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Antique Phonograph News
Canadian Antique Phonograph Society


May-Jun 2003

Jan-Feb Mar-Apr May-Jun Jul-Aug Sep-Oct Nov-Dec
The Early Bettini Prototype Machines
by Robert Feinstein

Gianni Bettini is considered one of the premier innovators of the early talking machine industry. Justly famous for his "spider" diaphragms patented in 1889 which distributed the sound wave vibrations over a wider area of the membrane surface through multiple connecting points, Bettini also constructed prototype talking machines which he called "Micro-graphophones". An illustrated article in The Electrical World of April 26, 1890 entitled "The Micro-Graphophone" referred to Bettini's work as "An ingenious modification ... that gives remarkable results in reproducing the human voice." Bettini himself in 1890 produced a pamphlet entitled "Apercu sur le Micro-graphophone" in which he wrote about his experiments. His machines were primarily battery powered, rather than spring wound or driven by hand, but the illustration of Prototype No 1 shows that he mounted at least one of his mechanisms on a treadle sewing machine.

In an article beginning on page 4 Bettini expert Robert Feinstein explores the early prototypes created by this pioneering entrepreneur.


Book Review: The Fabulous Victrola "45"
by Keith Wright

"I must say I was actually annoyed by [this book] at first."

"Don't get me wrong. This book is an invaluable guide. It is a history book, an identification guide, a price guide, a resource manual and an all round exhaustive resource illuminating a short chapter (1949 to death-by-fire in 1958) in the history of musical reproduction.... 'Fabulous' also includes a separate in-depth history of the development of the 45 at RCA written by Alexander Magoun. There are also hundreds of colour pictures showing "45" models produced by RCA and other licensed manufacturers."

"So what's my problem? It's just...that...well...I thought this was the book I was going to write!"

At The Auction
by Mark Caruana

The best item I found over the last two months was a Columbia Perfected Graphophone Type G (Baby Grand) made in 1894/1895 in near perfect condition with a fantastic decal. This is the first phonograph made specifically for home use and is also the first graphophone made by the Columbia Phonograph Company. Obviously a very historic piece, bidding ended at $17,550.00 U.S. which unfortunately was short its reserve.

The best buy I found was a collection of four early Columbia brown wax records from 1886 which were manufactured for the Columbia Toy Graphophone disc machine. These records measure a little under 3 1/2 inches in diameter and two of them have the company name and information embossed on the back. The best part was that the records came with their original box. Selling for $1,800.00 with only one bidder I was quite surprised as I assumed that something this early and rare should go for more, especially since the lot included an exceptionally rare box.

In the area of the unusual, an unlabelled cylinder shaver which had been listed in Bettini's American catalogue and is generally considered a Bettini shaver failed to reach its reserve with the bidding reaching $383.00 after 15 bids. In contrast some were willing to bid with abandon on a Pathé Inter size French cylinder recorded by Coquelin Aîné entitled Cyrano de Bergerac. Final price: $810.00.


  

The Elusive Gus Hill
by Arthur E. Zimmerman

The Canadian ballad singer Gus Hill's only claim to fame is that he was perhaps the first "live" vocalist on Canadian radio, on the Montreal Marconi station XWA (later CFCF) in 1919 or 1920. He was accompanied in that broadcast by the legendary pianist of the Strand Theatre, Willie Eckstein. In 1923 Hill turned up on the secondary vaudeville bill at the Pantages Theatre in Toronto and was also found to be working at the Canadian (Toronto) branch of the sheet music publisher Leo Feist, Ltd. until 1926. He also recorded four acoustic sides for Herbert Berliner (Apex 566: "Mickey O'Neil" and "When Frances Dances With Me"; Apex 609: "I Was Married Up in the Air" and "Radi-adi-O") and one for Berliner's HMV black label (216242B: "Grieving for You") with the Harry Thomas Trio. Might's Toronto Directory and assessment rolls show that Hill was resident in Toronto until 1946 and there the trail ends.

The article "represents work in progress....I am not certain what his real name was. I do not know when and where he was born, what he did for a living after 1926, whether he continued singing after his employment at Feist ended, and when and where he died".