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MMD > Archives > October 1999 > 1999.10.23 > 08Prev  Next

Columbia & Capitol Music Roll Brand Names
By John Farrell

Bryan Cather suspects that there was some relationship between the
Capitol, Columbia and other roll brands -- indeed there was.

Some years ago noted musicologist Mike Montgomery did some research
into this very subject and published his findings in a ring binder.
With typical generosity Mike gave me a copy from which I quote
(slightly edited by me) :

  COLUMBIA -- The earliest Columbia rolls came out as Columbia brand
rolls.  They had fairly fancy label designs and glued-on linen leaders
for extra strength.  Four specimens are known to me to date.  A differ-
ent Columbia label came into use after the firm gave up using the
short-lived "Syncronized" brand.

  SYNCRONIZED -- This was also Columbia's own label.  The name meant
the words were stenciled on the rolls in perfect synchronization with
the music.  In time this didn't mean much because most word roll makers
had succeeded in getting their rolls produced in a similar "synchro-
nized" way.  It is not clear whether rolls were also issued on the
Columbia brand at the same time they issued Syncronized rolls.

  STARCK --  This was no relation to the John Stark Publishing
Company of St. Louis, MO.  P.A. Starck was a piano and player piano
maker in Chicago and the firm had retail stores too.  They obviously
sold Columbia rolls under the store's own brand name for a few months.
Along the way, Columbia numbered the Starck issues by preceding their
own three-digit number with either a 9, a 6, or an 11.

  CECILE -- I have seen nothing to explain what this label meant or
which firm it was produced for.  It may have been a chain store's own
brand.  At any rate, Cecile rolls made by Columbia were a cheaper line,
with shorter performances (fewer verses and choruses) and without

  STERLING --  No information is available to explain this brand.
Early Sterling rolls carry four-digit serial numbers beginning with
a 6 in front of the Columbia number.  The 6 drops off after 6302 and
from then on the numbers agree with Columbia and Capitol numbers.

  RED SEAL --  Only one such roll has surfaced: number 8180, based
on Columbia 180.  I know nothing else about this brand.

  BROADWAY -- Another mystery brand which may have been made for
The Broadway retail or department store chain.

  AMERICAN -- Still another mystery brand.  One of Columbia's special
Ku Klux Klan rolls appeared on a label -- without a serial number --
which simply said "American".  And "American" brand 78's were made by
Gennett records for the Klan, which used the slogan "100% American".
There may have been a connection.  Whatever the early connection was,
Capitol made American rolls until the very end.

  SUPERTONE -- The Sears Roebuck Company used this name as its own
brand for various musical merchandise, including 78 rpm records (which
Columbia/Capitol did not make for them) and piano rolls (which
Columbia/Capitol did).  It is possible that Columbia began making
Supertone rolls before they issued rolls on their own label.

  The Columbia/Capitol relationship with Sears continued from 1920
until the end in 1933.  It is not clear whether someone at Sears chose
the titles to be made into Supertone rolls or whether Sears left this
up to Columbia/Capitol.

  For a while, in late 1926 and early 1927, a few Supertone rolls
were produced by two firms: the Capitol Company in Chicago and the
Connorized Music Company in New York.  The Connorized issues are always
identified as such and issued the same titles and used the same serial
numbers as Capitol.

  Sometimes the master rolls appear to be the same and sometimes they
are different.  It was probably an experiment to see if having a roll
supplier on the East Coast (Connorized) could save Sears some freight
costs for filling orders for that part of the country.  After all,
Supertone rolls retailed sometimes for 49 cents or less, and the
shipping could amount to as much as 6 cents a roll.

  CAPITOL -- The Columbia Company changed its corporate name in 1924,
and their rolls became Capitol rolls as a result.

  CHALLENGE -- Challenge rolls were made for Sears and were deliber-
ately cheaper than Supertone rolls -- and they were shorter in length
and were sold for less.  Sears also marketed Challenge brand phonograph
records which had nothing to do with the Capitol Company.  The records
were also cheaply made and contain considerable surface noise.  All
Challenge rolls are of Capitol origin.

John Farrell

 [ Thanks for the article, John.  I'll add your text, and some more
 [ label images from Bryan Cather, to the Columbia/Capitol list at
 [  -- Robbie

(Message sent Sat 23 Oct 1999, 10:04:08 GMT, from time zone GMT+0100.)

Key Words in Subject:  Brand, Capitol, Columbia, Music, Names, Roll

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