Welcome to the world of recorded sound, the early years. More modern methods and other mechanical means of producing music are explored elsewhere on this site. This page will focus on equipment now regarded largely as antique, and not utilizing electronic components. Record formats considered here are 2 and 4 minute cylinders, and lateral and vertical cut disc records.
Nothing you see here is for sale, do not bother to ask!
Cylinder: Edison Gem Model A Edison Fireside Model A Edison Standard Model B Edison Home Model B Edison Triumph Model A Edison Amberola 30 Columbia Q
Disc: Edison Diamond Disc London Upright-37 Standard Talking Machine Model A Victor II Right way and Wrong way to play a Record Victor VV-VI Victor VV-IX Victor VV-XVII Victor VE 8-30X "Credenza"
Portables: Victor VV-50 Mahogany Victor VV-50 Oak Victor VV-2-65 The First and Last Victor Portable Brunswick Panatrope 106 Portable Dynamic Tone Portable Goldring Junior Portable Grinnell Bros. Portable Lark Portable
Edison Gem Model A
The Edison Gem was the least expensive Edison phonograph that he ever produced, and sold for as little as $7.50 when first introduced in 1899. However, the earliest versions suffered from being made too cheaply, and revisions were made to the design. By 1901, the version featured here was introduced. This machine was made until 1905, when the B model was introduced.
Some early Edison advertising suggests that 'GEM' on the machines is actually an acronym for 'Greatest Ever Made', and is why the letters are capitalized and in squares.
Above top, the Gem when in storage mode, and bottom, ready to play.
I purchased this machine online, as a parts machine, and for the price I paid, thought I was getting just the case and body, as a lot was missing. It turned out all the missing parts were inside the body, and included an extra, unused mainspring. All I ended up having to supply was a key, reproducer, and horn.
Above, three decals and transfers still intact on this small machine. The bottom left photo was taken with the motor running and a high-speed flash, making the governor stand still. This was the final layout of the Model A Gem motor.
Despite the scars, this machine played well after merely cleaning and reassembly. It is amazing to think how compact a cylinder phonograph can be, as this machine demonstrates. A lot of people have remarked on how much effort it takes to get a Gem to play decently, and reading these comments, I was expecting to spend a lot of time fiddling and fighting with it. But, with little effort on my part, this machine plays very satisfactorily. I probably put less time in making it play than I did many of the other Edison cylinder machines seen here.
Edison Fireside Model A
Introduced in July 1909, The Fireside is an excellent little machine. Originally, this machine was intended to replace the venerable Standard in the Edison lineup. Instead, it filled the gap between the Gem and Standard, as the price gap between these two had grown quite wide by 1909 (The Standard and Gem were both to the Model D and C versions by then). The top mechanism of the Fireside is based heavily on the Gem Model D, with the notable difference being a wider carriage and longer backrod. Underneath, the motor is that of the Standard, though the Fireside was often fitted with slightly smaller mainsprings (the barrel is, however, the same).
Above left, the Fireside in storage mode, with its maroon horn and examples of cylinders that it can play. Right, the Fireside with lid removed. Pictured here is a model H reproducer. The Fireside originally came with a model K reproducer, which has both 2 and 4 minute sapphire stylii.
The Fireside Model A came with a 19" horn as standard equipment. These horns cause a lot of confusion with people today. This horn was originally developed for use with the Model B Gem machines in 1907, long before the Fireside had been though of. Since the horn was used by both Gem and Fireside models, the only difference being the decals, a lot of Gem horns have shown up un Firesides, and vise versa. Eventually, a 2-piece version of this horn was introduced, which also ended up on both models.
Above left, Fireside decal on horn, center, Fireside machines had pretty blue and gold decal decorations on the top works, right, ID tag.
For anyone interested in getting into cylinder records, and looking for their first cylinder machine, the Fireside Model A is an excellent choice. The mechanism is simple and robust, there are no die-cast (pot metal) parts to worry about. Even though it shares a lot in common with the Gem, it has a real phonograph motor and is more substantial than the Gem machines. The 2-4 minute gearing is part of the machine and not an attachment. Fireside Model B machines were 4 minute only. The mandrel rotates on a stationary center shaft, which is more stable and has less friction than the overhanging mandrels of the endgate-less Standard, Home, and Triumph machines which I would try to avoid. And finally, it is a compact and attractive machine with its blue and gold decorations and maroon horn.
