The "Biophone" was a singularly unusual attachment invented in 1906
by Louis Devineau of Cleveland, Ohio. Devineau received six patents for phonograph
improvements between 1903 and 1908, of which this was his most prominent. The Biophone
was designed to adapt cylinder phonographs to play disc records. The cylinder mandrel
drives a fairly heavy spoked turntable with weights at the edges, which act as a
flywheel to help steady the speed. A tonearm and soundbox attach to the cylinder
reproducer. The Biophone attachment illustrated here is mounted to an Edison Model
B Standard, with a nickel-plated petal horn with multi-color translucent decoration.
Despite its supposed versatility the Biophone was a failure in the marketplace. Aside from the fact that it was awkward in both appearance and operation, the $15 price tag was a formidable obstacle -- a complete (and superior) disc talking machine such as the Columbia AK could be purchased at the same price. This is the only Biophone known to exist today. (A Biophone can be seen in the 1964 movie "My Fair Lady." It is not known whether the example pictured here, which was discovered in southern California in the late 1990s, is the same one used in the movie or if there may be yet another Biophone hidden in a back room of a studio prop department in Los Angeles.)
Radiantly lovely Audrey Hepburn co-stars with the Devineau Biophone in "My Fair Lady" in 1964. The phonograph is shown from the rear, fitted with a small horn.
The Biophone attachment in closeup. The contemporary ad on the left appeared in "Talking Machine World" on October 15, 1907.
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