Issler's Orchestra

early recording ensemble

Issler's Orchestra was probably the first band that became famous because of the records they made.

In or shortly before 1888, music teacher and pianist Edward Issler (1855 - ?) started a four-piece band. The instruments were piano, cornet, flute, and violin. Their first recordings were made in 1888 for Thomas Alva Edison, the inventor of the phonograph, the first device that could record and play back sound.

Soon, more instruments were added, including the trombone and clarinet, but the band started losing popularity to larger groups. After a client (Columbia) of the company Issler recorded most for (the United States Phonograph Co. of Newark, NJ) started its own studio orchestra, the band faded away. They made their last recordings in 1900, although they may have continued performing into the early 1900s.

The band's four core members were:

  • Edward Issler (1855 - ?), piano
  • David B. Dana (1855 - 1914), cornet
  • George Schweinfest (1862 - 1949), flute and piccolo
  • A. T. Van Winkle (? - ?), violin

Notable recordingsEdit

All of Issler's records were recorded on fragile hollow cylinders made of a waxy blend of materials that usually became brown-colored during the making of the blank cylinders, so they are called "brown wax cylinders" because of their shape and usual color. Their actual color can be anywhere from nearly white to a very dark brown. They are about 4¼ inches long and 2¼ inches in diameter. Not many cylinder records made in the 1890s have survived and the survivors are almost never in like-new condition, so the sound recorded on them is now less clear than what people heard when they were new and there is much more noise mixed in with it.

  • One of their earliest records, and one of the earliest made by Edison, does not have a title. The cylinder is announced at the start of the recording as "Played at the Edison Phonograph Works, Orange, New Jersey, by the Issler Parlor Orchestra".
  • In March 1889 they recorded the Fifth Regiment March for Edison.[1]
  • In 1891 they recorded Nanon Waltz, a charming piece by Richard Genee.
  • In 1894 or 1895 they recorded the Electric Light Quadrille. Like many quadrille records made in the 1890s, it has an announcement in the middle. This one says that Issler's Orchestra will be performing free in Keystone Hall the night after the record was made and that the electric light will be used for the first time (meaning its first use in Keystone Hall, not in the whole world).[2]
  • In 1895 they recorded what might be the first recording of Dixie.
  • In 1898 the group recorded March of the Marines.[3]


  1. Available as a free MP3 at, which is also the source of the specific month included in the date given above. Accessed June 23, 2014.
  2. Available as a free MP3 at the UCSB Library Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project. Accessed June 23, 2014.
  3. Available as a free MP3 at the UCSB Library Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project. Very low signal level and extremely tinny sound, almost certainly indicating an unauthorized dubbed copy of the original record. There was illegal record piracy even in the 1890s. Accessed June 23, 2014.