Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Tuck's Gramophone Record Postcard and its relation to the Durium acetate

Since the early 1990s, when I started to research the 1930s US flexible, unbreakable card board records, published by Durium ( like the Hit of the week and numerous Durium labels), people asked me if the rare Tuck's Gramophone Records - post cards with a small playable gramophone record on it -  were made of "durium" too - an acetate. I've never found any proof for that, but later I found out that in both "stories" the name of the British record company Worldecho was mentioned. 
Thanks to Jos I could add a 1920s Tuck's Post Card to my collection. These rare items were published by the Tuck Company, based in London, which started to publish regular post cards since 1898 in numbered series - a few years later it also opened an office in New York City.  
Tuck made post cards in a period that it was very popular to send this kind of messages.  Isn't it cute I found an old post card in my archive, sent to my grand mother, from the Marble Arch in London, which happened to be a Tuck's Post Card. It's a pity that the stamp ( or other marks to date the card) have disappeared, but a small search on internet learned me that the photo itself must have been made early 1900s. ( First issue 1906). 
Tuck used its photos several times and sometimes even inserted extra items, like cars or pedestrians to update the photo ( like this 1918 version). I told about some rumours that Tuck and Durium had to do with each other. Not so strange as it seems, as I found out that the material of the Tuck Record ( the actual record) seems to be from the same material as the "Durium" record. 
In 1929 Tuck started to produce Gramophone Record Post Cards. It was made by Worldecho and this small short-lived record company has been suggested as a company that used a kind of Durium-like acetate to cover its (thick) cardboard records. In a previous blog about the 80th birthday of the Durium record I posted some information about this obscure record label: Durium Records 80 years old (1930 - 2010) 
It is said that the Durium acetate was developed in Europe during the First World War, to protect aeroplane noses agains dust, heat, cold and moist and it seems that after the war new uses were found - I saw once advertisements for rain coats and garden furniture made of Durium. During the 1920s it seems that the durium acetate was used to make unbreakable gramophone records like Worldecho - a rather stiff cardboard layer with a durium surface,  produced in England. These records were produced for only six months and then it was withdraw from the market, as the records easily split into two halves if you dropped it.
The Tuck's Gramophone Record I got in my collection is catalogued as series D no. 14 and its matrix number is P 58   - It belongs to one of the first series as it was first mentioned in a september 1929 magazine entitled Musical Opinion and Music Trades, which reads in its regular column:  Messrs. Raphael Tuck are responsible for an amusing and interesting innovation in the shape of gramophone record picture postcards. Measuring 3-inch, these discs play for one minute and cost 3d each.  Several series are already available, and I have heard admirable demonstrations of  „Auld Lang Syne“, „Ye Banks and Braes“, „Annie Laurie“, „Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond“.  Besides these songs there are orchestral records and cornet and saxophone solos.  One immediate result of these postcards has been the installation of portable gramophones in the smaller stations to demonstrate them!   
Mine is one of those "cornet solos" and I played in once at my 1930s portable Columbia gramophone.  Its sound is rather low-fi and it plays for almost one minute.  
There is one remarkable point to mention.  Like I told before about the regular post card with the London Marble Arch photo from early 1900s which were still used during the late 1920s, Tuck liked to recycle ....  And even the postcards, used to stick on the small gramophone record, were published before and might have been dead stock for years. These early Tuck's Gramophone records were recycled copies too .....
I found a copy of the original post card, entitled Watching for Father, a painting of the Scottish artist Scott Rankin, who was active in Scotland as a painter late nineteen century. 

If you compare the reverse sites of both cards ( without and with the record at the  front)  you'll learn that the blue lettering was printed later and  features information about the record itself - the red/brown print learns more about the original Oilette Post Card no. 3368 which must have been dead stock from the 1910s or later. 
  The Tuck's Gramophone Record Post card - one of those ephemeral hypes from 1930.

Hans Koert
author of the Hit of the Week-Durium Discogrqphies

This blog will also be published at the Flexible Records blog  and the Keep (it)  Swinging blog. ( in Dutch and English)  

Due to severe health problems this will be one of my last publication at the Hit of the Week blog, which started eight years ago, February 2006. Thanks for reading it!

Keep (it) Swinging

Hans Koert

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