The Manhattan Phonograph Company of New York produced this unusual coin-operated phonograph around 1901 using the mechanism of the early Edison 'Suitcase' Standard. Cased in a large oak cabinet with graceful metal 'Queen Anne' style legs, several of these machines were reportedly installed in ferry terminals in the New York area to entertain bored travellers. Such machines would also typically be found in saloons and hotel lobbies, offering a single selection for a penny. As indicated on the porcelain instruction sign, the customer would supply the power by cranking the phonograph, then insert a coin to start the motor. An extremely ingenious coin mechanism prevented the unscrupulous use of 'slugs.' The penny rolls down a ramp in the upper right, then flies through the air until it is caught by a brass cup at the lower left. A simple magnet mounted at the base of the chute provided just enough attraction to deflect steel slugs and cause them to drop short. Although it was designed for practicality, this coin system offers unique visual appeal as the coin soars through the air on its way into the cup! This is one of the rarest of all coin-operated Edison phonographs, and certainly one of the most visually attractive.
The peculiar coin system can be seen in this photograph. Note the gap between the coin chute and the brass cup into which the penny flies. The magnet attracts steel slugs. This rudimentary form of 'slug rejector' is crude but very effective. The string-activated return mechanism can also be seen at the far left.
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