M970.103.1-6 | Phonograph
Edison Phonograph Co.
1900-1905, 20th century
Wood; paint; metal
28 x 21 x 77.5 cm
Gift of John L. Russell Reg'd
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Phonograph (2)
Keys to History
This cylinder phonograph was manufactured by the Edison Phonograph Company between 1900 and 1905. The floral motifs painted on the horn are characteristic of the Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts movements, which influenced the decoration of domestic furniture and interiors.
In the 1890s, many inventors took an interest in sound recording technology, and there were a few legal disputes over patents. Intense commercial competition followed, with each company wanting to grab its share of the rapidly expanding record market. Manufacturers increased the variety of musical recordings and were forced to produce less expensive machines that middle-class families could afford.
The first phonographs, which worked using cardboard or plastic cylinders covered with a thin layer of wax, were supplanted at the beginning of the 20th century by gramophones or turntables, which were easier and more economical to mass-produce.
With many different shapes, the horns of phonographs were made of a variety of materials. Some, like this one, were decorated with hand-painted motifs.
At the beginning of the 20th century, people who could not afford to buy themselves a phonograph would go listen to music at the homes of their wealthier neighbours or visit businesses that owned machines.
The cylinder phonograph was a success in Quebec for about fifty years, reaching the height of its popularity between 1900 and 1910.
The phonograph, the first sound recording reproduction device, was invented in 1877 by Thomas Edison (1847-1931).