Stalking Leeds & Catlin’s
Radium Cylinders

The Leeds & Catlin Company exited the cylinder business in the early 1900s to concentrate on the production of disc records. By early 1905, however, there were signs that Leeds was preparing to resume cylinder production. The rumors, coupled with the circulation of a new sample box label, caused so much concern among Edison management that they sent an attorney's representative to Leeds & Catlin's offices to investigate the situation.

On April 6, 1905, the representative reported back, "...they are only putting out flat records and have not as yet put out any cylinder records with the label referred to, although I understand from one of their representatives that the New York Phonograph Company purposes [sic] putting out this label in the near future."

Leeds & Catlin continued to hint that a new cylinder was on the way. In the autumn of 1905 they moved into a former bicycle factory in Middletown, Connecticut, and their advertisments showing the building proclaimed it was where the company manufactured both discs and cylinders — although the latter was untrue at that point.

Then, in the autumn of 1906, came reports that Loring Leeds had been showing samples of a new cylinder while on a Western sales trip. By December he was back in New York, demonstrating the new records — which were to be called Radium cylinders — to local dealers. On Janaury 19, 1907, a preliminary Radium sales list appeared in The Music Trade Review, along with a listing of Leeds' latest Imperial discs. The catalog-number range extended from 101 through 128, but with significant gaps, so only fifteen releases were actually listed.

To date, we are aware of only one Radium box and two Radium cylinders supposedly still in existence, and these are from unconfirmed anecdotal reports. If any of our readers own Radium products and are willing to submit supporting evidence (a photo, photocopy, or sound file), we urge you to e-mail us. Your responses will kept in the strictest confidence.

You can find more information on the Leeds & Catlin Company in A Phonograph in Every Home: The Evolution of the American Recording Industry, 1900-1919, available from Mainspring Press.

is an initiative of Mainspring Press to document the history and output of the early cylinder record industry. The project includes the American Cylinder Record Index, a series of detailed cylinderographies, the firrst of which is scheduled to release in early 2011.



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