Download or Listen to Boston Public Library's 48,000+ 78rpm Collection

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Music library shelves and cart

Download or listen to more than 48,000 78rpm record “sides” from the Boston Public Library’s sound archive that have been digitized and made freely available by the Internet Archive.

The Boston Public Library collection has music that was recorded on 78 rpm records from the early 1900s as well as music through the 1980s recorded on LPs. Many previously unheard recordings are now available for free to stream or download. The collection includes classical, pop, rock, jazz, hillbilly music, early brass bands, and opera. The recordings include well known artists, artists who sold many records but faded from view, and more obscure artists.

More than 750 record different labels are represented in the collection and include early American jazz and blues recordings.
The collection from the Boston Library is part of the larger 78 Project, which is dedicated to the preservation, research and discovery of 78rpm records. Many recordings are linked to discographies and reviews, with more than 250 recordings matched to sheet music

The Internet Archive has more than 5 million audio recordings, beginning with some of the very first recordings ever made on Edison’s wax cylinders. You may find a few recordings by other artists in later years (for example, the Grateful Dead has many recordings from the 1960s through 1990s). The sound quality varies from quite scratchy to surprisingly good.

There's more material at the Archive of Contemporary Music, and you can search the entire Internet Archive music collection at the Audio Archive

Boston Public Library 78rpm Collection at the Internet Archive


(h/t Internet Archive Blog)

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Comments

This is AWESOME! Here's why...

The year was 1965. I was 12 years old and about to start the 5th grade. My parents bought an old hand-cranked Victrola at an auction. It had about 100 78 RPM records with it. That summer I played, and played, and played those records and there were so many of them that I loved. A few years later we moved out west and they sold everything, including the old Victrola and the records at an auction. As I recall, they got $1.50 for the lot.

Present day: Thanks to this article and the link I went to the Boston Public Library site and got to here so many of the old tunes from my childhood. For a short time today I was twelve years old again. It made me sad because my parents are gone but it also made me very happy to hear these songs. Thank you so much!

Ed

That's great! I'm really happy you got to revisit some favorites and memories. :)

Thanks a lot!
I looked for some very old 78 rpm jazz records my brother had, and found some of them! Many of those have also been published on cd's.
I noticed that you could listen to (and download) the full recordings in the Boston catalogue, but when searching in the archive.org collection, I could only hear the first minute (of the usual 3 min.s) in the recordings I tested. I wonder why (copyright problems? - but why were they then available in the Boston Library?)

It's not likely to be a copyright issue. Do you have the URL's where you ran into the issue?

Here are a few examples:

https://archive.org/details/cd_the-essential-benny-goodman_benny-goodman-benny-goodman-and-his-orches_0
In this example, there are 40 'tracks' and you can only hear exactly 30 secs of each.

https://archive.org/details/cd_the-benny-goodman-story_benny-goodman-and-his-orchestra-the-benny
Here there are 20 'tracks', again only 30 secs of each.

But I also found some full length in archive.org, e.g.
https://archive.org/details/BennyGoodman1929-33
with 21 full length tracks.

Thanks for the links. :)
I noted that on the two that had 30 seconds each, the time listed next to each track is 30 seconds, and the description says "This item is available with audio samples only".
The box on the right shows these items as part of the "Sample Only" collection, in addition to some other collections.
Apparently there's a whole category of samples because downloading the whole piece is restricted. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
https://archive.org/details/samples_only

Oh, I see. That explains it. Thanks!

You're welcome. :)

Fantastic -- thank you very much

You're more than welcome, I'm glad you like it.