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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • CARNAVAL EN LA HABANA, 1941

Santa Claus Time: 1921

Santa Claus Time: 1921

Washington, D.C., circa 1921. "McHugh & Lawson window." This holiday season, the high-tech must-haves are "talking machines" and player pianos. Nestled on snow of cotton batting, a display of phonograph records and player-piano rolls. "Santa Claus Time" is, the placard says, "A Descriptive Word Roll of Christmas for Young and Old." National Photo Co. Collection glass negative. View full size.

 

Vocalion 78s

I've got several dozen of those 20s era Vocalion 78s in my collection, including the original version of "Man of Constant Sorrow" by Emry Arthur. They've all held up quite well over the years and sound incredible considering they're almost 100 years old now.

Truth in Advertising

The sign says QRS player rolls are better. I have about sixty or so of them - many from around this time and some newer - but the QRS rolls still play like a charm.

Aeolian Model H

The phonograph in the window display is an Aeolian Vocalion Model H, which sold for $150 at the time. Aeolian was a piano manufacturer that entered the phonograph market in 1915 upon the expiration of the Victor Talking Machine patents.

The Aeolian-Vocalion phonograph (don't call it a Victrola, or the trademark police will be after you) was well made and had interesting features including a cable-operated remote control for the volume, but the brand never became very popular. This was a little surprising considering Aeolian's success with its Pianola player piano and pipe organs.

It is interesting that this shop is selling the Aeolian-Vocalion phonograph and Vocalion records (in the snow drift), but does not appear to sell Aeolian pianos according to the sign on the window. The card partially visible to the left of the phonograph appears to be describing the latest "Edison Records", so the shop dealt in the products from many manufacturers.

Crank 'er up!

My brother bought one of those Victrolas for $10 in 1968 and sold it for $100 in 1978. It came with a full rack of records, including "Oh, Dem Golden Slippers," "Roamin' in the Gloaming" and several from a vocalist whose name I misheard as "Al McGluck".

I could never figure out why his voice was so high.

 
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