Edison Standard Model B
The Model B variation of the Edison Standard was made from late 1905 to early 1908. The Model B cabinet is slightly taller than the Model A cabinets because the motors were mounted on springs to the upper works. Only early Model B machines will have a banner decal on the cabinet front. Model C machines differ from Model B machines by not having and endgate. The endgate must be opened and closed each time a cylinder record is to be put on or taken off the mandrel. When introduced in 1905 the Standard Model B sold for $21.
Above left, the Model B in its oak case when not in use. This model was made in 1906 and uses a 14" "Witch Hat" horn which must be stored separately when not in use. The 14" horn was larger than the horn initially offered with the Model B, and when it was introduced, the Model B's cost rose to $25. The lid is made from matched veneered quarter-sawn oak, which creates very pleasing patterns of light and dark grain. The rest of the case is oak, constructed much like the wooden case of contemporary wall telephones with finger joints at the corners. Above right, with the lid off and the horn on, the machine is ready to play. The single-spring motor of the Standard was designed to play 2-3 records on a winding, thou this example will easily play 4. Gold pinstriping and Thomas Edison trademark signature should adorn the black enameled upper works, but are missing. The mandrel here too, should be nickel plated, and not bare brass as you see it.
Above left, a close-up of the upper works with a 2-minute Gold Molded wax cylinder in playing position. You can see the endgate which must be opened to put on or remove a record. Above right, the ID tag on the bedplate under the endgate.
Edison Home Model B
The Edison Home was introduced in 1896 as a less-expensive spring-driven phonograph that was targeted for home use. The mechanism was smaller and less expensive than the Spring Motor/Triumph machines, and was the first step in the direction of making more compact machines. The Model B version, illustrated here, was introduced in 1906. Machines were sold with the simple brass-belled 'witch-hat horn, until 1907, when larger horns became standard.
Above left, the Home in storage mode with lid on, right, in playing position.
Below left, close view with horn off, you can see that this machine was 'Amberolized' with a 2/4 minute combination attachment. Right, the Home motor. The very first Edison homes made in 1896 used a Seth Thomas #10 movement ( a 2-spring 8-day lever movement that was very frequently used by other companies for special applications) that was modified to run a phonograph mechanism. These were not successful, and were quickly withdrawn, and replaced by the motor design you see here.
Below left, the ID tag, in very good condition. Below right, a detail of the 2/4 minute mechanism. The B Home combination outfit uses a shifting lever to operate the clutch that changes the feedscrew speed.
Edison Triumph Model A
The Edison Triumph was one of the larger and better machines made by Edison for cylinder records. Introduced in 1895, it was the first spring powered Edison machine, and was called the Spring Motor Phonograph. In 1901, the cabinet design you see here was introduced, and the name was changed to Triumph. The machine pictured here was made about 1904, and is one of the later model A machines, the model B being introduced in 1906.
Above, two views of my Triumph. Left, as found, the case had been painted green and large cast-iron handles (shown in another photo on down) had been added to the case. The machine was 2-minute only. The original japan finish is in overall good shape, and some of the original gold decoration is still present on the back corners. Right, after. I have stripped the paint off the case, and 'Amberolized' the machine (converted it to play 2 and 4 minute records). A dent in the mandrel was a key factor in helping me decide. I have also added a back-bracket for a Cygnet horn. While this machine had never been converted to 4 minute before nor did it ever have the case drilled for a back bracket, and while these modifications are often frowned upon, the machine had already been altered in the past, and was never going to be all original again anyways, so I feel the modifications were justifiable. The ability to play 4-minute records makes the machine more interesting and useful. I plan to get a reproduction banner decal for the front and to restore the original gold decorations. The reproducer pictured is a diamond model B for playing 4 minute Blue Amberol records only. I also have a model O reproducer with 2 and 4 minute sapphires for playing molded wax records. The sapphire is also good for playing the Blue Amberol records, as the wear is greatly reduced. In fact, the diamond model B reproducer spends most of its time in storage inside the cabinet, as I use the O almost exclusively.
