|Modernola talking machine|
The first talking machine was invented by Thomas A. Edison in 1877. This crude machine was hand operated and was named the Phonograph (meaning Voice-writer). To record sound the operator spoke loudly into the mouth piece. The sound waves were embossed by a stylus on a sheet of soft tin foil wrapped around a revolving cylinder. To replay the sound a second stylus was run along the groove, picking up the embossed vibrations and transmitting them to a diaphragm from which a copy of the original sound could be heard.
In 1893 a new talking machine of totally different design to the cylinder machines was put on the market. Emile Berliner had devised a machine which he called the Gramophone. Compared with the cylinder machines it was very crude, being hand cranked. It used disc records seven inches in diameter. It was however louder than the cylinder machines, and the records were cheaper and easier to store.
By the early 1920's most of the basic patents had expired, and many other companies began to produce talking machines. One such firm in Johnstown, Pennsylvania was the Modernola Talking Machine Company, which produced various versions of phonographs. One of its unique products was a floor model phonograph with a lamp; and example is featured in the exhibit. By 1922, the company had a small factory on Station Street. In addition to console and portable record players, the company also made several models of radios, such as the "Delano Sheraton."The company, however, closed in 1929, probably because few people could afford luxury items at the onset of the Depression.