Monday, October 2, 2017

A Paper Reel, Featuring an Exceptionally Rare Recording

I'm always excited when I can get my hands on a reel of tape from the paper-backed tape era. When I see that listed on a box (or, in this case, see it when I open the container), I know that the person who used this tape bought it either in the late 1940's or very early 1950's, when the format was phased out in favor of the more robust tape with (a variety of) plastic backings. I anticipate a recording which could be anywhere from 65 to nearly 70 years old, quite possibly a home or media recording. 
And this tape did not disappoint. The side of the box (not reproduced here) notes that the initial recordings made on this tape were from 1949, so that dates the purchase to at least that point. And the back of the box, seen below, show that the tape was used again to record something called "Town Hall", as well as someone named Elmer Davis (most likely this news reporter). I have little doubt I'd have preferred those recordings to what we now have, but even the existing recording is something unique, and compelling in its own way.
For the owner of this tape decided, on October 11, 1953, to record an episode of an apparently short-lived, Sunday afternoon network radio show, from NBC, titled "The Golden Treasury".  I can find almost nothing about this show online, except for some newspaper radio guide listings (from a site which requires payment to view the material, and a single item on a Jimmy Stewart-related website, which you can find here.
If the information on that site is correct, there may only be two recordings of this show in existence, one housed in the Library of Congress, from one week before this episode, and, now, this episode.
There is a moment of a news report, then the show begins. All that said, it's not the most riveting recording you've ever heard. The person recording it had trouble with the speeds he was using, and apparently, with keeping it going, leading to some odd sounds. This is disorienting and hard to listen to, but it passes within the first couple of minutes. Also, the sound is iffy in places, with a lot of white noise - which I've found to be common to paper reels. And the show is... well, let's just say I'm not surprised it doesn't seem to have lasted very long.
But that this tape exists at all is remarkable. Here is a show which aired briefly, on Sunday afternoon radio, captured on a soon to be eliminated form of reel tape, and recorded by someone who decided it was good enough to keep. A big thank you to that person.
Incidentally, for those who might wonder why the owner of this tape continued to reuse and reuse it - please notice the price tag on the front cover of the box.  That which cost $3.50 in 1949 dollars - a tape capable of recording 30 minutes a side, at the lowest speed typically used in those days -  cost more than $35.00 in today's money.
Also, I have received multiple requests for the radio tape I mentioned a month or so ago, from WOR in the late '50's/early '60's. As soon as I re-locate that tape, I will digitize it and get it up on this site, hopefully for the next post.


  1. This seems to be something that would have come from the earlier days of radio. Thanks for posting it!

  2. Wow, Bob, you're losing me with this talk of paper-backed magnetic tape recordings. I have no frame of reference. But I'm not calling you old, or anything :)
    Thanks as usual for another vintage recording and amazingly detailed scans!