What is the "Busy Bee"?  It all began with Arthur J. O’Neill, Midwest marketing specialist, a man with a plan.  O’Neill began as a dairy product salesman (in Wisconsin, of course!).  Later, he started of a Chicago advertising firm called the O’Neill-James Company (founded 1904). O'Neill began distributing cylinder and disc talking machines under the "Busy Bee" brand.  Where did he come up with the brand name "Busy Bee?"  The talking machines were a pun on the name of the treasurer of his company, Sherwin N. Bisbee.

During the first decade of the 20th cerntury, Victor and Columbia held a firm grip on the talking machine business.  Yet there were some stalwart independents who fought for a slice of the pie.  Hawthorne & Sheble of Phildelphia was a noted talking machine manufacturer who ran against the grain in the industry.  Arthur J. O'Neill contracted with H&S to supply the Busy Bee disc instruments. H&S was an ingenious innovator, and the machines were simple and inexpensive, in keeping with O'Neill's notion of a phonograph for "everyman."  Today, they play as loudly and brightly as they did back in the day. The Busy Bee was no posh, gold-plated Victor, but something much more engaging -- the embodiment of Arthur J. O'Neill's crusade for the common man. 

Here we see an exact and historically flawless replica of the charming Busy Bee decal.  One of the benefits of the huge strides made in the past decades in digital technology is the ability to create images which are literally indistinguishable from the originals/  O'Neill dubbed this machine the "Grand" -- good marketing strategy-- if an instrument is of modest complexion, call it by an imposing name!  The soundbox (needlehead) is an historically accurate replica of the H&S "Mobley" type soundbox, precisely correct. in every way

Here is the spring motor.  Of course we installed a brand new main spring to provide the best performance.  This motor is simple but effective.  It will play one acoustic type (pre-1925) 78 rpm record per winding.  To be frank, this is not a machine for those who want to play lots of records every day.  But it works today precisely as it did when new, and reproduces 78s clearly and reliably,  Good volume, fascinating, amd delightful to the eyes.

The original instructions grace the bottom of the cabinet. 

This quaint "patent notice" is found under the cabinet.  It contains a bunch of circuitous "legal sounding" language -- but it actually says virtually nothing.  Truth be told, the company was on shaky patent footing and was hoping to demonstrate good faith in not violating the patents controlled by Victor and Columbia.

We've spent decades perfecting the exact way to replicate a translucent finish on horns, identical to the effect created by talking machine companies back in the day. This vivid, translucent finish has been made even more stunning by our hand-painted cabbage roses. The horn is quite literally gorgeous.So here we are "rooting for the little guy" -- enchanted by the true American pluck of Arthur J. O'Neill.  Unfortunately, O'Neill's Chicago talking machine empire came to an end.  His biggest competitor, Victor, sent an agent to Chicago to purchase a "Busy Bee" machine, to be used as evidence in the impending litigation against O'Neill. Then Victor set upon the O’Neill-James Company to enjoin it from selling talking machines. Hawthorne & Sheble had already been convicted of  patent infringement, and O’Neill was next. By 1916, the Consolidated Talking Machine Company was listing itself as the successor to O'Neill's firms, and Arthur J. himself entered the Pathephone business.

WHAT HE HAS LEFT US, however, is this endearing instrument, which can entertain us today as it did well over one hundred years ago.

Price: $950.00 US, plus shipping and handling. (NY State residents must pay sales tax, if applicable.)

E-mail: phonotim@gmail.com          

Telephone: 585-244-5546


               PO Box  747

               Henrietta, NY 14467 USA

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