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The Story of the Record Album Cover

   

In the beginning, there were no record albums; records were sold separately in plain brown paper sleeves.  There was a circular cutout in the sleeve so that the record could be identified by reading the record label.  The sleeve primarily served to protect the record from getting dirty or being scratched when the record was being stored

 

By the beginning of the twentieth century, the idea of binding the empty sleeves into a book-like album, similar to a photograph album, was used to produce the original “record album”.  Like photograph albums, the original record albums was sold empty to record owners who used the album to store their records

 

By the 1930s record companies started to sell collections of records (i.e. sets of multiple records in their own record albums), as well as individual records in plain paper sleeves.  Near the end of the decade, Alex Steinweiss, sometimes called the father of the modern record album cover, initiated the practice of using colorfully designed art on the paper album covers at Columbia Records.  The concept was a marketing ploy to sell more records and because of its effectiveness it was quickly adapted by other large record companies and by the end of 1940s the entire record industry.



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