Above, another pair of before and after views, showing the heavy handles added to this machine at some point in the past. Rather than attempt to remove them and fill in the holes, I opted to leave them in position, as they are useful in moving the machine, which weighs close to 50 pounds, around.
Above left, the machine with horn in playing position Although the back bracket and crane are reproduction pieces, the No.10 Cygnet horn bell and elbow are original. Usually, No. 11 bells were fitted to Triumph machines. Above right, machine with lid on, as when not in use. This lid has its original finish, and is quite nice. I need to do a little work on making the lower case match it better before applying a new banner decal. Eventually, I will also find a handle for the lid. And speaking of handles, an important note about them to others: NEVER carry one of these machines by the handle on the lid. I might make an exception for a Gem, but don't do it on any other model.
Edison Amberola 30
The Edison Amberola 30 was introduced in early 1915, and as its name suggests, was meant to sell for $30. It is an internal horn machine, much like the contemporary Victrolas shown below. However, unlike Victor, Edison's smaller machines had a closable lid. Most company's internal horn models were given a name with the 'ola' ending like the Victor company's Victrola. The Amberola 30 plays the Edison Blue Amberol celluloid record, as well as other 4-minute indestructible made by others.
Above left, the Amberola 30 with the lid closed. The grill cloth is not original. I've seen a lot of speculation on what the correct color should be. I like the green, and think it looks best with the oak cabinet. Above right, the lid open, ready to play. Sitting in front of the machine are a couple of records in typical Blue Amberol record boxes.
Above left, the machine playing a record. The single spring motor of the 30 was designed to play 2-3 records per winding. Above right, early machines had the id tag on the bedplate, such as this one. Later, the tag was moved to the front left corner of the inside of the lid.
The lidless, cabinet-less Columbia Q graphaphone was introduced in 1899 and was one of the cheapest machines Columbia made and sold, the price being as low as $5 for the no-frills version you see here. This machine was made in 1900, and has a bit of a rustic look going, as originally it was all nickel plated. The small, open works motor will barely play through a 2-minute record on a single winding. The pictured reproducer is a reproduction, and the governor has the wrong weights, but the rest of the machine is still original.
Above left, the machine ready to play. The little 10" horn is a reproduction, and is just like the one used on the Edison Gem. Above right, the small, open-works motor. It is key-wound, and the mandrel is driven by a flat leather belt.
Above left, stamped plate on end of mandrel. Above center, stamped writing on end stanchion. Above right, machine with horn removed. This machine was one of the smallest cylinder players to have feedscrew, as many cheaper machines did not.
Edison London Upright-37
The London Upright was introduced in 1922 and was the first upright cabinet disc machine Edison made that sold for only $100. Previous models in this price range were table-top models. There were several other London models, so called because the cabinets were made in New London, Wisconsin by the Wisconsin Cabinet and Panel Co. W C & P was owned by the Edison Company at the time the London models were made. W C & P also made the cabinets for the Amberola 30 shown above. The LU-37 uses the No. 100 horn and has a single spring motor capable of playing 3 Diamond Disc records per winding. Diamond Disc records were Edison's answer to the rising popularity of disc records. Introduced in 1912, they were meant as a premium quality record, and are very different than your typical Victor or Columbia record.
Above left, my LU-37. The door over the record storage area is not original. The record storage area has space for 33 records. The finish appears original and I think is Edison Brown. The other available finish for the LU-37 was brown mahogony. Above right, view with lid open while playing a record. This particular phonograph was sold new by the R.C. Bollinger Music Co., or Ft. Smith, Arkansas. The black handle along the front of the machine is what raises and lowers the reproducer. This example may be an early London Upright, since it lacks the mute device used on most Edison machines of the period. Like the other Edison machines shown here, there is no visible speed regulator, the adjustment is underneath the top works. Edison discs play at 80 rpm.
