flowing from the presses are expected to boom phonograph record sales throughout the country during 1930, for the ease and speed of production permit the sale of huge quantities at one-fifth the price of ordinary records. It is estimated that the increase in phonograph record sales, which was 15,000,000 more in 1928 than in 1927, will be substantially topped this year. The writer of the article expects an increase in the sale of records. He was right, as the cheap Durium record, sold as Hit-of-the-Week at newsstands, reached sales figures of 350,000 up to 500,000 a week in the summer of 1930. Don't forget that this new, cheap durable record was released during the depression, so the man in the street couldn't afford 75 cents to buy a record, so he bought the new Hit of the week at 15 cent each.

Since its introduction here phonograph record sales in the vicinity have boomed, figures show. The entire output was absorbed shortly after this announcement, it is reported, and the demand is said to have stimulated sales of other records as well. This journalist couldn't know that the hype Durium records brought, was relatively short. The hugh sales figures of 500,000 at its peak in the summer of 1931, collapsed in the next half year, due to the fact that the man in the street, because of the bad economical situation still in progress couldn't afford to buy records anymore and other record companies started to make cheap records as well.

The process of making Durium records has been described extensive in A Brief Introduction to Hit of the Week Record I wrote for the liner notes of The Complete Hit of the Week Record set released by Archeophone. The first two 2CDs have been released since 2004 and Archeophone announced that the third 2CD, which covers the period of the first 5-minutes records ( second part of 1931) will be published soon. Get yours today ... 15 cents ( oh no, sorry - that's a 1932 Durium announce - that's not the price !!)

Thanks Guido for sharing this great article. Although the information was not new - the article itself was unknown to me.

This contribution has been posted (in Dutch and English) too at the Keep swinging web log

Keep swinging

Hans Koert


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