001—I'm Making You a Record: Home and Amateur Recordings on Wax Cylinder, 1902-1920

Our program contains three intact collections of amateur cylinders.  Tracks 1-3 are recordings made by the Mendenhall family of Pomeroy, Washington state.  Albanus Harris Mendenhall, we have learned, was born on October 10, 1853 in Fairfield, Indiana.

1.  Letter to Guy Willebrand of Clarkston, by A. H. Mendenhall of Pomeroy, Washington.   Mendenhall greets his friend, sings a song about Casey the Bricklayer (recorded commercially as the vaudeville skit Irish Wit), and plays his harmonica.  However, the fact that this cylinder turned up with two others by the Mendenhall family suggests that it was never sent.

2. God and I.  A. H. Mendenhall.  This is accompanied by a harmonium or parlor organ.  This title and the following one are uncertain, based on cylinder announcements.  Can anyone identify the songs?

3. Japanese Song.  Doris Mendenhall.  A. H. Mendenhall announces this unaccompanied vocal by his daughter.

Tracks 4-14 were made by the Tindle family and their friends. 

This set of twelve cylinders was bought at auction in 1999 from a New Jersey estate that had evidently purchased them along with a cylinder phonograph sometime in the 1950s. In addition to the information matched with the cylinders reproduced here, the following lids came with the collection: "Ma and Pa," "1908," "1916 or 1917," and "1907," as well as one box inscribed "Fullertons Loch Lomond." Finally, a box labeled "Rae ABCs & Peeka Boo -- Mary Had a Little Lamb 1907," with matching lid "RAE and Mother 1907," contained Edison Gold Moulded cylinder 8912, "Monastery Bells," not included on the CD. Most of the cylinder boxes have the late, golden EDISON RECORDING BLANK label, but some are in Gold Moulded boxes with the merchant's label "BRUNE BROS. BICYCLES Sporting Goods, Etc. 2654 THIRD AVENUE Cor. 142d Street, N. Y." The family that owned and labeled the cylinders seems to have been the Tindles, consisting of Dad (William Boyd Tindle, a printer for the New York World, who, as we hear, played mandolin), Mother (Bertha), Rae, Grandma and Grandpa Rhoads (William B. Tindle's mother was Mrs. Rachel M. Rhoads), and possibly a few others. The McDonalds and a girl named Helen Baade also appear in the earlier recordings (1908-1910). These families may have been neighbors on the top floor of a building in New York City in 1910--hence the "Top Floor Quartet" designation on one cylinder. Indeed, the 1910 census shows William B. Tindle and his family living in the same household (401 135th Street in the Bronx) with Joseph F. McDonald, a civil service clerk, and family.  Shep Barclay and Rev. David R. Wylie appear on later recordings (1916-1920).

4. Probable lid: 1908. On side of cylinder box: Joe McDonald -- All Aboard for Blanket Bay -- Same Thing Over & Helen Baade Recites. Brown wax blank.

5. On lid: About 1909? On side of cylinder box: Joe, Helen -- Children Playing -- Joe sings "Grandma." Brown wax blank. First part records children playing on toy musical instruments (an adult says "Oh you kiddo!" in the background), followed by a children's vocal duet including much laughter. The final song, which unfortunately contains some badly hung grooves, contains the intelligible lines: "Grandma, grandma, you are a dear old dress me up and you comb my hair."

6.  On lid: About 1910? On side of cylinder box: McDonald Baade Tindle Srs. -- O You Kid -- Beautiful Eyes -- I Wish That I Had a Girl. Brown wax blank (single-ribbed interior). Vocal with piano accompaniment.  

7. On lid: About 1910? On side of cylinder box: Top Floor Quartet -- McDonalds Baade & Tindle -- Annie Laurie -- My Bonnie. Brown wax blank. Announced: "Annie Laurie, sung by the Top Floor Quartet." Concludes: "That'll be the last of the McDonald family for a few weeks."

8. On lid: Thanksgiving 1911. Also, directly on lid, a note that Rae was seven years old at the time. On side of cylinder box: Rae "Autumn Leaves" -- Grandma & Grandpa Rhoads "Red Wing" -- Rae "Thanksgiving" -- Dad talks -- 1911. Brown wax blank. Unaccompanied vocals. Final speech: "About all we have for this record, 'cause my brother's washing in the dishpan. Good night. Turkey's over. Bye-bye."