Standard Talking Machine Model A
Shown here in four photographs, the Model A Standard Talking Machine was actually made in Bridgeport, Conn, by Columbia, and is very similar, though not identical to, a Columbia model BN disc graphophone. The Standard Talking Machine Co. records and machines used a 9/16" diameter center hole and post. Records were also pressed by Columbia. This machine was made about 1906-1908.
Shown here is an early Victor II, made about 1904. The Victor line changed rapidly from 1902 to 1904 as front-mount machines gave way to rear-mount. The single-spring Vic 2 evolved from the front-mount Victor E. The above two images give two views of the machine. The horn is a reproduction. The machine has a 10" turntable, and is one of my favorite Victor machines.
Above left, model ID tag. Notice that the type is stamped as Vic 2, with Arabic instead of Roman numerals. Right, the license sticker on the bottom with the original terms and selling price.
Above left, the back-bracket is richly decorated with gold leaf. Above right, this particular model Victor II is often known as a "humpback" because of the protruding panel on the cabinet back where the back-bracket is mounted. This was done to provide clearance inside for the main drive gear
Below, a few details left, the motor, center, the Exhibition reproducer, right, reproduction horn decal on the horn.
This is a message to everyone about how records are to be played on old phonographs. The photo on the left is the correct way to play a record. In this position, the tone arm is trailing as the record turns under it, and the angle of the needle where it contacts allows the record to slip past easily. The photo on the right is the wrong way to play a record. In this position, the tone arm leading as the record turns under it, and the angle of the needle where it contacts causes it to dig into the record. Anyone trying to play a record like the photo on the right is an idiot and should have all records and phonographs promptly confiscated from them. This goes especially to ebay sellers and youtube video posters!
The name of the model of the VV-VI was meant by Victor to be read as "Victor-Victrola the Sixth," much in the same way the name of a monarch or a pope with a roman numeral after their names would be. The VV-VI was the second smallest Victrola in the Victor line-up, just a step above the VV-IV. Originally introduced in 1911 with a 10" turntable, by 1913 this model was made with a 12" turntable like the one pictured here. The VV-VI originally sold for $25, $7.50 more than Victor's lowest-cost tapered-tonearm outside horn machine. By the time the machine pictured her was made in 1917, the price had been increased to $30. The VV-VI was made until 1926, when the new Orthophonic models took over.
Above left, the machine with its doors closed, showing off the fine clear grain of its oak cabinet. Victor made its own cabinets, and the workmanship was second to none. Over the period the VV-VI was in production, the cabinet went through several minor changes, so earlier or later examples may differ. As you can see, this example is unfortunately missing a knob on the horn door. Above right, all VV-VI's came with the Exhibition soundbox.
Above left, with the doors open and a period 10" record from the 17,000-block of the popular series on the turntable, the machine is ready to play. The doors over the horn doubled as volume controls, a design feature Victor had a patent on. Above right, the ID tag. It may seem surprising to see Asian writing on such an antique American-made product, but Victor was very quick to set-up foreign offices in which to sell their machines. The one that they set up in Japan was known as the Japanese Victor Company, known today as JVC. JVC severed their ties to Victor in the early 1930's.
Introduced in 1911, the VV-IX was a step-up from Victor's most inexpensive lidded Victrola, the VV-VIII. The VV-IX sold for $50 when introduced in 1911. The machine pictured here was made in 1912, and is a beautiful example of an early VV-IX. The machine pictured here is an outstanding, original 'survivor' machine, that saw very little use. The mahogany cabinet still has its original finish. The two-spring motor in this machine is also in excellent condition, with little wear. A broken gear pin early in this machine's life kept it from receiving much use. Like the VV-VI pictured above, this VV-IX uses an Exhibition reproducer.
Above left, the machine at rest with the lid closed. The VV-IX has that classic Victrola styling. Above right, The VV-IX open and in entertaining mode, playing a Victor record that is contemporary to the machine.
Above left, a view of the machine's interior. The green turntable felt is original. The scratches in the underside of the lid are from the machine being transported with an unsecured reproducer. Above right, the license sticker, still on the bottom of the machine.
