Issler's Orchestra

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Issler's Orchestra was likely the first band that was made popular through records.

In ca. 1888, music teacher and pianist Edward Issler (1855 - ?) started a four-piece band. The instruments were piano, cornet, flute, and violin. Their first recordings were made in 1888 for Edison Records.

Eventually, through the 1890s, more instruments were added, like trombone and clarinet, but the band started losing popularity to larger groups, and, when a client (Columbia) of the company Issler recorded most for (United States Phonograph Co. of Newark, NJ) started its own studio orchestra, the band faded out. They made their last recordings in 1900, although they may have continued performing into the early 1900s.

The band's four core members were:

  • Edward Issler, piano (1855 - ?)
  • David B. Dana, cornet (1855 - 1914)
  • George Schweinfest, flute, piccolo, (1862 - 1949)
  • A. T. Van Winkle, violin (? - ?)

Notable recordings[change | edit source]

All of Issler's records were cut on relatively fragile cylinder records, made out of a soap-like material, and usually becoming brown colored during the "cooking" of the liquid waxy material and its later aging. These records are called "brown wax cylinders" because of their cylinder shape and usual brown color, but they could be anywhere from near-white to some examples which seem nearly black! These cylinders are about the size of a toilet paper cardboard tube or 12-oz. soda can, being that the cylinders themselves are 4 inches long and 2¼ inches in diameter.

  • One of their earliest records and one of the earliest made by Edison isn't given a title. The cylinder is announced as "Played at the Edison Phonograph Works, Orange, New Jersey, by the Issler Parlor Orchestra".
  • In 1889 they recorded "Electric Light Quadrille", possibly the earliest existing proto-ragtime/popular dance record. Like most "quadrille" records in this period, there is an announcement in the middle, here it says that Issler's Orchestra will be performing at "Keystone Hall" free the night after the record was made. The lightbulb was announced to be used in there for the first time.
  • In 1895 they recorded possibly the first ever recording of "Dixie".
  • In 1890 the group recorded "March of the marines"
  • In 1891 they recorded "The canon waltz" a charming piece that doesn't seem to have ever been published.