As a friend of AFR Lawrence at the time he was advising Columbia on the
metal parts issue, here's what I recall.
Larry was asked by Goddard Lieberson to analyze the various matrix series in
their Bridgeport vaults. He compiled a list of prefixes and determined
whach were owned by Columbia and which by others for whom Columbia hade made
custom pressings. This later group included various 16" metal parts.
Planning was underway for the Pittman, NJ plant to which the masters were to
be moved. Lieberson felt there was no point in building a storage space
large enough for all the metal parts if a significant number of them were
not Columbia's property to be considered for commercial exploitation by
them. Space to hold only company-owned materials was to be included in the
new building. (This sounds like good management to me.) The new facility
was opened in 1961. At that time, there were very few sound archives in the
U.S. I believe NYPL didn't want them- Phil Miller was a friend of Larry's
and mine and knew about this research. Phil was in continual touch with
Harold Spivacke, head of the Music Division at the Library of Congress
(there was no separate sound section as yet.) Yale's "Historical Sound
Recordings Collection" had no space and a tightly defined colleting misson
that put a large, non-classical metal parts accumulation out of bounds.
Neither Syracuse nor Stanford had operating sound archives at the time. I
don't know if the Vitaphone-type masters were offered back to the film
companies who owned them but I recall mention that most owners of the
non-Columbia stuff could not be traced.
Decisions about the fate of then-surviving Columbia-owned masters were made
within the company. Larry's job was as "indentifier-in-chief."
Remember that there was a constant combing for various reusable metals
during both world wars in all countries, survival of the country being a
fairly important consideration. In my opinion, it is far preferable to be
able to bitch freely about this loss than to be buying superb copies with
From: Gray, Mike
Sent: Wednesday, December 04, 2013 9:45 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] steven barr - metal parts
Without stepping on this thread, here is what I understand to be the status
of metal parts in company hands:
Sony Music - Holds Victor parts + some HMV; disposal of Columbia, et al.
metal may be related to the closure of the Bridgeport plant (cf. AFR
Lawrence papers at LC)
Former EMI - Holds primarily classical parts - most pop metal and most of
Columbia was destroyed during World War II. Also had virgin pressings of pop
material. Vault inventory exists. Note: for metal trasnferred for the Great
Recordings reissues of the 1950s, metals were destroyed;
Former EMI-France - Holds selected metal parts, primarily 12 inch classical.
An inventory was made in 2005;
Universal Music France - Donated metal parts to the Bibliotheque nationale -
most consist of 45/LP metal, though the donation did include on previously
unknown Edith Piaf side;
Former Electrola - All metal destroyed during World War II - company
solicited metals from affiliates to restore catalog after 1945;
Deutsche Grammophon - Holds ca. 5K parts pre-1914 from the 'Gramophone'
catalog - many DG/Grammophon electrical metals survived in the pressing
plant but were destroyed thereafter;
Warner-Teldec - 78 Telefunken metals currently survive - other metals
survive in Japan;
Nippon Columbia - Some metals survive.
A further note: Because Columbia 78 metal work after ca. 1939, and at
Capitol and Decca, were recorded from lacquer session masters, the lacquers
represent the original recordings and (hopefully!!) are still being
P.S. I don't believe the Universal deal with LC set a precedent for future