1899 Edison “Drip Pan” Gem Cylinder Phonograph


1899 Edison “Drip Pan” Gem Cylinder Phonograph

The “Drip Pan” was Edison’s first Gem phonograph. It was manufactured briefly in 1899, and it bears a family resemblance to later Gem phonographs, but its design differs from later models in many respects, beginning with the reproducer, which is permanently built into the phonograph’s carriage and was never used on any other Edison phonograph.

The mechanism is also different, with a motor that looks nothing like later Gem motors and a lower pulley that isn’t much larger than a dime. (With a pulley that small, it’s amazing the machine was able to run smoothly, but it was.)  The brake and governor controls are on the front of the phonograph, rather than on the side (as is the case with later models), and the brake is activated with a plunger rather than a thumbwheel, as it is on later Gems.

The patent plate on the Drip Pan set was on the front of the case, rather than the back, and there is no endgate on the Drip Pan Gem, a feature that wouldn’t re-appear on Gem phonographs until the Model C was introduced a decade later.

Nor did the Drip Pan set have a wood cabinet.  Rather, it was a lid-less machine with no base, just a sheet metal pan on the underside of the casting to catch grease and oil.  The pan was screwed into the underside of the base (see photographs), and it was never seen again after this model was discontinued.

Condition of this example is excellent throughout. The enamel finish on the case is original, and it’s still deep black and glossy, with no damage or flaking.  The delicate gold pinstriping has been judiciously restored.  The reproducer is original. Though primitive, with a small diaphragm, it sounds acceptable when playing a cylinder — something that can’t often be said of Drip Pan Gem Speaker reproducers.  The long-shaft slotted winding key is likewise original, with normal plating wear evident but no damage.  The drip pan is original, and it is not dinged, dented or rusted out, an anomaly for this phonograph.  Cone horn is original too, and it’s in good shape, with glossy enamel, a prominent gold strip and no dents, no rust, no damage.

Mechanically, the phonograph is in excellent working order.  It has a strong motor, a reliable governor, and it’s able to play an entire cylinder without the need for rewinding.  Plays quietly, another anomaly for this model.

Comes with an early brown wax cylinder.


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