United Hebrew Disk & Cylinder Record Co.

Location: New York, New York
Date Founded: July 7, 1904

The United Hebrew Disk & Cylinder Record Company (hereafter, UHD&C) was a short-lived but critically important recoding label in the history of Jewish and ethnic sound recordings. Along with Standard Records, UHD&C was one of the earliest labels to focus exclusively on recording and selling foreign-language music.

Harris Wolf Perlman (President, 1871/2 – April 1, 1966) founded UHD&C in 1904 along with Louis Rosansky (Director) and Jacob Dronsick (Vice-President). Perlman had been a fixture of the Lower East Side music scene for several years, having first established his piano business there in 1898. Contemporary advertisements for the company proclaimed it to be “the largest and most beautiful piano and phonograph store on the East Side.”

Sometime before 1904 he partnered with Rosansky­, a Russian émigré and singer-composer of some renown. Before immigrating to the U.S. in 1897, Rosansky was known for his parlor songs and military band music, and was an early mentor to a young Joseph Rumshinsky.


One of several logos associated with UHD&C. Source: “Advertisement.” The Talking Machine World, September 15, 1905: 20.

Their backgrounds thus made Rosansky and Perlman perfect candidates for launching a Yiddish music label. By December 1904, Perlman and Rosansky proudly offered “the most beloved Yiddish records sung by the greatest cantors in the world,” though their advertisements made no mention of the recording label founded earlier that year. In early 1905, however, UHD&C began aggressively promoting themselves as selling recordings “exclusively of the Hebrew character.” As Rosansky (now listed as president) told The Talking Machine World in February, “the large companies are putting out Hebrew records, but as a matter of fact they have little conception what the Hebrew people want. We, being one of them, know their tastes and desires, and are supplying this demand as rapidly as possible.” Their first batch of recordings featured over 70 10-inch releases and included recordings by the soprano Regina Prager, theater luminaries Kalman Juvelier and Solomon Smulewitz, and cantors Pinchas Minkowsky and Gershon Sirota.

In all, UHD&C released roughly 155 recordings drawn from the repertoires of cantorial songs, Goldfaden operettas, and contemporary musicals. Among the most historically-important releases were Louis Friedsell’s 1905 recordings, “Popuri” and “Khosn Kale Mazl Tov,” now considered to be the first klezmer recordings produced in the U.S.

 

"No stock of records is complete to-day
unless it contains a fair amount of Hebrew records."

 

Though lauded in the press—their recordings were said to present “the best voices known in Hebrew”—UHD&C’s financial success is difficult to assess. Throughout 1905 the label regularly released new discs and continued to stress the growing market for Jewish music recordings. An advertisement from December 1906 announced in bold type the “Growing Popularity of Hebrew Records” and asserted that “no stock of records is complete to-day unless it contains a fair amount of Hebrew records.” Behind the praise and banner headlines, however, there were signs of a flailing business: UHD&C moved in April 1905 “after overcoming immense difficulties,” then moved again in December. Manager Pierre Long left the label in April 1906, and in October The Talking Machine World reported that Rosansky and Perlman had dissolved their partnership, with Rosansky remaining as the label’s sole owner.


Louis Rosansky pictured outside Liberty Piano Co., along with owner Jacob Smith (right) and Harry Holmes (center). The framed photograph in the window appears to be of Thomas Edison. Source: “New York Dealer Moves.” The Music Trades, August 26, 1922: 15.

It was also in October 1906 that the label released some of its final recordings by Solomon Smulewitz, their most prolific artist with some 42 releases, who had recorded his first sessions with Edison in September. UHD&C’s output dwindled sharply after October, with the label releasing only 37 recordings between then and its demise sometime in mid- to late-1907. The label continued advertising until at least May 1907, and appears to have dissolved later that year.

Despite its brief existence, UHD&C captured some of the most important voices and songs of Yiddish music and added to the growing reservoir of Jewish music available on disc. The performances heard here, recorded in the first decade of a new century, allow us to hear a musical heritage that was flourishing in its new-world home while remaining steeped in the traditions of its old-world origins.

Scott A. Carter

Sources
"Advertisement." Forverts, April 1, 1904.

"Advertisement." Forverts, December 4, 1904.

"Advertisement." The Talking Machine World, April 15, 1905.

"Advertisement." The Talking Machine World, December 15, 1906.

"Advertisement." The Talking Machine World, May 15, 1907.

"Harry Perlman, 95, a Maker of Pianos." The New York Times, April 2, 1966: 23.

"Interesting Trade Bits." The Talking Machine World, January 15, 1905: 14.

"New York Dealer Moves." The Music Trades, August 26, 1922: 15.

"New York Incorporations." The New York Times, July 8, 1904: 13.

"Timely Talks on Timely Topics." The Talking Machine World, February 15, 1905.

"United Hebrew Record Co." The Talking Machine World, October 15, 1906.

Sapoznik, Henry. Klezmer! Jewish Music from Old World to Our World (New York: Schirmer Trade Books, 2006).

Slobin, Mark. Tenement Songs: The Popular Music of the Jewish Immigrants (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982).