Behind the Music: Edison Phonograph Spools

Over the next several weeks, we will be discussing the various music mediums used throughout history. I’ll be discussing the Edison phonograph wax cylinder.

There were early prototypes of the phonographs around 1857; however, Thomas Edison is credited to inventing the phonograph in 1877 (The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, 2010). His phonograph used various materials such as paraffin paper, tin foil, and different types of wax (i.e. – ceresin, beeswax, stearic, and “brown”). On October 8, 1887, the Edison Phonograph Company was created in order to promote his phonograph machine and wax cylinders (“History of the Cylinder Phonograph,” 2017).

For the next decade, Edison lost his rights for the photograph to Jesse H. Lippincott; moreover, Edison created another company, the Edison Factory, created “talking dolls” (“History of the Cylinder Phonograph,” 2017). In 1890, Lippincott became ill and lost his power to his phonograph companies; nonetheless, Edison gained control of his rights to the phonograph, due to bankruptcy, in 1894 (“History of the Cylinder Phonograph,” 2017).  In 1891, mass production began of the wax cylinders and remained popular until 1929, when they abandoned making wax cylinders and produced disc phonographs (“History of the Cylinder Phonograph,” 2017).


The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. (2010, April 20). Phonograph (Instrument). Retrieved January 16, 2017, from

History of the Cylinder Phonograph – Inventing Entertainment: The Early Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies. (2017). Retrieved January 16, 2017, from

The Name is Hovey … Alvin Hovey!

*Post written by James Wethington, library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.


Photograph was taken in 1849.

Born in Mt. Vernon in 1821, his parents died when he was young; however, he studied law and passed the bar in 1843.  He served in the United States Army during the Mexican-American War and American Civil War.  His career grew when Hovey was elected as a delegate for the Constitutional Convention in 1850 for Indiana’s new constitution.  He would go on to be an Indiana Supreme Court Justice (1854-1855), US Ambassador to Peru (1866-1870), US House Representative for Indiana (1887-1889), and Governor of Indiana (1889-1891). He died during his term as governor on November 23, 1891.

Vanderburgh County’s Coroner Log Book

*Post written by James Wethington, library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

This book spans from 1888 to 1894 in Vanderburgh County, Indiana. They list various ways these individuals died: for instance, they died by drowning, hit by a train, and falling into bull saws, just to name a few. The book has handwritten notes and a newspaper clipping, which was based on the coroner’s notes of the autopsy.

Wanna read some findings? To read more , stop by the University Archives on the 3rd floor of Rice Library between Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

Somebody’s Watching Me: Prosthetic Eye

*Post written by James Wethington, library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

This prosthetic eye is from Harry Thompson’s collection.  He is a former Indiana State Representative and State Senator, from 1969 to 1976.  It is unknown why Thompson had this prosthetic eye; however, it was from the American Optical Company.

American Optical began in 1826 with William Beecher, who was trying to become an apprenticeship as a jeweler in Rhode Island and returned back to Southbridge, Massachusetts; however, it was not until after Beecher needed to glasses that he realized he could make a better quality and local (“History of AO Eyewear, Inc.,” 2016). American Optical grew tremendously and it set an international office in London, United Kingdom in 1905; however, the Southbridge office had been employed two thousand and brought in one million dollars (“History of AO Eyewear, Inc.,” 2016).

As their name became prominent in the industry, they created the earliest form sunglasses, sunwear, and goggles. For instances, American Optical obtained the rights to the Crookes glasses; moreover, they updated them by studying ultraviolet protection and make their glasses usable for outdoor use (“History of AO Eyewear, Inc.,” 2016). During the 1930’s to 1940’s, American Optical supplied the United States Air Force “… with aviator goggles” and “… prescription-polarized sunglasses” (“History of AO Eyewear, Inc.,” 2016).

American Optical played a major part in the World War efforts. For example, during the First World War, they “… designed and built eight mobile optical units to support U.S. troops and Allied Forces in Europe during WWI”; the same happened during the Second World War (“History of AO Eyewear, Inc.,” 2016). They were developing new products, which supplied ” … the US Government with new products including gun sights, bombsights, AR glass, aviation goggles, sunglasses and precision optics for military and instrument applications” (“History of AO Eyewear, Inc.,” 2016).

American Optical continues to work and remain an icon in the optical industry, as well as Americana. Their product have been seen in cinema, such as Top Gun and Easy Rider, and their Original Pilot Sunglass hold the honor as “… the first ever sunglass to land on the moon worn by Commander Neil Armstrong and the crew of Apollo 11 in 1969” (“History of AO Eyewear, Inc.,” 2016).

The prothesic eye can be viewed with your own two eyes this wonderful piece at the University Archives on the 3rd floor of Rice Library.


