Made by Pathé Freres for the Parisian firm of J. Girard & Cie., this was
the third and last in a series of Menestrel phonographs. The earliest Menestrel of
1900 was a Pathé Gaulois but without
the usual name and trademark on the front or back. It was blatantly based upon the
Edison Gem, but in 1902 a new Menestrel was introduced in an extremely ornate all-metal
case. Despite the case being much larger and fancier that the very plain Gem/Gaulois
design, the motor remained the same: a single open-spring Gem-style mechanism with
key-wind and little power.
Both the first and second styles were painted dark blue and played only standard-size cylinders. At the end of 1902 Girard introduced this combination Menestrel with a slip-on mandrel which allows it to play 3" diameter 'Salon' or 'Inter' cylinders in addition to conventional 2" records. Painted in a rich green color with gold highlights, it was one of the most ornate phonographs ever produced. Unlike the typical phonographs of the era which had wooden lids, the extremely fancy cover is made of painted and gilded metal.
Girard & Cie. was an early pioneer in 'credit sales'. Consumers in France as well as in the US were accustomed to paying cash in full for any purchases. Buying on credit was a revolutionary concept which made it easier for consumers to buy luxuries they could not otherwise afford. This Menestrel retailed for 147F -- equivalent to about $750 in today's dollars -- complete with 25 records, comprising standard and Salon cylinders, and five blanks. On the installment plan it cost the buyer a mere 7 Francs a month -- but monthly payments ran for close to two years. However there was no interest accrued so it was a tempting deal.
Original ad from the May 13, 1903 edition of "La Vie Populaire". (Thanks to Julien Anton for this rare bit of ephemera.)
The slip-on mandrel for 3" "Salon" cylinders can be removed to reveal the normal 2" mandrel. The reproducer/horn bracket can be adjusted down to match the level of the cylinder. This dual-mandrel system is similar to the Columbia AB, which uses 2" and 5" Grand mandrels.
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