In the early half of the 20th century, Yiddish speaking audiences often connected with their roots and culture by listening to Yiddish radio programs produced in the USA. In 2004 the Judaica Sound Archives received a gift of 70 recordings of radio broadcasts produced in 1949 from the Jewish Museum of Maryland.
These broadcasts were recorded on 16-inch discs. Special equipment is needed to play such large recordings. Unfortunately, the JSA did not have the right equipment. So the recordings sat in storage.
Over time, the JSA was given about 30 more 16-inch recordings, including 14 produced by Vistas of Israel.
As our collection of 16-inch records grew so did the pressure to find a turntable that could handle them. “I suddenly remembered that my employer had given me a large turntable in the 1970’s” said JSA Sound Archivist, Ben Roth-Aroni. Digging through items that had been in storage for over 30 years, Ben was able to eventually unearth the turntable.
But, when he put the first 16-inch disc on the turntable he realized that the tone arm bumped into the record. The tone arm needed to be raised so that the needle was above the record. Working with spare parts, he was able to solve the problem by raising the tone arm base.
Some of these 16-inch recordings are quite unique. For example, “some of them have grooves which spiral from the inside toward the outside instead of the conventional outside toward the inside. Also some have a “vertical cut.” That means that the needle rides up and down over the grooves instead of the usual “lateral cut” where the needle moves from left to right.” Ben said.
I asked Ben if a special needle was required to play these recordings. “Sometimes we need a special needle but often a 78-rpm stylus will work fine as long as we have a specially wired cartridge that works for the lateral cut discs.”
The JSA currently has over 400 Vistas of Israel radio broadcasts. These programs were produced by the state of Israel from the 1950s through the 1970s. Fourteen of the broadcasts in the JSA collection were produced on 16-inch discs. We are currently involved in an extensive digitization project so that all of these Vistas of Israel broadcasts can be heard on the JSA website. With the addition of our newly revamped turntable these broadcasts can be included in this exciting digitization project.
Submitted by Maxine Schackman, JSA assistant director