THIS ITEM IS
INFORMATION ABOUT THE RARE COLUMBIA DISC GRAPHOPHONE
The very first disc (as
opposed to cylinder) talking
machine that Columbia introduced, in 1901, was called the "AH."
Columbia had spent years trying to break into the
increasingly-lucrative disc market -- by hook or by crook, so to speak,
with a certain amount of "crookedness" included. Finally, when
Columbia got enough patent protection to launch its disc line, it
created a formidable flag-ship to lead it into battle. The "AH"
was big, with a heavily paneled oak cabinet that included stately
pillars and deeply ribbed molding. The "AH" was an instrument of
the early "front-mounted" style, with a horn that resembled an
orchestra horn, with a round brass bell. The horn extended
straight out from the side of the cabinet.
Within a couple years, talking machine companies began switching over
to a new design arrangement for their disc instruments. Known as
"back-mounted," this arrangement put the horn over the top of the cabinet, so it
no longer stuck out into the room. Columbia had a big stock of
magnificent oak cabinets for its "AH" machines, and just like Victor
did with its existing cabinets, Columbia "converted" them to a
back-mounted configuration. Thus
was the instrument you see above created -- a back-mounted
"AH," which became the very first version of the "BI," a machine that
would be one of the most popular Disc Graphophones ever produced.
Today, this "transitional" model is one of the most rare and beautiful
instruments in the world.
At the Columbia factory in Bridgeport, CT, the existing "AH" cabinets
were expertly modified. In this image, you can see the crank hole
for the previous "AH" model on the left side of the cabinet.
Protruding from it, in the presently shown early "BI"
incarnation, is the on/off/speed-control. The crank hole has been
relocated to the right side of the cabinet. The fancy carrying
handle, which was on the rear panel of the "AH" is now at the front of
the early "BI."
Here, you can see how the purposely-designed motor has been arranged
to work with the existing cabinet. At the very bottom of this
image, the on/off/speed control has been set up to it can emerge
through the former crank hole. This "transitional" motor was only
used in this early version of the "BI." Fascinatingly, it carries
over elements from the very first Disc Graphophone motors, while
introducing components that would become signature styling in Columbia
motors to come.
Columbia had envisioned its Disc Graphophone motors on the same order
of the ones they were already producing for the cylinder talking machines that had
made the company famous. The components were mounted on a nickel-lated
brass motor plate, originally intended to act as the top of the
cabinet. Here, this plate is affixed under a wooden top board,
specially created for the "transitional" "BI." Note the governor
arranged -- this concept originated with the Berliner Gramophone, the
very first disc talking
machine. Victor continued the practice, and so Columbia naturally
incorporated the vertical governor into its early motors. To
quiet governor noise, Berliner had introduced a fiber gear. Early Victor
motors also used fiber (that is soft, composition) gears.
Columbia's fiber gear can be seen just above the governor, red in color.
What Columbia did not foresee was that this transitional motor would
become one of the hardest to regulate. In actual use, the soft
fiber gear which was intended to eliminate noise, would become noisy! We spent hours and
hours carefully taking this motor down to its constituent parts,
replacing both mainsprings, and tightening, calibrating all the
tolerances to get this motor running smoothly and as quietly as
possible. The average "home handyman seller on eBay" could never
have then skill we have accrued from 47 years of experience. This
is why phonophan instruments are always superior to others you find on
Original factory banner decal. The cabinet finish is
original, and a lovely, rich oak color.
The "oxidized bronze" carrying handle -- note also the beauty of the
quarter-sawn oak cabinet, with original factory finish. This
cabinet was one of the most substantially constructed of the period.
Veritably a master act of craftsmanship.
Columbia, with the advent of this machine, introduced the nickel-plated
back-bracket and shiny aluminum arm that would characterize its Disc
Graphophones for more than a decade. This early version of the
Columbia soundbox has a conventional thumbscrew to hold the needle,
rather than the famous "spring clip" that the firm would soon adopt. Do
you notice a shiny, flat component just to the left of the back-bracket?
Yes! The tapered bracket that once held the support arm of the previous
"AH" model is still in place. This is interesting as it applies
to Columbia because it is rarely seen, commensurate with the overall
rarity of this model. However, Victor did the very same thing --
the cabinets Victor converted to the new "back-mounted" configuration
retained the holes that had been used to secure the "front-mounted"
As was common with talking machine firms during this transitional
period, the "Grand Prize" decal which had already been applied to the
"AH" cabinets was all but covered up by the new back-bracket. The
same can be found on various Zonophone models. Note, the bracket
is mounted off-center, as would be all "BI" brackets henceforth.
On the arm, opposite the soundbox, is this mechanical volume control.
We want to make special note of the solid-brass flower horn. Our
job is to preserve and protect these precious instruments. This
all-brass horn is of special historic value. It precedes the
nickel-plated brass horn that would become signature styling on the
later "BI." Consequently, it was of the utmost importance to
preserve it. Brass is subject to separating along its seams, and
the surface, unprotected by nickel plating, can grow very tarnished and
rough. With the care one would put into restoring a Rembrandt, we
spent hours and hours and hours painstakingly returning this beautiful
horn to vitality. We soldered some split seams, worked tirelessly
to remove corrosion, put the brass through several chemical baths, and
then scrupulously polished and lacquered the surface of the panels.
The resulting success -- a antique without doubt, not brand
spanking new, but with the unmistakable charm and character of age --
can be seen here. And, most-importantly, we saved it for future
generations to enjoy!
Price: $2150.00 US, plus s/h. (NY State residents must add
sales tax, if applicable.)
US Post: phonophan
PO Box 747
Henrietta, NY 14467 USA
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