1897 Berliner Ratchet-Wind Gramophone * Exceptional * No Replica Parts


1897 Berliner Ratchet-Wind Gramophone * Exceptional * No Replica Parts

The first self-powered Berliner Gramophone to be housed in a wood case, the 1897 “Ratchet-Wind” Gramophone — with a spring motor designed by Levi Montross — was ingeniously conceived, beautifully executed, and seminal in its importance.

In production for just a few months, the Ratchet Wind was replaced later in 1897 with the “Improved Gramophone,” whose top-wind spring motor was designed by machinist Eldridge R. Johnson.  In 1900, after working with Berliner for almost 3 years, Johnson moved on to form, first, the Consolidated Talking Machine Company, and then, a year later, The Victor Talking Machine Company.

The rest, as they say, is history.

This Ratchet Wind Berliner is the finest one we’ve ever seen. It has no replica or incorrect parts, its appearance is outstanding, and it’s in excellent working condition, with a quiet fiber gear, a strong mainspring and a ratchet mechanism that — more than 120 years after it was manufactured — still operates as designed.  The phonograph’s scarce Mobley-modified Clark-Johnson reproducer has a clear, intact diaphragm, its original needle bar, and it sounds quite good given its primitive design and sonic limitations.

Governor rod moves easily, and the governor adjusts the turntable’s speed steadily.

The cabinet finish is original, and it’s pristine. The cabinet decal is also original, and it’s nearly perfect, with no scarring, no flaking, no blemishes. Clean original hardware everywhere, including the record clamp, the tonearm rest, the horn cradle, the cam brake, etc. All four cabinet feet are original and intact on the underside of the baseboard.

Serial number and Montross patent status are stamped on the metal plate above the governor and visible through the opening in the top of the cabinet.

Nothing has been refinished, nothing has been re-plated, nothing has been “glammed up.”

The original small bell Berliner funnel horn (9″ diameter) is in good condition, with paint wear consistent with age and authenticity.

As is common on the early Gramophone, the edges of the support arm have over the past 120 years dug into the baseboard about 1/8″, causing the arm’s angle relative to the face of the housing to increase. Consequently, the tip of the needle now falls short of the spindle, which can introduce a repeat at the end of a record. If you’re planning to use this machine as your “daily record player,” that could present a problem. However, and at the risk of sounding insensitive, if you’re planning to use this machine as your daily record player, you have other, more pressing problems to address.

Please contact us in advance of purchase to review and confirm shipping arrangements.

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