Orlando R. Marsh

Orlando R. Marsh

Orlando R. Marsh (August 6, 1881 – September 7, 1938)[1] was an electrical engineer raised in Wilmette, Illinois.[2] In early 1920s Chicago, Illinois he pioneered electrical recording of phonograph discs with microphones when acoustic recording with horns was commonplace. His firm Marsh Laboratories, Inc., founded in 1922,[2] at one time was located on the seventh floor of the Lyon & Healy Building near the corner of Wabash and Jackson in Chicago. The Marsh firm no longer exists but the building still stands and is part of DePaul University.(1)

It was reported in Time Magazine on April 28, 1923 that a device invented by Orlando R. Marsh was successfully used to make a recording of organ music, hitherto considered impossible. The article stated that Pietro A. Yon from New York City played his organ composition "Jesu Bambino" in Marsh's Chicago laboratory and that the reproduction was described as excellent. The article went on to say that this accomplishment appeared to open a new area for the phonograph.[3]

Marsh's best known recordings were duets by King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton on the Autograph Records 78 rpm phonograph disc label. His best selling Autograph records were those of Jesse Crawford in 1924 playing the Wurlitzer pipe organ in the Chicago Theatre using his then new electrical disc recording system. This was before Victor Talking Machine Company and Columbia Records started to use the Western Electric licensed method of electrically recording records using microphones in 1925.[4]

Orlando Marsh also participated in the first radio program syndication employing disc records. Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll electrically recorded their WMAQ (AM) Amos 'n' Andy radio program at Marsh Laboratories prior to live airing during the 1928 - 1929 period.(3)

Occasionally, specialty recordings by Marsh Laboratories are found from the late 1920s to the early 1940s. One example is a radio recording entitled "Eskimo Pie Time" from the early 1930s. The 78 rpm 12" laminated shellac record has a printed label which shows a black and white drawing of an Eskimo Pie ice cream bar and bears the handwritten names of "East & Dumke" in white ink. It was recorded on one side only and pressed most likely by Columbia. Recorded quality is quite acceptable and features the "Singing Icicles" (Ed East and Ralph Dumke) in two numbers: "Illway Ouyay Gimme A Little Isskay" and "Big Time Gal". This is a singing duo with piano accompaniment. A further note, when matching modern playback equipment to the characteristics of this record, a bass turnover frequency of 300 Hz and a 10 kHz treble rolloff setting of -8.5 dB yields good bass, midrange, and treble balance.(4)



  1. ^ Strötbaum, Hugo. "Orlando Rivenius MARSH". Recording Pioneers. http://www.recordingpioneers.com/RP_MARSH1.html. Retrieved 11 November 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Kelley, Norman (2005). R&B (Rhythm and Business): The Political Economy of Black Music. Akashic Books. pp. 111. 
  3. ^ Time (April 28, 1923)
  4. ^ Theater Organs website


  • (1) Powell, James R., Jr., Randall G. Stehle, and Jonathan D. Powell. Vintage microphones and the restoration of early Marsh Laboratories electrical 78-rpm recordings. ARSC Journal 2006; 37 (1): 36-47.
  • (2) Rust, Brian. Autograph, a glimpse into the past. Storyville 1972: 40:124-126.
  • (3) McLeod, Elizabeth. A & A Recordings; email to old.time.radio@oldradio.net; December 27, 2002.
  • (4) Powell, James R., Jr. Broadcast Transcription Discs. 2001; Gramophone Adventures, Portage, MI. ISBN 0-9634921-4-4

See also

External links

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