This extraordinarily ornate phonograph is one of the most unusual models offered
by Columbia, enhanced by a very rare Bettini attachment. In the two or three years
following the introduction of the extravagant and expensive Graphophone Grand in
late 1898, Columbia offered smaller and more reasonably priced machines to play the
huge 5" diameter 'Grand' or 'Concert' cylinders. The "Home Grand Graphophone"
was only a slight step down from the Graphophone Grand, featuring a
powerful six-spring motor in a large, heavy, and elaborately carved cabinet. It was
one of the most decorative phonographs ever made. The fancy and short-lived Home
Grand cabinet was reused for the ultra-rare AD model of late 1901-1902. Unlike the
earlier Grand Graphophones which could only play the very bulky, expensive, and fragile
5" cylinders, the AD has a slip-on large mandrel over a conventional 2"
mandrel. (This concept was soon thereafter adapted to the small and underpowered
Type AB.) The AD is a visually stunning machine with a richly carved
cabinet and heavily nickeled topworks. The Type AD came late in the very short lifespan
of the 'Grand' Graphophones and very few of this luxurious model were sold.
This example is fitted with an extremely rare "Type Nf" Bettini attachment. Lt. Gianni Bettini was an Italian military officer who married into American high society in New York. He befriended many of the greatest luminaries of the opera world, and invented unique recording and reproducing devices which could be attached to any Edison or Columbia phonograph. These were considered state-of-the-art for the time, as were his exceptional recordings (which were priced at up to $6 per record, at a time when Edison sold cylinders for 50 cents). Bettini attachments for Columbia Graphophones are much rarer than those for Edison phonographs, and the Nf attachment is the rarest of all, exclusively made to fit 'Grand' Graphophones with 5" mandrels.
The Bettini reproducer featured a multi-legged 'spider' stylus holder meant to distribute sound waves over the diaphragm. In reality this did little or nothing to improve the sound, however the very large aluminum diaphragm gave much stronger volume and clarity than the small mica or glass diaphragms found in Edison or Columbia reproducers of that era.
(RETURN TO MAIN PHONOGRAPH PAGE)