The extreme rarity of original tinfoil phonographs makes it difficult for collectors to enjoy examples of these historic machines. However, high quality replica phonographs have been made over the years, bringing otherwise unobtainable machines into the reach of those who are intrigued by the astonishingly simple yet effective technology found in these relics of 1877-1880.
By late 1878 public interest in exhibitions of tinfoil phonographs was declining rapidly as the novelty wore off. The Edison Speaking Phonograph Company went back to its earlier idea of marketing small phonographs directly to the public (see the Hardy phonograph). A completely new design was created, and by February 1879 the first of these "Parlor Model" phonographs reached the market, made by Sigmund Bergmann and priced at $15.
The design was simple but these were well-made machines which worked effectively. However the recorder was mounted horizontally over the top of the mandrel, which made the machine slightly awkward to use. Sales were very slow and only 40 were documented as being sold by November 1879.
The Edison Speaking Phonograph Company then turned to a different manufacturer, Brehmer Bros. of Philadelphia, to make a less expensive and improved version with the recorder angled over the side to make it easier to use. (See my original Brehmer Parlor Model for more information.)
This replica was made in 2003 by Bill Ptacek. Bill intended to produce a limited edition of 12 Parlor Models, but unfortunately he was only able to complete five before he was killed in a tragic accident in 2004.
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