This is a one-of-a kind example of a cheap Graphophone in a homemade case made for use in public exhibitions. Although the lowly "Eagle" Graphophone was a much cheaper and more basic machine than those normally used for exhibitions, at least one company promoted them for the purpose -- Sears Roebuck & Co. In the late 1890s the Sears catalog pushed the Eagle "at a price which brings them into the easy
reach of those of small means, who wish to give public exhibitions. ... You can make
$5 to $25 every evening by giving public exhibitions ... by using hearing tubes and
charging 5 cents for each individual."
The Type B "Eagle" was sold starting in September 1897 at $10 uncased or $12 with the rounded lid as typically found. This is an example of the uncased style, with the serial number stamped onto the belt cover. The owner mounted the machine to a simple oak board and fitted into a very crude homemade case made of rough pine, carefully painted to simulate expensive burled wood. The Graphophone is securely nestled inside, with holes in the base fitting over metal posts inside the case. An extra-long winding key and speed control extend through the left side, making it very convenient to carry about and operate. It was likely used by a small-town exhibitor to cadge nickels from customers in saloons and general stores. This was an era when many people, especially in small towns, had never heard a "talking machine"!
Curiously, the box has a Sears Roebuck address label glued on the top. This was deliberately added to the machine, applied after the case was painted with faux grain. The label was then varnished for protection. I suspect that the original owner fabricated the carrying case using wood from the original shipping crate in which Sears packed the Graphophone (and presumably records), and cut the return address from the invoice to use as a brand label. Perhaps the intention was to imply to viewers that it was a professional machine made by Sears rather than a homemade concoction.
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