Lambert Yiddish Cylinders on Wisconsin Public Radio

April 30, 2019

The Lambert Yiddish Cylinders in our Mayrent Collection of Yiddish Recordings have received a lot of press over the past month. We were excited to learn that the Library of Congress had inducted them into the National Recording Registry at the end of March. The UW-Madison Libraries announcement lead to an appearance in University Communications’ Inside UW newsletter, which caught the attention of the folks at the Wisconsin Public Radio program Central Time. Tom Caw, Music Public Services Librarian, appeared on the April 16, 2019 episode of Central Time, and the interview segment may now be downloaded and/or listened to online via WPR. A few days after the interview, Wisconsin Public Radio published an article giving a synopsis of the story and including transcribed quotes from Caw.

For the record, there was some confusion in the interview as to the material used for the Lambert cylinders–the Central Time description says they are wax cylinders, as does the WPR synopsis story, when in fact Thomas Lambert used celluloid. Henry Sapoznik addresses this in his liner notes for Attractive Hebrews: The Lambert Yiddish Cylinders, 1901-1905: “Thomas Lambert created the first molded celluloid cylinders, but he is remembered largely for the garish multi-hued shadings of the records, chiefly the pink ones. Sturdily resilient and with a sound so clear and crisp, they inspired wax cylinder inventor Thomas Edison to successfully drive Lambert out of business through a series of jealous lawsuits.”

As Caw pointed out in the interview, the digitized audio files of the cylinders are available to hear online via UW Digital Collections. Simply search the Mayrent Collection of Yiddish Recordings for “Lambert,” and you will get all eleven cylinders in the results. We have also posted photos there of the top of each cylinder, in order to show how Lambert included the catalog number and title on each one.