9. On probable lid: 1916. On side of cylinder box: Dad, Mandolin -- Shep Barclay Poems -- Grandma & Grandpa Rhoads Lead Kindly Light -- 1916. Black wax blank. The first "poem" is: "It's not the 'eavy 'auling as 'urts the 'orses' 'ooves, it's the 'ammer, 'ammer, 'ammer on the 'ard 'ighway." The grandparents' duet of "Lead Kindly Light" is accompanied on the piano. After the duet, there are two more poems: "Says Aaron to Moses, let's cut off our noses" and "There was a young lady from Lynn."

10. On probable lid: Thanksgiving 1917. On side of cylinder box: Grandma & Grandpa Rhoads 1917 -- Height & Depth of Mercy & Lead Kindly Light -- Dad, Mother & Rae "Mississippi" Brown wax blank. Unaccompanied vocals. Final vocal ends abruptly at very edge of cylinder.

11. On side of cylinder box: 1919 -- Shep Barclay & Co. -- Talking.    Comic monologue about Brooklyn, and various humorous poems.

12. On probable lid: Decoration Day 1920. On side of cylinder box: O By Jingo -- Decoration Day Party 1920. Black wax blank. Male and female vocal with piano accompaniment. Also includes female recitation: "My mother sells stockings for five cents a pair." Announced at end: "Decoration Day Quartet. Nineteen twenty."

13. On side of cylinder box: Rev. David R. Wylie 1920. -- Drink to Me with Thine Eyes -- Kentucky Home.   Brown wax blank. Male vocals with piano accompaniment.

14. Four unaccompanied vocals, circa 1920: (a) "Memories" by Miss Jones [?] (b) "M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I" by Miss Rae Tindle (c) Unidentified male vocal solo: "your right foot is crazy, your left foot is lazy" (d) "There's a Little Bit of Bad in Every Good Little Girl," female duet. Final word: "Good night!"

Tracks 15-20 come from a collection of uncertain origin, some of which are in French, and one of which is sung by a mysterious "professor." 

15. He Walked Right In, Turned Around, and Walked Right Out Again.   Announced as "sung by Professor Walter Jeffrey."  Also includes a joke and one additional song.

16. On cylinder lid: Oliver Bouchard.

17. No label on the cylinder or cylinder box whatsoever.  However, the selection has been identified by Alex Enkerli as a well-known French song about someone who has fallen down a well.

18. On cylinder lid: "J. B."  Female vocal.

19.  On cylinder lid: "Castells."  Female vocal.

20.  On cylinder lid: "nice one--Bobby."  Male-female duet.  According to Alex Enkerli, the tune is well-known in Québec as "The Errant Canadian," although the lyrics are unfamiliar. 

Tracks 21-25 are of miscellaneous origin, including a rare early recording of Turkish music.

21.  Female duet with piano, on a black wax blank, purchased from a California-based auction house.

22.  Recording of Turkish music on an Edison brown wax blank produced in 1901-02.  This may be quite early for a "field recording" of Turkish music; the earliest phonographic expedition to Turkey was conducted by Felix von Luschan in 1902, although Turkish music had already been recorded in 1893 at the Columbian World Exposition in Chicago.  This particular cylinder surfaced as the only musical recording in a lot of Turkish language instruction cylinders.

23.  Unidentified songs on a brown wax blank, purchased in Iowa.

24.  Unidentified male vocal, brown wax blank.

25. "When the Frost is On the Pumpkin," brown wax blank.   These last two were purchased in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The recordings in this compilation capture the sounds of children at play, of songs sung at long-ago parties, of mandolins and harmonicas, of limericks and Thanksgiving prayers.  In many cases the identification of songs and performers is uncertain.  Anyone who can provide further information about any of the materials on this compact disc is urged to contact us so that we can include the details in future editions of the liner notes.



The history of early sound recording has usually been told from the standpoint of the commercial industry giants: Edison, Victor, Columbia, and their rivals.  But in the era of the wax cylinder phonograph ordinary people also made their own recordings at home under informal circumstances for the amusement of themselves, their family, and their friends.

Providing a glimpse into this almost forgotten segment of phonographic history, I'm Making You a Record presents twenty-five unique amateur recordings from the first two decades of the twentieth century.   Startlingly unlike the commercial recordings of the same period, these cylinders offer us the opportunity to eavesdrop on the informal life of an age long past.  The sound quality of these recordings varies widely due both to original recording conditions and to the ravages of time. Wax cylinders are susceptible to "mold" damage which can sometimes obliterate the original sound.  But keep in mind that there are no other, better copies of the recordings included here: each home-recorded cylinder is unique.

25 tracks
Total playing time: 55:24

Original content copyright © 2009, Patrick Feaster.