History of AO Eyewear, Inc. (2016). Retrieved January 9, 2017, from

Spotlight: Avant Garde Magazines

*Post written by James Wethington, library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

During their tenure from January 1968 to July 1971, Avant Garde went against the grain of American society (“A Complete Digitization,” 2016). Its’ creative imagery criticized various parts of American society and United States government with an edgy twist. Avant Garde incorporated erotic content, such as John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s erotic lithographs and a semi-nude spread of Marilyn Monroe (“A Complete Digitization,” 2016). Avant Garde was published in New York City and there were only fourteen issues published (“Avant-Garde (magazine),” n.d.). The University Archives possesses four of the fourteen magazine issues published and can be viewed by the public.


Avant-Garde (magazine). (n.d.). Retrieved January 5, 2017, from

A complete digitization of the 1960s magazine Avant Garde: From John Lennon’s erotic lithographs to Marilyn Monroe’s last photos. (2016, June 6). Retrieved January 5, 2017, from

Picture It: Debbie Reynolds, Evansville, 1992

*Post written by James Wethington, library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

Multiple events occurred in 1992 such as: Bill Clinton defeated George H.W. Bush for the U.S. Presidency (Levy, 2014), the 1992 Summer Olympics commenced in Barcelona, Spain (The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, 2015) and the 1992 Winter Olympics commenced in Albertville, France (The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, 2016), riots in Los Angeles after the exoneration of four police officers in the Rodney King beating (Wallenfeldt, 2015), Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida, Louisiana, and the Bahamas as a category five storm (Rafferty, 2011), and many more.


Welborn Foundation Benefit, 1992 (Debbie Reynolds was the guest performer)

Back in Evansville, the Welborn Foundation produced their annual benefit at the Vanderburgh Auditorium, presently-known as the Old National Events Plaza. In 1992, their performer was none other than singer and actress, Debbie Reynolds. The Welborn Foundation was a part of Welborn Memorial Baptist Hospital, which began in 1894 as the Evansville Sanitarium; however, St. Mary’s Medical Center brought Welborn Baptist Hospital in March 1999 (Welborn Baptist Foundation, n.d.). There were two foundations: Welborn and Welborn Baptist; moreover, they were used differently. For example, the Welborn Baptist Foundation was “… reated to preserve the Baptist heritage of the hospital” (Welborn Baptist Foundation, n.d.). In 2005, the Welborn and Welborn Baptist Foundations were combined into one as the Welborn Baptist Foundation; nevertheless, “… the Foundation exists to support both the geographies and the missions previously and proudly served by Welborn Memorial Baptist Hospital” (Welborn Baptist Foundation, n.d.).

Debbie Reynolds was born as Mary Frances Reynolds on April 1, 1932 in El Paso, Texas (Sparks, 2016). Reynolds proved she was a force to be reckoned with on the silver screen and television screen. She appeared in numerous films such as Singin’ in the Rain (1952), The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964), Charlotte’s Web (1973); however, she was featured on various television shows such as The Debbie Reynolds Show (1969-1970) and Will and Grace (1999-2006) as Grace Adler’s mother, Bobbi (Sparks, 2016). Reynolds was married three times to Eddie Fisher from 1955 to 1959 (Carrie Fisher and Todd Fisher came from this marriage), Harry Karl from 1960 to 1973, and Richard Hamlett from 1984 to 1996 (Hamel & O’Connor, n.d.). Reynolds passed away on December 28, 2016 in Los Angeles, California (Sparks, 2016).

This ticket stub is in the Larry Aiken collection, which is located in the University Archives and Special Collection on the 3rd floor of Rice Library.


Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, The. (2016). Albertville 1992 Olympic Winter Games. Retrieved January 3, 2017, from

Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. (2015). Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games. Retrieved January 3, 2017, from

Hamel, R., & O’Connor, D. (n.d.). Debbie Reynolds: Biography. Retrieved January 3, 2017, from

Levy, M. (2014). United States presidential election of 1992. Retrieved January 3, 2017, from

Rafferty, J. P. (2011). Hurricane Andrew. Retrieved January 3, 2017, from

Sparks, K. (2016). Debbie Reynolds. Retrieved January 3, 2017, from

Wallenfeldt, J. (2015). Los Angeles Riots of 1992. Retrieved January 3, 2017, from

Welborn Baptist Foundation. (n.d.). Legacy. Retrieved January 3, 2017, from

Student Highlight: Josh Knecht

*Post written by Josh Knecht, student assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

My time in the archives has been valuable to me; it provides an atmosphere that allows me to unwind after my classes. It is quiet, relaxing, and affords me the chance to make money as a student without having my grades suffer as a result. Having had jobs in the past that do affect my grades, I value this quality. Everyone that I work with are very helpful, and I never feel like I don’t understand what I am supposed to be doing.