EDISON 'Suitcase' STANDARD No. 393

The Edison Standard Phonograph was announced to the trade in February 1898 but factory production records show that the first machines were not made until April. Over the next 15 years it would go on to become the most popular of all of Edison's phonographs -- over 800,000 were made in total, in a series of continually improved models. This particular example is one of the very first, with serial number 393 -- one of the lowest numbers known to survive today. Made in early May, 1898, barely a month after production began, it even predates the use of a metal gear cover to protect the exposed upper drive gears, something which was used on all Standards by June.

This all-original machine also boasts a 'Standard Speaker,' the same type of reproducer used on the early Class M phonographs, with both recording and reproducing stylii on the same mounting bar. These were extremely difficult to adjust and were replaced by late 1898 with the "Automatic" reproducer, without a recording stylus. (The earliest Edison Homes also used the Standard Speaker.) On the first Standards the lever clips holding the reproducer are each mounted with only a single screw at one end. An improved version with two screws soon replaced this early design, and continued to 1901 when a simple set screw was devised.

Until 1901 Edison Standards were cased in oak, with square tops which were held by suitcase-style clips. The earliest models had two clips, one on each side as seen here. This was inadequate to carry the weight of the machine so Edison changed to four clips in 1899, mounted on the front and back of the cabinet. The "suitcase" Standard was also available with a Polyphone attachment, and the mechanism was used in the rare Manhattan coin-operated phonograph.

This contemporary engraving shows one of the very first Edison Standards, without a gear cover.