COLUMBIA GRAPHOPHONE TYPE A
With Bacigalupi Dealer Badge
The Columbia Type A Graphophone was released in late 1896 as the successor to the earlier Type G and
Type N, but at the far more affordable price of $25. That was still a fairly large sum at the time, but
substantially cheaper than its predecessors, or competitors. The Columbia Type A would become a very popular machine over the next year or so.
This particular Type A is distinguished by a very rare and early nickel-plated brass dealer's tag from the famous San Francisco dealer, Peter Bacigalupi, who entered the phonograph business in 1894. In the mid- to late 1890s Bacigalupi sold both Edison and Columbia machines, but by 1900 he dropped Columbia products and no reference to Graphophones would appear in Bacigalupi's advertising again.
Only two or three machines are known with the brass dealer tag. By around mid-1898 Bacigalupi had switched to less expensive decals to mark machines he sold. (The earliest decals reference both Phonographs and Graphophones, but the latter reference was discontinued when he stopped carrying Columbia machines -- see the Edison Standard with
Polyphone Attachment for an example of a later Bacigalupi decal.)
This Type A Graphophone carries Bacigalupi's 946 Market Street address, in the Baldwin Building in San Francisco. This building was destroyed by a fire on November 23, 1898, after which Bacigalupi moved his store to 933 Market Street (until that too was leveled,
in the 1906 earthquake and fire).
At its introduction in late 1896 the Type A Graphophone was sold with a gutta percha reproducer, but that was was replaced by an aluminum reproducer in mid-1897. Based on the serial number and other details, this machine can be confidently dated to late summer or early autumn 1897.
One fascinating detail about this machine is that it was discovered in an estate sale, complete with large 'exhibition' brass horn with unusual bell, and the very decorative record cabinet which is filled with brown wax cylinders of the 1890s. The horn appears to be the handiwork of a skilled craftsman rather than one of the factories that made most phonograph horns. It may well have been made for Bacigalupi by a local metal worker. Given that this has never passed through collector hands before, it's safe to assume that this is exactly how the original owner acquired it from Peter Bacigalupi over 125 years ago. It is a remarkable time capsule from the 1890s.
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