Columbia Records is an American record label, owned by Japan's Sony Music Entertainment, operating under the Columbia Music Group with Aware Records. It was founded in 1888, evolving from an earlier enterprise, the American Graphophone Company — successor to the Volta Graphophone Company. Columbia is the oldest brand name in pre-recorded sound, being the first record company to produce pre-recorded records as opposed to blank cylinders. Columbia Records went on to release records by an array of notable singers, instrumentalists and groups. From 1961 to 1990, its recordings were released outside the U.S. and Canada on the CBS Records label (for Columbia Broadcasting System, its parent from 1938 to 1988) before adopting the Columbia name in most of the world.
Until 1989, Columbia Records had no connection to Columbia Pictures, which used various other names for record labels they owned, including Colpix and later Arista. Though Arista was later sold to BMG, it is now a sister label to Columbia Records through Sony Music; both are connected to Columbia Pictures through Sony Corporation of America, worldwide parent of both the music and motion picture arms of Sony.
The Columbia Phonograph Company was originally the local company run by Edward Easton, distributing and selling Edison phonographs and phonograph cylinders in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Delaware, and derives its name from the District of Columbia, which was its headquarters. As was the custom of some of the regional phonograph companies, Columbia produced many commercial cylinder recordings of its own, and its catalogue of musical records in 1891 was 10 pages long. Columbia's ties to Edison and the North American Phonograph Company were severed in 1894 with the North American Phonograph Company's breakup, and thereafter sold only records and phonographs of its own manufacture. In 1902, Columbia introduced the "XP" record, a molded brown wax record, to use up old stock. Columbia introduced "black wax" records in 1903, and, according to Tim Gracyk, continued to mold brown waxes until 1904; the highest number known to Gracyk is 32601, Heinie, which is a duet by Arthur Collins and Byron G. Harlan. According to Gracyk, the molded brown waxes may have been sold to Sears for distribution (possibly under Sears' "Oxford" trademark for Columbia products).