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Belfer Commercial Phonograph Disc Collection

A description of the collection at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Title: Belfer Commercial Phonograph Disc Collection
Inclusive Dates: 1890-1995
Quantity: 535,000 items.
Abstract: Commercially produced phonograph disc recordings. Speeds range from 45 RPM to 78 RPM. Sizes include 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 9.5, 10, 11 and 12-inch. The vast majority of the collection is comprised of 10 and 12 inch 78 RPM recordings released by American record companies.
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010
http://scrc.syr.edu

Biographical History

Joseph and Max Bell established the Bell Music Box record shop in Manhattan, New York City following World War II. The brothers were Russian immigrants, who spent time in Cuba before coming to America. While in Cuba, they took an interest in Spanish language recordings as well as the music of the Caribbean. Their store was known to record aficionados and collectors nationwide and was comprehensive in its breadth -- if they did not have a copy of a particular recording, they would make their own. As a result, their inventory contained both commercially produced and sold recordings, and personal copies made for their own reference and use.

In 1963, Syracuse University purchased the entire inventory of the Bell Brothers' store. Commercial recordings were integrated into the Belfer Commercial Phonograph Disc Recordings. Latin American and Caribbean recordings were separated into the Bell Brothers Collection of Latin American and Caribbean Recordings. Noncommercial recordings were retained as the Bell Brothers Collection.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Belfer Commercial Phonograph Disc Collection consists of commercially produced phonograph disc recordings in speeds ranging from 45 RPM to 78 RPM. Cataloged items may be located by searching the Classic Catalog . There is no searchable online tool for uncataloged items at this time. However, if the researcher can provide the label (record company name) and record number, we can perform a shelf check to determine whether we have the item.

78 RPMs (inclusive dates: 1890-1954)

This subset of the collection consists of 60 to 80 RPM recordings, in 5", 6", 7", 8", 9", 9.5", 10", 11" and 12" sizes. The collection holds 195,455 unique titles on individual records and in multi-record album sets. When counted individually the collection holds over 500,000 records containing over 800,000 individual tracks. Since the founding of the collection in 1962, it has specialized in preserving the recordings of Thomas Edison. The collection contains 4,000 Edison Diamond Discs.

The recordings include instrumental music, popular, opera, novelty, vocal performances and spoken word in many languages, though English is the most frequently represented language. Among the 5-to-9.5 inch discs there are early recordings prepared for the 1909 World's Fair. While the collection encompasses a cross section of classical, popular and spoken word recordings from around the world, the focus of the collection is on Edison Diamond Discs and American popular music record labels.

Approximately 88% of the collection has been cataloged and may be located by searching the Classic Catalog . The remaining items (approximately 21,000 10" and 12" recordings) are not currently searchable by the public. However, if the researcher can supply the record company name and record number, staff can search our in-house database to determine whether we have the item. A list of labels is available in PDF format.

45 RPMs (inclusive dates: 1948-1990)

This subset of the collection consists of 7-inch 45 rpm commercial recordings of American popular music. There are approximately 15,800 discs representing more than 30,000 songs. The vast majority of the recordings are American pop music singles aimed at the radio listening public. A list of labels is available in PDF format.

LPs (inclusive dates: 1949-1995; bulk dates: 1949-1970)

This subset of the collection consists of 10" and 12" 33 1/3 RPM commercially produced recordings with a focus on American record labels. The collection contains 52,500 discs with instrumental, spoken word and vocal performances in many languages, though English is the most frequently represented language. While the collection encompasses a cross section of classical, popular and spoken word recordings from around the world and all genres, the emphasis is on vocal and instrumental jazz and vocal and instrumental classical music. A list of labels is available in PDF format.

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Arrangement of the Collection

The 78s are shelved by size: 10", 12" and 5-to-9.5". Within that, they are shelved by accession number.

The 45s are shelved by label (record company name) and record number.

The LPs are shelved by size, 12" and 10". Within that, they are arranged by label (record company name), then record number.

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Restrictions

Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Researcher access to the recordings requires advance notice in order to produce a working copy.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Subject Headings

Subjects

20th century American music.
American history through music.
American popular music.
Contemporary American music.
Folk music -- United States.
Jazz -- United States.
Music -- Latin America -- 20th century.
Music -- United States -- 20th century.
Music -- United States.
Popular music -- Latin America -- 20th century.
Popular music -- United States -- 20th century.
Sound recordings.

Genres and Forms

45 rpm records.
78 rpm records.
Long-playing records.

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Belfer Commercial Phonograph Disc Collection,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

The Belfer Commercial Phonograph Disc Collection began with the purchase of the Bell brothers' collection in 1963 (see "Biographical History" above). It has been added to over the years through purchases and donations.

Finding Aid Information

Created by: MRC
Date: 9 Sep 2010
Revision history: 20 Jun 2011 - removed label list (MRC); 22 Sep 2017 - all audiodisc finding aids merged (MRC)

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Inventory

All commercial discs in the collection will eventually be cataloged. Cataloged items may be located by searching the Classic Catalog . There is no searchable online tool for uncataloged items at this time. However, if the researcher can provide the label (record company name) and record number, we can perform a shelf check to determine whether we have the item.

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