The Evolution of Records: From Shellac to Vinyl

Why aren’t shellac records as common as vinyl records? When did the “fad” of vinyl take over?

We come to find out, it wasn’t actually a fad. The dramatic shift from shellac to vinyl took place out of necessity. During the early years of World War II, the demand for shellac skyrocketed. Why?

Shellac wasn’t only used to produce records full of sweet-sounding melodies. It was also used to produce explosives.

When World War II began, the War Production Board, which was the government agency responsible for supervising war production under President Franklin Roosevelt, ordered a 70 percent cut in the production of new phonograph records.

Record production consumed about 30 percent of the nation’s supply of shellac. This cut in production of shellac records was replaced with the production of signal flares and explosives, as well as artillery shell coating.

Not only was there a dramatic cut in production of shellac records, there was also a “call to arms” – if you happened to have records that were broken, chipped, or with out-of-date melodies, you would have been asked to donate them for recycling. People were also encouraged to donate their records not only to aid with weaponry, but also to “boost soldier morale.”



Photo Cred: NY Times

This effort was so far wide-spread, that there were even events based on record-donations. For example, the William Penn Hotel hosted a dance called the “War Records Dance”, where the price of admission was five disks. By 1943, the American Legion collection post counted 25,000 donated discs.



As shellac was essentially phased out, vinyl took the spotlight. It had longer playing times, was lighter, and simply became the new “thing.”


We are proud to present our extensive collection of shellac Seventy Eights to add value to an existing collection or as the first record to get your party started.

1 comment

  • interresting story ! ! !
    i always heard about the need for shellac during the war,
    but never knew the details about it
    thank you !

    hugo VERMEULEN

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