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Gramophones

In 1887, Emile Berliner, a German immigrant working in Washington D.C., patented a sound-recording system that could be mass produced. Prior to this date, sound had been recorded on cylinders and mass production was virtually impossible. Berliner developed a way to record sound on flat discs, or records, which could be easily mass produced. This device is known as the gramophone.

A gramophone consists of a turntable that holds the record, an arm with a needle that moves through the grooves of the record, and speakers that translate the sound vibrations transmitted from the needle. Berliner founded The Gramophone Company to mass produce his invention and began promoting it by persuading famous musical artists to record their music using his system. Berliner's partner, Elridge Johnson, patented a spring motor for the gramophone that made the turntable revolve at an even speed and eliminated the need for hand cranking.

Berliner eventually sold the licensing rights to his record-making system and the gramophone to the Victor Talking Machine Company, now known as RCA. Victor successfully marketed the gramophone in the United States. Berliner went on to found gramophone companies in Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom.


Quick Facts

  • Berliner used a 1908 painting by Francis Barraud "His Master's Voice," as the trademark for his company. The painting depicted a small dog named Nipper listening to a gramophone. The trademark rights were sold to Victor when Berliner sold rights to the gramophone. It is now one of the most famous trademarks in the world
  • The first gramophones were horn gramophones, using the horn speaker similar to early phonographs. Around World War I, the portable gramophone was produced and was used widely from 1920 to 1955. Portable gramophones were called picnic gramophones because they could be taken on family outings
  • In 2012, an unusual German triple-horn gramophone sold at auction in Cologne, Germany for $6,150

Recommended Items at Auction

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REUGE, Polyphone en bois de placage
Dec 06, 2:00 PM CET
REUGE, Polyphone en bois de placage
by Dogny Auction
Est: CHF2,500- CHF3,500
CHF2,4000 Bids
Orchorsol branded black box type gramophone
Dec 10, 10:00 AM GMT
Orchorsol branded black box type gramophone
by Potteries Auctions
Est: £20- £40
£200 Bids
His Master's Voice 1920s Gramophone
Dec 10, 11:00 AM GMT
His Master's Voice 1920s Gramophone
by Cooper Barrington LLP
Est: £30- £40
£140 Bids
Funnel gramophone, Victor Talking Machine, around 1910
Dec 28, 11:00 AM CET
Funnel gramophone, Victor Talking Machine, around 1910
by Henry's Auktionshaus
Est: €250- €500
€2400 Bids
PORTABLE GRAMOPHONE VICTOR TALKING MACHINE CO. VV-50 4060
Dec 09, 4:00 PM WET
PORTABLE GRAMOPHONE VICTOR TALKING MACHINE CO. VV-50 4060
by Corte Real, Leiloeira
Est: €200- €400
€2000 Bids
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VINTAGE REPLICA GRAMOPHONE PLAYER 78 RPM PHONOGRAPH BRASS HORN HMV
Dec 06, 5:00 PM EST
VINTAGE REPLICA GRAMOPHONE PLAYER 78 RPM PHONOGRAPH BRASS HORN HMV
by Activity Auctions
Est: $400- $600
$1500 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Gramophones


Potteries Auctions

Potteries Auctions

Cooper Barrington LLP

Cooper Barrington LLP

Henry's Auktionshaus

Henry's Auktionshaus

Corte Real, Leiloeira

Corte Real, Leiloeira