Victor's "RIGID ARM" was a revolutionary invention which supplanted
the earlier front-mounted horn phonographs, such as the Victor
B. The heavy weight and inertia of the front-mounted horn led to a great deal
of record wear, so Victor came up with an elegant improvement: a tonearm. This design
reduced the weight of the reproducer on the record grooves and also positioned the horn
over the top of the cabinet instead of jutting out into the room. The reproducer
connected to the horn through a straight tubular rigid arm, while the reproducer
lifted up and back in a scissor style. This also facilitated changing needles, which
was required for every record played. However there were two downsides: the tubular
shape of the tonearm didn't transmit the sound waves very well, and the loosely mounted
reproducer created an air leak that also impaired sound reproduction.
Released in late 1902, the Rigid Arm was only in production for about six months, into early 1903, before being supplanted by the much superior tapering tonearm which became the standard for the next 25+ years.
Only a few styles were produced in the brief period the Rigid Arm was on the market, including the R ('Royal'), E, M, and MS. Due to the short production span, all rigid arm Victors are scarce today, but the R is considered the rarest of all. It is a tiny machine, with the base measuring only 10" square. This example was made late in the brief lifespan of the rigid arm and was fitted with a brass-belled horn instead of the earlier painted zinc bell style, the record hold-down was eliminated, and the back bracket was painted black. The price was increased from $20 for the earliest style to $22.50 for this 1903 model. It carries the original dealer's plate on the side, showing that it was sold by Sherman-Clay in San Francisco, just a few miles from where it resides today.
Although the patent plate is still stamped 'R,' Victor catalogued this as a "Victor I." (Other rigid arm models were similarly dubbed, e.g. the E as "Victor II," M as "Victor III" etc.) It obviously bears no resemblance to the slightly later taper-arm Victor I.
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