Nickel-Plated EDISON HOME in Hawthorne & Sheble Cabinet

Like the Model T cars made by his close friend Henry Ford, Thomas Edison's phonographs were finished in black, at least for most of the metalwork. Edison's rival, the Columbia Phonograph Company, made a vast array of machines with bright nickel plating, but Edison only offered this elegant finish on special order—at significantly higher cost. Nickel plating the bedplate and top works of the ever-popular Edison Home cost $25, in addition to the $30 base price of the machine. Not surprisingly, very few customers chose to nearly double the cost of a phonograph just for some shiny metal, and nickel-plated Homes, Standards, and Triumphs are rare today as a result. (Those who had the money to want an elegant machine usually opted for a more expensive phonograph at the outset.)

This high-end example of the Edison Home is mounted inside an accessory cabinet made by Hawthorne & Sheble, which sold for $18. The phonograph is protected under a glass cover, and the five drawers hold a total of 100 cylinders. The nickel-plated mechanism harmonizes elegantly with the nickel hardware of the cabinet, creating a very luxurious incarnation of what is ordinarily a humble Edison Home phonograph. At a total cost of $73 in 1901 (nearly $2000 in today's dollars), this was a very upscale machine.