Above left, Victrola decal. Above right, the machine's ID tag. Below, dealer's decal. It would be very interesting to know the travels of this machine since it left the dealer's showroom in Chicago.
This Victrola XVII was the top of the line for non-custom machines when it was sold in 1918. The mahogany cabinet features carved corner posts and trim, and swell front and sides.
The hardware is gold plated. The machine here is an original, unrestored example. The VV-XVII was made from 1916 to 1921.
Above left, the uder lid decal, right, the ID tag.
Below left, the license sticker, right, the 4-spring motor. This motor is nickel plated.
Victor VE 8-30X 'Credenza'
This machine was made in 1927 and is an 'Orthophonic' Victrola. The 8-30, originally called the 'Credenza' when introduced in 1925, used a 6-foot long horn folded up to fit into the cabinet. This horn was the largest Victor ever made for a Victrola. In addition to the horn, a very highly refined soundbox with aluminum diaphragm and ball bearings combine with the horn to produce astounding reproduction of the electrically recorded records introduced in 1925. With this, the acoustic phonograph reached the peak of its development.
Above left, the VE-8-30X. The VE machines had electric motors to drive the turntable, while VV machines are spring motors. Above right, under the lid was a 12" gold-plated turntable and gold-plated tonearm. Later machines, such as this, had the turntable offset to provide space to handle records and albums while playing.
Victor VV-50 Mahogany
Shown here is a very early VV-50 portable. The VV-50 was introduced in 1921, and was a big hit. Today, they have a look that sets them apart from other portables because of their polished cases. This particular example is rather attractive with its red mahogany. The two views above show it open and stowed away on the left, and in playing position on the right.
Not only is this machine an early example, but all the stickers and tags are in great condition. Above left, the ID tag, right, the license sticker. This is located on the top of the motor board under the turntable.
Below left, the oiling diagram, and right, the single-spring motor.
Victor VV-50 Oak
Introduced in 1921, the VV-50 was the first portable Victrola. With its polished oak case and nickel-plated hardware, it is also much more attractive than most of the later leather, or faux-leather clad machines made throughout the 1920's.
Above, two open views of the VV-50 This particular machine has neither a record hold-down spring or needle box. The machine came to me with the wrong crank escutcheon, but I was lucky to find the correct Victor escutcheon to replace it with. The finish and turntable felt are original. This machine is slightly newer than the other one pictured here, and the horn is made differently at the back.
Below, the Victrola No. 2 reproducer and the ID tag.
The Victor VV-50: The portable so nice, I bought it twice!
A concert hall in a box, the last Orthophonic Victor portable, the 2-65. Introduced in 1929, the 2-65 was made until 1933 or 1935. It was the last phonograph to use the legendary Orthophonic Sound Box. Using this phonograph is a pleasure. The starting and stopping is fully automatic. Just wind it up, then swing the tonearm to the right, the turntable will start, and lower the reproducer. The machine will shut-off automatically on any record with an eccentric groove.
Above, two open views of the 2-65.
Above left, the unique lid decal, right, the license tag under the turntable. This machine does not have a metal ID tag.
Below left, the molded fiber horn, and right, nestled in the middle of the horn is the motor.
The first and last Victor Portables.
The VV-50, left, was the first portable Victrola. The VV 2-65, right, was the last portable Victrola to be made at Camden. When the 2-65 was discontinued, so was in-house production of portable players. All RCA Victor portables produced afterwards would be made by outside vendors. The VV-50 pictured is one of the first 1,000 made, while the 2-65, with its black finish on the metal parts and RCA Victor decal and marking on the Orthophonic reproducer, is likely one of the last made.
Brunswick Panatrope 106 Portable
The Brunswick Panatrope type106 portable was introduced in May 1928 and originally sold for $25. The 106 was available in black or blue DuPont Fabrikoid, the black version is shown here. It was the first Brunswick portable to have a long horn, 21 inches long, excluding the tone arm. The record compartment will store 15-20 records. This is a very fine playing machine, the only point to be made against it is the lack of an automatic stop.
