ITEM IS SOLD
VITAPHONE, MODEL 12
"Vitaphone" may sound familiar to you -- several recorded sound devices
reused the name. The instrument pictured here was the
inspiration of Clinton
B. Repp. In 1899, he had been involved with
marketing a failed disc machine known as the Vitaphone, from which he
only the non-trademarked name. In
he had applied for a patent which was issued on September 19, 1911
(No.1,003,655) for a wooden sound-conducting arm, stationary reproducer
amplifying horn. Repp would go on to receive at least four German
his acoustic talking machine designs. Mr. Repp's odyssey into the
talking machine business is the first of two stories that this amazing
machine has to tell. Note -- the chestnut wood
cabinet, original finish, the orangey felt of the turntable (which we
have replaced with the correct shade), and the translucent original
factory finish on the horn.
Here is the Vitaphone as it appeared in an original catalog.
In 1912, the Vitaphone Company began manufacturing at a plant in
Plainfield, NJ. A contemporary catalog rhapsodizes about the
innovative design: "The
violin, the flute, the organ pipe, the ‘cello are but common
types which prove
the soft, mellow tones of wood which improve as time goes on. The
constructed along this distinctive line, and owes much of its
to the use of the patented WOODEN ARM which carries all the sound waves
the delicate needle to the patented STATIONARY SOUND BOX which is not
with the wave of the record… One can feel the every tone
through this wooden arm..." Attention, today's readers, it's true!
This unconventional -- actually pretty whacky -- sound
reproducing system produces perfectly competent results. Of
course, we have meticulously restored all the consituent parts of the
system to get it operating just as it did over 100 years ago -- this is
a job not everyone is qualified to do. At phonophan we understand and
have had hands-on experience with the Repp system. The wooden arm must
be kept under precisely calibrated tension with the reproducing
Within the cabinet, this mechanism maintains the arm's tension.
The patent plate lists Repp's seminal patent, plus some "not exactly
accurate" wording. Victor had gone after Repp and enjoined
him from starting up during 1912. Victor was so overbearing
and litigious it believed it could actually forbid people from playing
Victor records on any instrument they disapproved of! We see
here Repp's suggestion that Victor records would not be played on
this machine (something he could not guarantee, of course), because who
needs the Victor Talking Machine Company, dripping with money, deciding
to sue you into oblivion?!
But wait -- there's more! The second story this
machine has to tell begins now. Saul Birns (formerly
Birnzweig) ran a talking machine kingdom on Second Ave. in the Lower
East Side of NYC. Birns was an "otsider" like Repp.
A self-made man. What better man to push Vitaphones
during the 1914 period than Saul Birns? The fact that Birns
kept changing the name of his business (here shown as the Metropolitan
Gramophone Co.) tells us he was "bending some rules" (a a few laws) in
his race to success. Yes, Birns was even convicted of mail
fraud, though it hardly dented him. The story of Mr. Birns
and his immense success in the talking machine enterprise is available BY
CLICKING HERE for anyone who would like to read
more about this quintessential American saga.
Regarding the design of the above plate -- yes, Mr. Birns was selling
Vitaphones (among other brands), but if by viewing this plate the
customer got the idea he was buying a Victor or a Columbia machine...
could have predicted that?!
Speaking of Victor --- The Vitaphone's spring motor was the
spit-and-image of a Victor "I" motor-- but
improved! Note the four ball governor,
whereas Victor used three.
The Vitaphone surpasses all expectations for a machine of such bizarre
complexity. The sound is "mellow" (not sharp or harsh), and
it produces healthy volume. The Vitaphone plays any ordinary
78 rpm record, and it can even play electrically-recorded
discs without the distortion that can be associated with acoustic
A triumph for Mr. Repp, AND Mr. Birns, too!
US, plus s/h. (NY State residents must add sales tax if applicable)
Terms & Conditions of sale
We encourage Venmo or Zelle.
Mastercard, Amex and Discover accepted for US purchases. Foreign buyers
please use bank transfer.
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