Thursday, January 14, 2010

Alma Mater: The record

In 1931-1932 one of the activities by the Durium Products Incorporated, part of the Irwin-Wasey Advertising Agency, a publicity agency managed by Chicago stockholders, was making advertisement and custom records. Hundreds of those ephemeral little records have left from that period ( summer 1931-1932) and are listed in the online Durium Advertisement and Custom Records discography ( part of the online Durium Discography). From the first period (1930-1931), when the firm was called the Durium Product Corporation only a dozen of those custom records have been survived. Isn't it great that one of the first records released by Durium was such an ephemeral custom record, which survived 80 years and that part of the correspondence according the preparations between Durium and the client, the St. Lawrence University in Canton (NY) has survided. The first contribution was named: Alma Mater: The preparations; the second part: Alma Mater: The record.
Part of the letter from the secretary of Mr. Owen D. Young ( 18th of December,1929)
The Durium record, that should me recorded for the St. Lawrence University, was intended to be a free gift at the thirty-eighth annual banquet at the St. Lawrence University, in which Owen D. Young, president of the University, would present the new plans for 1930. On the record the school vocal group, the University Glee Club Quartet should sing the school song and Owen D. Young should introduce his plans. Durium suggested to do the recordings during the Christmas recess.
Invitation for the big St. Lawrence University Dinner at the 8th of February, 1930. ( sent out 6th of January, 1930)

In the last contribution we read: Vilas points that the members of the quartet have agreed to return during their holidays to school ( Three members live in New York or vicinity and one is from Syracuse) so it would be great if Mr. Owen D. Young could find "a few minutes of his time" during the Christmas recess to record his speech; Professor Cram said: "I can arrange for the boys to be here".
The first (?) Durium custom record ( released ca. Feb. 1930)
We have our whole campaign mapped out around this record and I am sure it is going to be very effective. (Homer A. Vilas). Inside the envelope was a second letter, Vilas had received on the same date, written by Mr. Achinson. In the letter Achinson suggest that Mr. Owen D. Young is "much busier than we are at the present time", so "we will be very glad to accommodate ourselves to his time and will be ready to make the recording at any time upon one or two days' notice". The fact that Mr. Young was very busy "at the present time' had to do with the fact that he hoped to become the nominated candidate for the Democratics to become President of the United States in 1932. Time has learned that Franklin D. Roosevelt became the 32nd President of the United States. Mr. Achinson suggested to make the record during an evening session, in which the vocal group should be present at seven p.m. "to do what rehearsing" before Mr. Young could do his speech at eight p.m., so "there will be a minimum of delay". The plans and time schedule seems solid, but impracticable this way, his secretary reacts a few days later, as Mr. Young left or his holidays and ... unfortunately, his plans do not bring him back to the office until sometime after the first of the year. She apologies the absent of her boss by stating: As you probably know, Mr. Young has been under terrific pressure those past few weeks, with calls to Washington and elsewhere, and it is necessary for him now to be away for several weeks.
A repeated invitation ( sent out the first of February, 1930)

The recording must have been scheduled now somewhere January 1930, although the speech on the record suggests that it was recorded in the afternoon of the 8th of February 1930. If so, the little record could never have been pressed within a few hours, so the visitors of the "thirty-eighth annual banquet at the St. Lawrence University Club" must have received it a few weeks later. The presentation of the plans ( and prob. the release of the cardboard record) was at the St. Lawrence University Club Dinner at the Hotel Commodore that same Saturday, in the evening, at the Club Dinner labeled as "An important announcement to made". At this meeting the plans for the construction of a new dormitory for alumni's at the University campus were presented and the little record introduced. On the record first the song ALMA MATER followed by the speech of Mr. Owen D. Young.
This building, named Sykes Residence, which featured dormitories, was build in 1931 at the University campus.
We were lucky to find this correspondence which gives us an idea how this project was realized. The matrices of this record read 2-Y-S which suggest that is was the second release by Durium - the Y could mean Young and the S could stand for Speech or song. The label on the record has red lines and lettering, which indicated the colors of the university, as Achinson refers to a letter of the 4th (December 1930?) "enclosing the colors of the St. Lawrence University". This correspondence seems to learn that Durium had some portable recording facilities, which made it possible to record outside the studios.


(S)( (Sung by Quartet)

"Alma Mater, O St. Lawrence
We are singing now of thee
May thy fair name dwell forever
In our fondest memory
And when college days are over
From this hill we're wending down
We will love thee yet, we'll ne'er forget
The scarlet and the brown
Hail Alma Mater, to thee our heads bow down
We will sing thy praise through endless days
To the scarlet and the brown"


(Speech by Owen D. Young) This is Owen Young talking to the Alumni of St. Lawrence. This morning we held our midwinter meeting of the board of trustees, and tonight we shall hold the thirty-eighth annual banquet at the St. Lawrence University Club in the city of New York. Before I speak of the thrilling action taken by the trustees, let me say a word about our everyday affairs. The total assets of the university, for the first time, exceeds the sum of four million dollars. Our expenses for the fiscal year exceed two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and our estimated income will be approximately two hundred and forty thousand dollars, of which eighteen thousand came from your generous gifts last year. You see, we shall end the year with a slight (but whan I call a healthy) deficit. It is one which at the end of the year can be easily met. We shall need, however, the continued aid of the alumni of the college in order to increase the splendid work which St. Lawrence is doing. That you will respond with your gifts, I have no doubt. And now for the great announcement! The board of trustees today authorized the construction of a dormitory large enough to house two hundred men at St. Lawrence, at a cost of six hundred thousand dollars. This amount has been provided for, but the names of the donors will not be announced now. The building will be three hundred and seventy feet long and two hundred and twenty five feet wide, with an interior court almost large enough to take in Richardson Hall! Please now, and I ask it from my heart, let us celebrate this forward move of St. Lawrence by the largest Alumni fund we have ever had. Good bye and good luck

Download 3
Letter from the secretary of mr. Owen D. Young to mr. Homes A. vilas, dated 18th of December, 1929.

This contribution will be published at the Keep Swinging blog in Dutch.

In December 1929 the DURIUM PRODUCTS CORPORATION prepared the start of a new unbreakable record, made of cardboard. The well known weekly issues, called the Hit of the Week, were released in a weekly schedule, which started in February 1930. The Hit of the week blog and the Keepswinging blog will follow the development of these 80 years old records in an unique series of blogs. If you love to be informed about these contributions, and you love to make a chance to receive an original Hit of the Week record, ask for the newsletter


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