The Christmas of the Phonograph Records

"Referenced Records"

A Recollection by Mari Sandoz

Illustrated by James W. Brown, University of Nebraska Press - Lincoln ©1966 by the Estate of Mari Sandoz


By Doug Boilesen

Mari Sandoz's "The Christmas of the Phonograph" is her childhood recollection of an Edison Phonograph and over three hundred records which arrived at her home in the Sands Hills of Western Nebraska on the day before Christmas. It begins with Mari being awakened by her father thumping a broom handle against the attic ceiling where she and her small brother were sleeping. "Get up! The phonograph is here!"

The story includes many references to phonograph records beginning with the sextet from the opera "Lucia di Lammermoor" by Donizetti, the first cylinder record they slipped onto their machine.

"Everybody waited, leaning forward. There was a rhythmic frying in the silence, and then a whispering of sound, soft and very, very far away.

It brought a murmur of disappointment and an escaping laugh, but gradually the whispers loudened into the sextet from Lucia, into what still seems to me the most beautiful singing in the world."



The Referenced Cylinder Record Titles

Titles identified in Mari's story are listed below followed by a respective record that would have been available in 1908 (unless otherwise indicated).

Records and general references to music being played are listed in the order referenced in the story.

Links for listening to these records are courtesy of the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) Library unless otherwise noted. Records from the David Giovannoni Collection require log-in at


Lucia, performed by Edison Sextette, Edison Amberol Record, 1908

The Edison Phonograph Monthly, September 1908 "First Advance List of Edison Amberol Records to be Issued Oct. 1st, 1908."


Alpine Violets, by Jaudas and Rose, Edison Record, 1905


Mocking Bird, played by Mr. Charles D'Almaine, Edison Record, 1902 (violin solo)


Any Rags, by Arthur Collins, Edison Record, 1903 (see Dialect Records Disclaimer)


Red Wing, sung by Frederick H. Potter, Edison Record, 1907


I'm Trying So Hard to Forget You, by Stanley and Harlan, Columbia Phonograph Record, 1905


Rabbit Hash, by Billy Golden, Edison Gold Moulded Record: 8328 February 1903 (courtesy David Giovannoni Collection) (see Dialect Records Disclaimer)


Schubert's Serenade, by Hans Kronold, Edison Record, 1905


Die Kapelle, Edison Goldguss Walze: 15102, Vocals by Meistersašnger Quartette, Foreign Gold Moulded Record: German series. 1907


Casey at the Telephone, James White, Edison Record, 1902


General reference made in story to Edison Military Band playing "a gay, blaring galop"; waltzes, two-steps, quadrilles, and schottisches; a Bohemian polka


It Blew! Blew! Blew! Schottische, played by the Edison Concert Band, Edison Record, 1906


The Preacher and the Bear, by Arthur Collins, Edison Gold Moulded Record, 1905 (Disclaimer)




Andreas Hofer, by Harvey Hindermeyer, Edison Blue Amberol, 1914 (unknown earlier cylinder but likely one of the unidentified foreign records)


Reference to a couple of expensive French records of violin pieces


Spring Song, violin solo played by Charles D'Almaine, Edison Gold Moulded Record: 7195, 1902


La Paloma, Soprano solo by SofiŽa Camacho, Edison Gold Moulded Record: 20040, 1907


Come ye Disconsolate played by Samuel Siegel (mandolin w/ "organ effect"), Edison Gold Moulded Record: 8591 January 1904 (courtesy David Giovannoni Collection)


"Bach, Mozart, Brahms and Moonlight Sonata" on two foreign records that father had hidden away so they wouldn't be broken.


Silent night performed by the Edison Male Quartette, Edison Gold Moulded Record: 9168, 1905


Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht by Edison Symphony Orchestra. Edison Goldguss Walze: 15105, 1907


Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht by Nebe-Quartette, Edison Goldguss Walze: 15109, .Edison Record, 1907 ("an a capella Stille Nacht")


The Last Rose of Summer (is the sweetest song of all) by Harry Anthony, Edison Gold Moulded Record: 9571, 1907


In Monkey Land, by Arthur Collins and Byron G. Harlan, Edison Gold Moulded Record: 9700, 1907


Don't Get Married Any More, Ma! sung by Ada Jones, Edison Gold Mouled Record: 9729, 1908


The Blue Danube, played by Edison Symphony Orchestra, Edison Gold Moulded Record: 510, 1902


Everybody Works but Father, sung by Bob Roberts, Edison Gold Moulded Record: 9100, 1905


Arkansas Traveler, (sketch) Edison 2-minute Record 8202 by Len Spencer (talking) and fiddler (unidentifed), October 1902 (courtesy David Giovannoni Collection)


Finkelstein at the Seashore (unknown, however, Blitz and Blatz at the Seashore may be similiar ethnic (German) sketch humor as recorded by Albert Benzler and Frederick W. Hager, Indestructible Record, 1904 (this is the Fred Duprez and Bob Roberts version, 1909)


General reference to "love songs"


Always in the Way, sung by Byron G. Harlan, Edison Domestic series Record: 8501, October 1903 (courtesy David Giovannoni Collection)


Tenting Tonight on the Old Campground, sung by Frank C. Stanley w/ orch., Edison Domestic series Record: 8151, September 1902 (courtesy David Giovannoni Collection)


Melody in F, by Hans Kronold, Edison Gold Moulded Record: 9080, 1905


Traumerei, played by Hans Kronold, Edison Gold Moulded Record: 9149, 1905


Evening Star, sung by Thomas Chalmers, Edison Gold Moulded Record: 9982, 1908




Other popular songs that may have been played

An example of a popular waltz played by the Edison Military Band

American Students' Waltzes, played by the Edison Military Band, Edison Record, 1904



Old Jules opening one of his large boxes of cylinder records (Illustration by James W. Brown)


The Foreign Records

When Mari's mother started noticing "all of the records spread out there, and in the kitchen-living room behind her" she began to realize their number.

"Three hundred!" she exclaimed in German, speaking angrily in father's direction, "Looks to me like more than three thousand!"

Father scratched under his bearded chin, laughing slyly. "I added to the order," he admitted. He didn't say how many, nor that there were other brands besides the Edison here, including several hundred foreign recordings obtained through a Swiss friend in New York, at a stiff price."

It is unknown what the titles were of the several hundred foreign records that Old Jules may have purchased from "a Swiss friend in New York." The following, however, are two pages from The Edison Phonograph Monthly, October 1907 of Edison's Advance List of French, German, Norweigian, Polish and Scandinavian Records which Edison Jobbers could order as Edison was making way for these new releases of foreign records in his catalogue which he said would likely be "more universally popular."





For examples of other phonograph advertising showing happy homes enjoying the phonograph, see Phonographia's The Phonograph and Happy Homes.

For ephemera and examples of phonograph marketing which use Christmas and Santa as themes and reasons for purchasing a phonograph see Phonographia's Santa, Christmas and the Phonograph