Wax cylinders were the earliest commercial medium for recording sound. The University of California, Santa Barbara Library recently launched a new website that features over 10,000 wax cylinder recordings—all available to download or stream online for free. The searchable collection has everything from bizarre animal impressions to anti-Prohibition songs. Looking to do a historically minded good deed? The library still has a backlog of over 3,000 cylinders that have not yet been digitized. Adopt one for a tax-deductible $60 (the fee covers the rehousing, cataloging and digitizing of the cylinder).
Here are 5 incredible recordings that you need to put on your old-timey playlist right now:
1) It’s The Smart Little Feller Who Stocked Up His Cellar (That’s Getting The Beautiful Girls) 1920:
This anti-prohibition song is about “a chicken-chasing millionaire” who can’t catch a break with the ladies. Why? They’re too busy hanging out with “the smart little feller who stocked up his cellar.”
2) We’re all going calling on the Kaiser (1918):
This World War I propaganda song has some pretty amazing lyrics. Highlights include: “Oh, John, pack up your kit and come along with me. There’s a party ‘cross the sea, and we’re all going callin on the Kaiser!”
3) Vintage Animal Noises (unknown):
Full disclosure: You probably don’t want this on your playlist. This terrifying home recording features an unidentified male voice and a strange selection of animal noises. We just thought you should know about it.
4) The Freight Wreck at Altoona (1926):
This haunting ballad is about a long forgotten train wreck. On 29 November 1925, a runaway freight train crashed within two hundred yards of the Pennsylvania passenger station. It was one of the worst disasters in the history of the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Feature image via Duke University Library