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Emerson Universal Cut Recording Collection

Identifier: Emerson Universal Cut Recording Collection

Scope and Contents

The Emerson Record Collection consists of six 7" diameter recordings (single faced) in one box. When produced, the discs were once the most popular songs, operatic and dance hits, as well as some classical and standard selections.


  • 1915 - 1922

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the John M.K. Davis Reading Room of the Watkinson Library, Trinity College Library, Hartford, Connecticut. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws when using this collection.

Advance notice (2 weeks) is required to listen to sound recordings.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Biographical / Historical

Victor Hugo Emerson was the founder of the Emerson Record Company. Emerson began his career first as a general manager then as a recording engineer at the company that would become Columbia Records in 1892. At that time, cylinder recordings were still in production. He was at Colombia records when they began to produce flat disk recordings. His tenure, spanning cylinder to flat disk recordings helped him to have an extensive knowledge of all areas of record production. But all his time at Colombia wasn't taken up strictly by his duties relating to his job. Also during that time, Emerson was instrumental in the design and production of Little Wonder Records. However, Emerson left Colombia Records after a dispute with business partners Henry Waterson of Little Wonder Records. Colombia then took over production of Little Wonder Records. Soon after his exit from Colombia Records, Emerson established his own company, Emerson Universal Cut Records. Emerson's new company intended at first to produce inexpensive, small scale recordings. in 1916, the 5.5 inch records sold for about $.10 and the 7 inch records sold for $.25. In contemporary dollar values, that would be about $2,35-$5.70. Emerson's early records were small and inexpensive -- therefore, like the Little Wonder Records, and were readily accessible to the general, working public.

Based on an idea developed while working at Colombia Records, the "Universal Cut" is a groove that was cut on a 45 degree angle with information on both sides and the center of the groove was intended to accommodate both lateral and vertical reproducers. This innovation meant that the records with the Universal Cut could be played on virtually any flat disc machine; the groove was adapted to reproduce with substantially equal fidelity whether the so-called vertical or lateral type of reproducer be employed.

The major disadvantage to the records was the sound quality. Part of the sound reproduction problem was the way the records were designed. The groove structure of each record was creates so one side of the groove was set up to reproduce laterally while the other was left blank, "mute". The bottom of the groove was set up to reproduce sounds vertically. Ultimately the needles only managed to capture part of the information coded in the grooves no matter what format was used. the information for the sound system included in the groove but that completely read by the needle came out the sounding like static. With the recordings having poor reproduction quality due to background noise as well as soft playback on the content, they were not popular with the buying public.


.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Guide to the Emerson Universal Cut Recording Collection
In Progress
Henry Arneth
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Watkinson Library - Archival Collections Repository

Trinity College Library
300 Summit St.
Hartford Connecticut 06106