The acoustic recording process want kind to stringed-instrument players. Although solo performers fared well enough in the studios (provided they stood nearly in the mouth of the horn), section players found their contributions got lost in the general din. The solution was the Stroh violin, a clever mechanical contraption that replaced the violins body with a metal resonator. Attached to the resonator was a horn that blasted the sound toward the recording apparatus. A smaller horn could be aimed at the players ear.
The Stroh instruments (which also included viola and cello versions) originated in England and came into general use in U.S. recording studios during 19081910. The photo below shows two in use at an Eddie Morton session for Columbia, c. 1913:
The Stroh also became popular with dance orchestras in the days before microphones and PA systems. Two members of J. C. Becks Orchestra (which recorded for Paramount and other small labels in the early 1920s) posed with their Strohs for a series of publicity shots:
The devices were abandoned en masse in the mid-1920s, with the advent of electrical recording. We had the good fortune to hear a Stroh in use a few years ago, by a local collector who owns a pristine specimen and is also a competent violinist. The sound wasnt nearly as harsh as expected, but startlingly LOUD.