Why should YOU invest in the Aretino? Because it is a stunning example of ancient technology. Because you want a piece of tunefully functioning old school audio to make your entertainment room come alive. Because you are interested in an out-of-the-ordinary antique with a riveting back story.

Arthur J. O’Neill, Midwest marketing specialist, was a man with a plan. Why else would anyone have designed the "Aretino" machine? Read on. In 1904, O'Neill had founded a Chicago marketing firm called the O’Neill-James Company, which soon began distributing cylinder and disc talking machines.

At that time in Chicago there as a kind of "war of the spindle holes" going on. There were a number of firms offering talking machines that had enlarged spindles so that ONLY one particular brand of record would fit them. 

In fact, it was getting rather crazy, with holes in the records measuring 1/2", 3/4" and even 1 1/2". And all this effort was being expended to keep clients from using "rival brand" records on the talking machines they purchased.

O'Neill decided the only answer was to make a record with a hole SO BIG that it would fit any of the competing instruments. Patent No. 874,985 was issued to Arthur J. O’Neill on December 31, 1907 for his concept of a record with the greatest-of-all-possible holes, with precious little room for any label at all! A virtual doughnut of a record, with a 3” aperture. This was how the “Aretino” record was born. Through the use of adapters, this disc could be used on any other machine being sold in Chicago at that time. It's brilliant, in an inspiredly goofy way.

Here we see the "doughnut" record in place on the turntable. Note the lacquered aluminum diaphragm  of the soundbox, designed by Mobley, another independent entrepreneur, and far superior to the mica employed by the large corporations of the day.

The 3" diameter center plug is permanently attached, and cast into it is "Pat. Applied For"  -- the same O'Neill patent that was eventually granted. Since this instrument plays only Aretino 78rpm records, we are giving 4 of them with it (more records available if interested). 

The cabinet is solid chestnut wood. The banner decal is a historically precise replica, indistinguishable from the original. And, by the way -- who or what the heck was "Aretino"? Aretino (actually Guido d'Arezzo) was an 11th century monk who invented the first three notes of our musical scale.

Aretino horns were always green. In this instance, gleaming like molten jade. We've spent decades perfecting the exact way to replicate the translucent finish on horns such as this. The bewitching beauty of this deep, iridescent finish precisely matches the appearance when it left the factory. The black, cast support arm for the horn, and the winding crank are historically precise replicas. In today's world, the talking machine restorer with integrity is fortunate to have a dedicated group of enthusiasts with technilogical prowess who have painstakingly created perfectly accurate spare components by hand.

One cannot buy an Aretino without getting some records!  -- so we are including four Aretino discs with this instrument.

Do you want to read more about A. J. O'Neill and the Aretino Company? Scroll to the very bottom of this page if you want to find out how the story ends.

Price: $750.00 US, with 4 Aretino records, plus shipping and handling. (NY State residents must pay sales tax, if applicable.)


Telephone: 585-244-5546

Click here for Terms & Conditions of sale

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The final chapter in the Arthur J. O'Neill saga

The O’Neill story ends with shabby treatment by Victor and its subsidiary Zonophone, which had furnished many of the discs sold under the "Busy Bee" label. Victor founder Eldridge Johnson, who was bent on protecting the tony image of the Victor, somehow had allowed Zonophone to dispose of its overstock records to independents. Zonophone head man Belford Royal had developed a chummy relationship with O'Neill and his associates because of the considerable business they did together. This ended when Johnson suddenly decreed that contact with O'Neill be terminated, even though it represented a loss of revenue. What was really afoot was the beginning of an assault on the O'Neill companies for doing business with Hawthorne & Sheble (the firm that manufactured the Aretino).

A Victor agent was sent to Chicago to purchase an O'Neill machine, to be used as evidence in the impending litigation. Then Victor set upon O’Neill-James and Aretino to enjoin them in the courts. Since Hawthorne & Sheble was judged to have infringed Victor patents, O’Neill was forced to go to Columbia to buy his goods, but not before being turned out like a beggar when he visited Camden to seek a settlement. 

Into 1913, O'Neill continued to distribute Aretino instruments, including a “new hornless disc Graphophone” and a considerable catalog of double-faced records including some 12”.  He announced his intention to place 100,000 of these "Aretino" machines that year. However, by 1916, the Consolidated Talking Machine Company was listing itself as the successor to both O'Neill firms, and Arthur J. himself entered the Pathephone business. Shortly thereafter, he died, and so ended the dream of the "perfect" talking machine.

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