The Columbia “Type B” Graphophone – commonly called the 'Eagle' – was first
sold in September 1897 as an inexpensive yet solidly-built machine for the mass market.
Priced at $10 for the bare-bones machine as seen here, or $12 with a wooden base and curved oak
lid, it was a rare bargain. At the time, Edison's least expensive phonograph was the Home at $40, while Columbia's next-least expensive was the Type A at $25. Not surprisingly, the Eagle was a major hit. (The name refers to the common nickname for a $10 gold coin of the era.) Although it was manufactured up to about 1907, Columbia ceased promoting it in 1902. Thereafter it was sold primarily through Sears Roebuck catalogs. (Uncased machines were discontinued in 1899.)
On uncased machines the serial number was stamped on the belt cover, while cased machines had the number embossed into a patent plate on the wooden base. The earliest examples, like this, have rudimentary information stamped on the cover—simply "Type B," the serial number, and "AmGraphCo." This minimal marking was soon replaced with more elaborate stampings including patent dates. Serial numbers started at 80,000. This machine is number 80776, making it the 776th "Eagle" produced, out of a total of around 250,000.
The Eagle remains very popular among collectors today—the totally exposed gears and governor make it a lot of fun to watch, and despite its rather weak key-wound motor it is capable of playing well. Because so many still survive, it is a common machine that deserves a place in every collection.
(The Eagle was also briefly available in 1898 in a special “Nickeled and Polished” version.)
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