Above left, the Brunswick logo in gold on the record compartment. Right, the model ID medalion.
Below left, the motor of Brunswick design. It plays 2 records with one winding and is very compact and powerful for its size. Right, the 21" horn, folded inside the cabinet. This shows why a compact motor was required. The horn is not exponential in size, despite the claim that it was. This machine was a bit of a basket case when I received it. Half the horn had come unglued, and it had a Victrola No. 2 reproducer instead of the aluminum diaphragm Brunswick reproducer it has now.
Dynamic Tone Portable
The Dynamic Tone Portable is an example of the "phonic" type of portable that was produced in mass quantities to compete with the Orthophonic Victrola portables. It was probably made around 1928. This machine sports a E. Toman-made aluminum diaphram soundbox designed for the playback of electrical recordings. It and the tonearm are diecast. The tonearm is also of the phonic type, with a smooth bend at the crook. The horn is a molded-fiber horn similar in appearance to the one used on the Victor 2-65 shown above in the Victor section.
Above left, they Dynamic Tone logo on the record storage compartment. Right, the Toman aluminum diaphram reproducer. Toman made this reproducer in an endless variety of variations for other companies, including one for Sears on their machines.
Below, speed regulator with 80 RPM marked. The motor is a General Industries Junior motor, which plays 2 10" records per winding. General made spring and electric phonograph motors. Right, the machine waiting to play a record. It is difficult to say who made this machine, as many companies scrambled to get into the demand for portables in the late 1920's. This machine plays nice, but not having an auto or semi-auto brake is a down side to it.
This is an interesting British-made portable phonograph. It uses a re-entrant type soundbox and horn system, the open lid forming part of the horn. This machine was likely made between 1933-1939. Goldring was originally based in Germany, but the company moved to England in 1933. The motor will play 2 10" or 1 12" record per winding. The tone arm has an off-set and the tracking is very good, much better than the VV-VI shown above. This machine also has an automatic brake which will stop most records with an eccentric center groove, or run-out grooves.
Above left, the phonograph ready to play a record. The red felt is not original, it should be light brown. The clip system in the lid will hold about 10 records. Above right, the Goldring trademark decal.
Above left, a close-up of the sound box. Some collectors refer to this style as the 'gas-mask' type. Above right, playing a 1930's big band 78. This little portable was my first wind-up record player and is a good example of the type of machines made from the mid 1920's until about the mid 1950's in the US, and about 1960 in the UK. Production of 78's also largely ended in 1960. The wind-up portable stayed in production long after wind-up machines for home use were discontinued in favor of all-electric machines. This is because the wind-up portable truly could go anywhere, and it took a long time for electronic technology to catch-up. Really practical and affordable battery-operated radios didn't appear until the 1950's, so wind-up was the way to go for music at the summer camp, picnic, or beach.
Grinnell Bros. Portable
I suspect that this little portable was made in the late 1930's, or early 1940's. Grinnell Brothers were musical merchandise dealers and they had several stores in large Midwestern cities, with the main store in Detroit. From the limited research I have done, I suspect this machine was actually made by Waters-Conley. The cabinet is wood in faux snake skin, and the motor board is metal.
Above left, the Grinnell Bros. logo on the record compartment. Right, a detail of the reproducer.
Below left, the speed control of the General Industries motor, with 80RPM marked on dial. Right, the grill in he side is the horn opening. The horn is very short and primitive, but does have a quasi-exponential shape. By the time this machine was made, however, spring-wound portables were not given the serious attention they previously received from manufacturers.
This little machine was made in the early 1920's by the Carola Co. of Cleveland, Ohio. It is all metal, and the identical top and bottom pressings were actually the lid pressing of one of their larger models.
Above, open and closed views of the little Lark. The center post may look funny because I am missing the hold-down clamp that screws into the centerpost.
Above, the simple reproducer, with its Bakelite diagram and small horn. In theory, the small horn reflecting off the lid should produce a larger horn tone.
The Best Portable Phonographs in the World
The Victor-Victrola Page
Edison Phonographs-A Beginner's Guide
78 RPM Records
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