1913 Victrola Talking Machine/Phonograph

Posting ID : B1007456709
Date Posted : 2012-02-05
Category : Antiques

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This 1913 Victrola Talking Machine/Phonograph is in good used condition and is functioning well. In order to start it, you have to wind it up, it is all original. It was originally bought in Denver and has been in the family since.
Manufactured 1913 in Camden, New Jersey by the Victor Victrola Talking Machine Company. Style VV-X and Serial number 68060 H. Another peice of important infomation in identifying a Victrola is the license notice sticker -- this is dated August 1st, 1913
Cabinet is in good condition with minor blemishes or scratches. All the knobs for the doors and hinges are intact. 44" high, 20" wide, 23"deep.
History of the Victor Phonograph
The foundation of the Victor Talking Machine Company goes back to the late 1880's, when a creative entrepreneur named Emile Berliner invented the mass-producible flat phonograph record. Edison had invented the cylinder phonograph in 1877, but there was no practical way to mass-duplicate cylinders at that time. The flat disc design allowed copies to be made in the manner of a printing press. The story is complicated, but Berliner asked Eldridge Johnson, the owner of a small machine shop in Camden, New Jersey, to assist him in developing and manufacturing a low-cost spring wound motor for his disc phonograph. Following a complex series of patent infringements, legal wrangling and lawsuits, Berliner was severely restricted form selling his products in the USA, and subsequently moved to Canada. After the dust cleared and following some legal reorganization, The Victor Talking Machine Company was officially founded by Johnson in 1901. It quickly became a major player in the rapidly growing phonograph market. form his experiences with Berliner, Johnson had already learned a great deal about the emerging home entertainment market.
Johnson (and his growing staff) made several improvements to the phonograph in those early years, including a tapered tonearm, improved soundboxes and quieter, more stable running spring motors. The phonograph market grew significantly, and due to a creative and well-funded advertising campaign, Victor's sales steadily increased. Johnson cleverly arranged to have renown opera stars and musicians endorse his products, wich spurred additional sales at an advertising cost of almost 50% of the company's total profit. However, increased competition form other manufacturers and ongoing objections to the huge and ungainly phonograph horns limited Victor's market. At that time, all manufacturers used a large external horn to "amplify" the playback sound. While this system worked quite effectively, the stark horn tended to dominate the average parlor, and many people felt that it created an unsightly appearence. To make matters worse, the horn was prone to being bumped or damaged (picture at left). In addition, Victor's profits were continually threatened due to the the massive numbers of lawsuits filed by competitors, wich became a constant battle in the phonograph buisness during the first decade of the 20th Century. Victor won most suits and was able to survive (in no small part due to some very expensive legal representation). Sustaining a strong profit through the fierce competition and legal turmoil was certainly a challenge though, as most phonographs were essentially similar in appearence and function. Around 1905, Victor began to experiment with a novel idea to make the phonograph more acceptable and convenient. The horn was folded downward into a large floor standing cabinet, so that the horn opening was below the turntable. Two doors were used to cover the opening. This concept had an added advantage in that the doors acted as a crude but effective "volume control"; when they were open, the sound was loud, when they were closed, the volume was reduced.
This idea was quickly patented, and the copyrighted name "Victrola" was given to this new invention. The term Victrola thus applies ONLY to internal horn phonographs made by the Victor Talking Machine Company, and is not a generic term for all old phonographs. The first internal horn phonograph, initially designated as The Victor-Victrola, was marketed in 1906. Since Victor did not have sufficient manufacturing facilities to produce the large cabinet, the Pooley Furniture Company of Philadelphia was contracted as a cabinet supplier. The machine was intended for sale for wealthy customers, as the initial sale price was a lofty $200 (the most expensive Victor with an external horn sold for half that price). In spite of the cost, the machine sold briskly, and Victor knew it had an immediate success on its hands.
The original flat-top Victrola design had several deficiencies, the most problematic being the need for the user to awkwardly "reach way down" into the deep cabinet opening in order to change a record or lift the needle (picture at right). In less than a year, this was resolved through the use of a domed lid, wich allowed the turntable and tone arm to sit nearly flush on top of the cabinet. Only several thousand flat-top Pooley Victrolas were produced, making them highly sought-after by collectors today.
The earliest Victrolas were designated by a "VTLA" (an abbreviation for Victrola) identification on the dataplate, although they were soon marketed as "Victrola the Sixteenth" or VV-XVI. Victor also experimented with marketing a more deluxe model, designated "Victrola the Twentieth" (VV-XX), wich sold for $300, with gold plated trim on the cabinet. Only a few hundred of these models were produced before being discontinued due to the high cost. Production of the XVI model ramped-up quickly, and the VTLA identification was superceded by "VV-XVI" on the dataplate in early 1908. At about the same time Victor rapidly expanded its cabinet manufacturing operations, and the services of Pooley were no longer required. Victor added different finish choices, including oak, walnut, and even custom painted versions.
By the middle of 1909, Johnson knew he had a huge hit on his hands; approximately 15,000 Victrolas had already been sold, and Johnson decided to capitalize on his success by introducing a lower priced model. Thus, in 1909, the tabletop Victrola XII was introduced, selling for $125. This first attempt to make a low-price compact Victrola was not succesful, as the horn opening was too small for adequate volume in a large room. In 1910, two new tabletop models replaced the XII, the Victrola X ($75.00) and Victrola XI ($100.00). These tabletop models had much better performance than the XII, and began to sell quite well, even though the price was still prohibitive for many Americans. A smaller version of the VV-XVI was also introduced, named Victrola the Fourteenth or VV-XIV ($150.00) (picture at left).
In 1911, with an eye on the average family's budget, Victor introduced several new low-priced models, the VV-IV, VV-VI, VV-VIII and VV-IX, with prices ranging form a remarkable $15.00 up to $50.00. Shortly thereafter, the VV-X and VV-XI were converted form tabletop models to low priced floor models.
The new low priced machines were a smashing success, and Victrola production rose form several thousand per year in 1906, to approximately 250,000 per year by 1913. While the Victrola model lineup remained relatively unchanged through World War I, several deluxe models were introduced in the mid-to-late 'teens, including the VV-XVIII ($300.00) and the VV-XVII ($250.00). By 1917, Victor was making well over a half million Victrolas per year. These machines are highly desirable today.
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