Come show your horn. The evolution of the horn on the cylinder phonograph: a concise chronology

April 2002
This article is part of the Noteworthy News archives.

Tin foil horns


Date: from 1877

an illustration of Edison's 1878 tinfoil machine
News of Edison's tinfoil machine was illustrated in the New York Graphic of 1878.

Tin foil horns were typically plain rolled metal. A few looked like crude stovepipes, with no taper. The horn on the Brady machine suggested a telephone mouthpiece.

Listening tubes

Date: obsolete by 1894

Edison phonograph with listening tubes
An octopus of listening tubes appears to engulph this Graphophone.(Courtesy Allen Koenigsberg)

Listening tubes were necessary because of the faint volume of early brown wax records.

The tubes were made of rubber, with gutta percha earpieces. Deluxe models were sold with glass earpieces, or telegraphic headphones.

Coin-operated machines equipped with listening rails could accomodate as many as fourteen customers. Linen napkins were supplied for cleanliness.

Belled horns

Date: around 1897-1906

brass bell phonograph horn
Brass bell horn with optional flowers is attributed to Standard Metal Manufacturing.

By 1897 manufacturers had begun to smooth out the horns and to apply a beaded bell.

Belled or “trumpet” horns were made by companies such as Standard Metal Manufacturing, the New Jersey Sheet Metal Company, and Hawthorne and Sheble, which wrapped some of its horns in silk beginning 1905.

Seamless or “sawtooth” horns were higher end merchandise, usually made of a heavier and better grade of brass.

Glass horns

Date: around 1898-1901

glass phonograph horn
Quality reproductions of glass horns were offered at the September automated music show.

Always of continental origin, fluted glass horns made in Paris were advertised in the Dec. 1899 Phonoscope.

Petalled horns

Date: beginning 1905

Ajax phonograph horn
Unidentified gentleman demonstrates the strength of Standard Metal's Ajax horn for the readers of Talking Machine World in 1906.

The basic design was probably invented by Hawthorne and Sheble’s Horace Sheble, who applied for a patent of a petalled horn in January, 1905.

Petalled horns, referred to in the trade as “flower horns” or “morning glory horns,” offered lower cost of manufacture than spun brass, and distributed the sound better for the size. Concave and convex scallops were seen.

Major manufacturers included Hawthorne and Sheble, Standard Metal Manufacturing, the Tea Tray Company, and the Searchlight Company, father of a ribbed horn “constructed on the scientific principle of a searchlight reflector.”

The patent for the familiar Edison morning glory horn was issued to Charles Eichorn in 1905, who sold the rights to the Tea Tray Company of Newark, New Jersey, a long established metal working concern. The Tea Tray Company manufactured Edison’s horns, as well as its own line of aftermarket amplifiers.

Wooden horns

Date: beginning 1907

wooden phonograph horn
First wooden horn on the market, the TrueTone horn was touted as rattle and vibration free.

Wooden horns and wood-grained metal horns of mahogany, golden and flemish oak were introduced in 1907.

The Truetone horn, a petalled wooden horn, was advertised for sale in 1907 for $7.50 with a 23 inch bell. The horn was employed on some Columbia models.

The seamless wooden horn found on most Edisons and Victors was patented by Stanislaus Moss in April 1908. The horns were constructed for the industry by Sheip and Vandergrift, cabinetmakers in Philadelphia long associated with the trade. A minimum order of 500 horns was required.

Vertical horns

Date: beginning 1907

vertical phonograph horn
As on Edison's Cygnet, the bell could be separated from the elbow of Devineau's Ideal.

Vertical horns saved space and interpreted with acoustic superiority, although their fidelity was probably fortuitous and not a result of scientific research.

Edison’s Opera horn of 1911 and his Cygnet horn of 1909 were probably influenced by the all-aluminum self-supporting Devineau of 1907. The Cygnet (swan shaped) design was patented in 1908 by Peter Weber, one of Edison’s in-house inventors.

Copyright 2015 Lynn Bilton

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330 325-7866

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