1241003 - The Portable Phonograph

The Portable Phonograph - emaze presentations

RCA Victor Special portable phonograph for sale at …

The most common Edison cylinder phonographs seen date from the period when Edison began marketing his machines for domestic use, rather than purely business or commercial use. From 1896-1901 onward, he made portable (?suitcase design?) phonographs with the model names Triumph, Home, Standard, and Gem. These phonographs are characterized as playing 2-minute black ?wax? cylinders and having a cover that protects the mechanism and having a carrying handle on top. (Note: Don?t carry an antique phonograph by its handle.) The front of the case is, except in some uncommon examples, decorated with a decal saying ?Edison [Model Name] Phonograph? or, simple ?Edison? in a neat script. Cases were usually oak, and the cast iron parts enameled black with gold or gold-and-blue pinstriping or decals. These cylinder models with horns were made until 1913. Standard issue horns were either 14? long and all-brass (early), or 14? steel with brass bell.

An aftermarket trade existed for owners who replaced the small horns with larger petal or morning glory style horns, often colorful or painted with flowers. Such horns were not self-supporting but needed a steel support crane to suspend them in front of the phonograph. In addition to metal, horns were available in fiber, wood, and papier mache. By 1907, Edison himself began producing larger morning glory style horns; these are usually painted all black, with gold seams, and have a decal with Edison?s name and the intended phonograph model. Later still, in the 1911 period, Edison produced a swan-neck horn (called Cygnet) that suspended vertically by a steel crane mounted to the rear of the phonograph.

Originally, Edison only produced 2-minute playing records of a brown or black metallic soap known as wax among collectors. All these records, including those made by Edison's competition, were cut at 100 grooves to the inch. As technology progressed, Edison was able to double playing time to four-minutes in 1908 by decreasing the thread width by half. A record playing 2 minutes versus 4 minutes spins at exactly the same speed ? the increase in playing time is made by reducing the lateral speed of the needle across the surface of the cylinder. Although all machines he made after this era were capable of playing the newer, longer records, he also offered conversion kits to retrofit earlier models. Therefore it is not uncommon to find an Edison phonograph from the 1900 era geared to play both 2-minute and the later 4-minute records. Four minute records were made of a brittle black ?wax? until superseded by a blue celluloid material in 1912.

Although Edison ceased making phonographs with external horns in 1913, he continued to make cylinder-playing phonographs through the 1920s by disguising the horn within a cabinet. This style gave Edison a new boost in the marketplace, as customers appreciated the modern design and excellent tonal qualities offered by these types of phonographs. Moreover, the celluloid Blue Amberol four-minute records these machines played competed favorably with the three-to-three-and-a-half-minute playback provided in a ten inch disc record.

Despite the advantages and historical connection to the cylinder record at the Edison factory, the disc record was a much more convenient form of media. The disc record could be more cheaply stamped, easily stored, and offered two sides to a single record, meaning a sales advantage and more profit per record. Edison began making a series of disc phonographs, which are frequently seen today. Usually these are named with a letter and a number designation, such as H-19, C-250, LU-37, etc. These Edison Diamond Disc playing machines were built during the ?teens and ?twenties. They play special, ?? thick Diamond Discs. The Diamond Disc players used vertically cut records and could not play thin 78 rpm records without a special reproducer attachment. They were made in table top, console and upright formats and often had storage areas for discs.

Certain models bear a plaque stating they are an ?Official Laboratory Model?: a highly successful sales technique to help impart the allure of Edison's research successes to such a modern musical device.

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The Portable Phonograph- Characters - Wikispaces

This led to the creation of a small number of wind-up portables,which – launched in July 1929 – became the last acoustic phonographs everoffered by Edison.

The original Edison patent for the process of recording and playing back sound was issued in 1877, and although a small number of phonographs for exhibition and home use were made during the late 1870s and 1880s, it wasn't until the late 1880s that Edison turned his attention to perfecting the phonograph. By this time, Alexander Graham Bell helped to patent a competing sound recording technique, leading to a diverse marketplace for those wishing to purchase this new technology. By 1900, most of the major players, or their precursors, were established: the biggest manufacturers were Edison, Victor, and Columbia.

In principle, all phonographs work similarly: a groove on a spinning record causes a needle or stylus to vibrate. The vibrating needle causes a diaphragm in a reproducer to vibrate, where the vibrations become sound. As the sound is channeled through an outward-tapering horn, the volume of the sound is amplified and heard. However, due to feverish patenting of new advances on the part of the manufacturers, and the stylistic changes occurring over time, wind-up acoustic phonographs changed immensely over their approximately 40 year reign as most popular entertainment device. Although most phonographs from this era are spring-operated, the motors and winding cranks are not interchangeable between models, and even between many machines from a single maker. Other important differences are noted in the method of sound reproduction: cylinder records and Edison Diamond Disc records (and some other disc records made by other manufacturers) are considered "vertical cut" records because the rounded jewel point (stylus) of the reproducer vibrates up and down as the groove passes under it. The common 78 rpm flat disc records are ?lateral cut? records because the steel needle of the reproducer moves side-to-side as it sits in the record's groove.

Although this is far from a comprehensive view of an industry that offered a huge and always changing complement of products at the time, similar to today's computer industry, it does indicate that significant differences could exist between any two vintage phonographs, even they if are from the same producer or year. Indeed, many phonographs look very much alike unless you pay great attention to the minutia... just like computers today, often it's the small differences that make one model very special and other model not-so-much. Therefore, when examining an item for possible purchase, try to notice as many details as possible, in order to help in describing the item to a dealer or checking it with this on-line guide.

Often people come to me and say, "I have a phonograph that has a platter, a crank on the side, and is really, really old. It is wooden and takes needles. What brand is it, and what year was it made?"

This is akin to me trying to ask your advice on the car in my garage: It is red and has four wheels. It is very old and the gas tank is on the right side. I think it was made in Detroit.

What can you tell me about the above car? Not a whole lot! In order for me to help you identify your phonograph, which I am happy to do, please read down the guide so you know what to look for, and then email me 1) a description of everything you have gleaned from looking at it and 2) some photos of the item in question. Then we have something to go from!