Academic Commons

Theses Master's

Sound Advice: The Development and Use of Early 20th Century Acoustical Wall and Ceiling Materials

Yu, Dona

Acoustical materials are found in many early twentieth century public and other buildings where sound quality was important. Why were these materials developed and by whom? How do we recognize these materials? The purpose of this thesis is to examine the development of early acoustical materials from approximately 1890 to 1940, with a particular focus on acoustical plaster. The specific details of the type and technology of these materials have not been widely addressed. This research draws upon mostly the limited literature on the history of architectural acoustics, trade catalogs, architectural journals, and other resources available through Columbia University.
Acoustical materials were needed because the new types of spaces that were built in the nineteenth century had faulty acoustics. People complained that they could not hear the speaker or the music well in places like theaters, auditoriums, or churches due to reverberation. Thus, acoustical materials were introduced as a means to correct sound problems. The goal of this thesis is to have a greater understanding of the technology and impact of these materials on the built environment, in addition to creating another source on the history of acoustical materials.


  • thumnail for YuDona_GSAPPHP_2015_Thesis.pdf YuDona_GSAPPHP_2015_Thesis.pdf application/pdf 28.7 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
October 21, 2015