The Talking Machine Forum — For All Antique Phonographs & Recordings

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 Post subject: United Phonograph
PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2018 9:34 am 
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Victor Jr
Joined: Thu Oct 04, 2018 8:24 am
Posts: 1
New to the forum and phonographs . My question is that I just recently was given a United phonograph in working condition, I have tried looking up info on it and I couldn’t find anything out. Can someone give me some history on this model ,year made, what it’s worth ? Not looking to sell it I would just love to be able to tell people all about it when they see it . Thank you for any info .


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 Post subject: Re: United Phonograph
PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2018 9:59 am 
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Victor Monarch Special
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Who is John Galt?
Joined: Wed Jan 07, 2009 6:08 pm
Posts: 5427
Location: New York's Finger Lakes
Your United phonograph falls into the category of what we collectors call "off brands" of the teens and early twenties. Starting around 1916, as many basic patents held by Victor and Columbia were expiring, enterprising businessmen were starting their own talking machine firms. Most of the time, this involved having cabinets made up by a local furniture company or cabinet maker and ordering generic motors, tone arms, and other hardware from one of the several large companies that sprang up at around the same time. These small off brand firms proliferated like weeds in the economic boom of the 1916-1921 period, but most quickly succumbed to the recession of the early 1920s. There's no way of knowing how many of these small operations existed during the period, but research conducted by R.J. Wakeman suggests there were at least 450, and probably many more that couldn't afford to advertise beyond local newspapers. Mr. Wakeman's article on "off-brand" phonographs is on the Antique Phonograph Society's website in the "Introductory" category:

http://www.antiquephono.org/brand-talki ... j-wakeman/

The good news for owners like you is that your United is undoubtedly a rare brand. In the article I referenced above, it does not appear - thus it is one of the many undocumented small brands of the era. No.388 on the list is another United, but from Newark, N.J. There were probably a number of "United" brands around the U.S. and perhaps even abroad. The fact that your Wisconsin example isn't listed in the article simply means that company didn't advertise in The Talking Machine World.

The bad news is that, among off brands, "rarity is common." There are so many of these off brands - - many undocumented - - that finding an off brand is relatively easy. (Of course, finding a particular off brand can be almost impossible!) Among collectors, there is only marginal interest in off brands unless the machine has something distinctive to offer, such as an unusually ornate or unusually-designed cabinet, unique mechanics, or a strange feature (one off brand used a real conch shell for a horn!). Your United is a nice little oak table model; cute, but undistinguished. Enjoy it!

If you are a new owner, I would highly recommend you read through the Introductory articles on the APS website (http://www.antiquephono.org/category/introductory/), particularly Basic Antique Phonograph Operational Tips and Collecting Antique Phonographs.

George P.


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 Post subject: Re: United Phonograph
PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2018 9:44 pm 
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Victor I
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Joined: Tue May 27, 2014 12:24 pm
Posts: 196
Welcome to the hobby, and congratulations on coming into what appears to be a good, solid tabletop machine. Even if "off brand," such are nice because you can just enjoy playing them--in short, having fun.

I wanted to add just a few words. First, it looks to me as if the reproducer (that is, the round "sound box" that holds the needle and has the vibrating diaphragm) may be secured with a set screw that would let it rotate 90 degrees, so the clear diaphragm is facing forward instead of sideways. Is that right? If so, the machine can play regular "lateral cut" and also "vertical cut" records. (Not wishing to toot my own horn, but I've written an article about the difference, available here: https://www.tnt-audio.com/vintage/mono-a-mono_e.html)

Second, you may encounter United label records, which have a large spindle hole like (but, I think, a bit smaller than) that of a 45 RPM disk. These were the product of an earlier United company, a purveyor of what are sometimes known as "scheme" machines. It built none itself but rather obtained them from what today we would call an "original equipment manufacturer" or "OEM," probably Columbia, which made something of a specialty of supplying such things to other companies. Often they were assembled from parts the mfr. had on hand for discontinued models. These United (or whoever) would give away or sell at a very low price. Each machine was fitted with an oversized spindle, meaning it could play only records supplied by the seller (here, United), because other makers' records' spindle holes were too small and wouldn't fit. The records, too, would ordinarily be back catalogue numbers sourced from one of the major companies, again usually Columbia. Occasionally you'll come across a major label record with the spindle hole crudely broken out to a bigger size; I'm sure these were once owned by "scheme machine" owners who were trying to get more recorded variety! Other makers that followed the same "give 'em the razor, sell 'em the blades" approach included Standard (ca. ½" hole) and Aretino (2? 3? inch hole; in all events, huge, surrounded by a band of paper maybe ½" wide). Busy Bee took a somewhat different approach; instead of an oversized spindle, it put a stud farther out on the platter that engaged a socket on the underside of the (single-sided) record; again, other brands wouldn't fit the platter because that bump would keep them from seating on it.

Third and finally, in case nobody's told you yet, when playing standard 78s, at least, be sure to change your steel needle with every play. You can find lots of info about that elsewhere on the forum.

So, again, congrats on your new acquisition and welcome to the fun!


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