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Symphonion - Cole's Book Arcade, circa 1889 Object Reg. No: ST 018124

Summary:
Alternative Names: Polyphon, Great German Music Box

Clockwork mechanical musical box for playing 25 1/4 inch (641 mm) diameter perforated metal discs. This type of instrument was developed by Paul Lochman of Leipzig, Germany, in 1885, and may be regarded as a forerunner of the juke-box. The symphonion and other mechanical music boxes were very popular in Europe and North America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

This symphonion was ordered from the Symphonion Company, Germany around 1889, by Charles Bassett, head of the Music Department at Cole's Book Arcade on Little Collins Street, Melbourne. It was originally set up to play once when a penny was dropped into the slot. This activated a clockwork mechanism that rotated a thin 641mm diameter metal disc with small projections on its surface. The projections plucked the teeth of a metal comb, causing music to play. It was modified in the late 1960s for decimal currency with A 240 v electric motor drive. It has now been restored to run by clockwork, and is still in operational condition.

Cole's Book Arcade closed in 1929, and the symphonion was acquired by Museum Victoria shortly afterwards.
Description:
Symphonion in tall oak and walnut case with carved and turned ornamentation. Pair of doors on front. Upper door has glass pane, through which is visible a thin perforated 64cm diameter metal disc. Lower door is a cupboard that tilts forward to provide storage for extra discs. It is opened with a metal handle. Carved pillars feature on either side of upper and lower doors. The top of the symphonion case is decorated with rails held by pieces of turned wood.

The clockwork mechanism is wound with an external handle inserted into the right side of the case. A slot allows the user to insert a coin to activate the mechanism. Originally one penny was used. The mechanism turns the disc, causing its perforations to pluck against a metal comb, creating music.
Discipline: Technology
Dimensions: 215 cm (Height), 83.4 cm (Width)
Dimension Comment: Discs: 62.75 cm

More information

Tagged with: advertising, booksellers, mechanical musical instruments, music boxes, musical instruments, retailing
Themes this item is part of: Edward William Cole, Bookseller (1832-1918), Cole's Book Arcade Collection, Leisure Collection, Domestic & Community Life Collection, Information & Communication Collection
Primary Classification: MUSIC & MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS
Secondary Classification: Playback Devices - Mechanical
Tertiary Classification: perforated disk players
Inscriptions: Painted in gold near top of case: 'SYMPHONION'
Maker: Symphonion Company, Germany, circa 1889
Inventor: Mr Paul Lochman, Germany, 1885

Inventor Paul Lochman is credited with inventing the symphonion but it is not entirely clear whether he manufactured this instrument. There are no obvious maker's markings on the instrument.
Date Purchased: Cole's Book Arcade, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, circa 1889

This symphonion was ordered from the Symphonion Company, Germany around 1889, by Charles Bassett, head of the Music Department at Cole's Book Arcade on Little Collins Street, Melbourne.
Place & Date Used: Cole's Book Arcade, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, circa 1889-1920s
References: THE PROVENANCE OF THIS OBJECT IS RECORDED IN "COLE OF THE BOOK ARCADE - A BIOGRAPHY OF E.W. COLE", BY COLE TURNLEY.

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