May 4, 2011 Emile Berliner and the Birth of the Recording Industry Subject of May 17 Program

Press Contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022
Public Contact: Peggy Pearlstein (202) 707-3779

Emile Berliner (1851-1929) was a German-born immigrant whose inventions contributed to the birth of the recording industry. A largely self-educated man, Berliner was responsible for the development of the microphone, the flat recording disc and the gramophone player. Often overlooked by today’s historians, Berliner’s creative genius rivaled that of his better-known contemporaries Thomas Alva Edison and Alexander Graham Bell. Like the works of these two inventors, Berliner’s innovations helped shape the modern American way of life.

Berliner’s life, work and connection to Washington, D.C., where he lived for many years, will be the subject of a talk by Samuel Brylawski and Karen Lund at noon on Tuesday, May 17, in the African and Middle Eastern Division Reading Room, located in Room 220 of the Thomas Jefferson Building at 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C.

The event, which is sponsored jointly by the Hebraic Section of the Library’s African Middle Eastern Division and the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, is free and open to the public, but seating is limited.

Samuel Brylawski, former head of the Recorded Sound Section at the Library of Congress, is the coordinator and editor of the Victor Records Discography at the University of California at Santa Barbara. The goal of the project is to develop an online encyclopedia of all the recordings made by the Victor Talking Machine Company (forerunner of RCA Victor) between 1900-1950.

Karen Lund is digital project coordinator in the Library’s Music Division and developer of the Emile Berliner online presentation on the Library’s American Memory website.

The Library's Berliner site ( offers a selection of more than 400 items from the Emile Berliner Papers and 118 sound recordings. Housed in the Recorded Sound Section of the Library’s Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, the Berliner Papers comprise some 1,000 manuscript items and several hundred rare sound recordings produced by the Berliner Gramophone Company at the turn of the century.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at and via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at


PR 11-096
ISSN 0731-3527