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Guide to The Richard Hess Mullin-Palmer Tape Restoration Project Collection ARS.0035
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Sponsor
  • Historical Background
  • Scope and Contents
  • Arrangement
  • Related Collections
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Richard Hess Mullin-Palmer Tape Restoration Project Collection
    Dates: 1934-2008
    Dates: Bulk, 1946-1950
    Collection number: ARS.0035
    Creator: Hess, Richard L.
    Collection Size: 6 linear feet : 110 digital files ; 54 open reel tapes
    Physical Description: Six boxes of audiotape are held by the Archive of Recorded Sound. The remainder of the collection is digital.
    Repository: Archive of Recorded Sound
    Abstract: Tapes and digitally transferred files from the early years of American tape recording. Transfers were done by engineer and researcher Richard L. Hess. Digital files are only available at Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound.
    Language of Material: English


    Open for research; material must be requested at least two business days in advance of intended use. Contact the Archive for assistance.

    Publication Rights

    Property rights reside with repository. Literary rights reside with creators of the documents or their heirs. To obtain permission to publish or reproduce, contact the Head Librarian of the Archive of Recorded Sound.

    Preferred Citation

    Richard Hess Mullin-Palmer Tape Restoration Project Collection, ARS0035. Courtesy of the Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.


    A portion of this project was funded by a grant from the GRAMMY Foundation.

    Historical Background

    The Richard Hess Mullin-Palmer Tape Restoration Project Collection chronicles the widespread dissemination of one of the most important advances in sound recording technology: magnetic recording on tape. In 1945, a U.S. Army Signal Corp soldier named John T. "Jack" Mullin was assigned to recover examples of the latest German technology from the field. In a radio station, Mullin confirmed that the Germans had developed a system of sound recording and reproduction using paper and plastic tape. He returned to the United States with several reels of audio tape and two AEG Magnetophon brand reel-to-reel machines on which to play them. This was not the first time that this country was introduced to the technology (in fact, research was published widely in the 30s), but Mullin's initiative, along with the enterprise of filmmaker Bill Palmer, was essentially the avenue by which tape manufacturing began in the United States.
    The story of Bing Crosby's involvement is familiar. In the late 1940s, Crosby hosted one of the most popular programs on radio: Philco Radio Time. Mullin and Palmer approached Crosby with their idea, and a company named Ampex, with backing from Crosby, developed its first model of tape recorder, the 200, in 1947 (other companies, among them Brush, Rangertone, Orradio, and Presto, were also experimenting with magnetic recording with some success). Tape provided an ease of editing that appealed to Crosby and his producers, and allowed for more creativity in assembling programs. It was also thought to offer improved fidelity. Because of the risk of tape failing during a live broadcast, shows were still aired from transcription discs; it was the recording and editing that was done with tape. The first program recorded on tape was broadcast October 1st, 1947, the start of the 1947-1948 season. The recordings in this collection consist largely of material used for the Philco program, including performances, outtakes, and advertisements. Among the other stars to be heard on the programs are Dinah Shore, Peggy Lee, Burl Ives, and Claudette Colbert.
    The Richard Hess Collection is named for recording historian and audio engineer Richard L. Hess who assembled these tapes, transferred them, and provided detailed notes on both the content and its capture. Between 2001 and 2008, Hess drew from both public and private collections to construct a digital representation of the early days of magnetic recording in the United States.

    Scope and Contents

    A significant portion of this collection (Reels 1-51) are reels of audio tape which are physically held at the Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound. However, the bulk of the collection consists of digital files, including transfers from those reels, as well as from tapes in several other collections not at Stanford. Prior to accession, each item (whether a physical reel or the digital file that was recorded from the tape) was assigned a reel number. There is also a series for all related documentation, including obituaries and tape transfer logs.


    This collection is divided into five series. The first four are grouped according to their original donor, and Series 5 assembles most of the textual information concerning the collection.

    Related Collections

    Stanford also holds the Ampex Corporation Collection . Some material presented here is also available through the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting.

    Indexing Terms

    Allgemeine Elektricitats-Gesellschaft (Germany).
    Ampex Corporation.
    Collier, Eve Mullin
    Crosby, Bing, 1903-1977
    Mullin, John T. (Jack), 1913-1999
    Ososke, Don
    Palmer, William A., 1911-1996
    Pavek Museum of Broadcasting.
    Magnetic tape industry
    Radio programs