"EXCELSIOR" (PHÉNIX) French Phonograph

This is an extremely unusual cylinder phonograph which has features usually seen only on disc phonographs (square cabinet and front-mounted horn with elegant support arm). The mandrel is peculiarly mounted to an upright pole, and the motor is wound with a key rather than a crank. There is no feedscrew so the stylus is carried by the record groove. Produced in 1903-1904 by the French firm of Excelsior (unrelated to the German phonograph company of the same name), this machine was sold by G. Maleville in Libourne, in the Pomerol district of the Bordeaux wine country. Unlike most Excelsiors which were cased in oak, this particular phonograph is made of walnut with black painted corner moldings and base. It is exceptionally elegant in construction, and surprisingly small -- only 9" square. Perhaps the most unique characteristic of this very rare phonograph is the fact that it was made to play "Phénix" cylinders, an odd size which is larger than a conventional record but slightly smaller than the more common Pathé 'Inter' or 'Salon' cylinders. This puts the Excelsior phonograph in the same category as the American 'Busy Bee,' with a uniquely-sized mandrel and record. Phénix cylinders were made only in brown wax and are very rare today. As attractive as the machine looks, the lack of feedscrew makes it very hard to keep the stylus in the groove. Unlike most other machines without feedscrews there is no provision for leveling the machine to help it track better.