Polyphon

Production date
1890-1920
Country
Germany
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Object Detail


Description
Polyphon, large upright timber cabinet with a hinged glass fronted door and decorative turned wood finishes. A small boxed section with glass sides in the bottom of the cabinet houses a clock-work mechanism. This mechanism turns a toothed wheel. Perforated discs are fitted onto a shaft and the toothed wheel engages with drive holes in the disc. As the clockwork mechanism rotates the disc, small projections extending from the perforations engage with cams that strike metal reeds and produce the music. This polyphon is coin operated and slots for inserting coins are located on either side of the cabinet.
Classification
CH classification MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS Automatic polyphon
Maker
Production place
Measurements
L410 x W690 x H1285 mm
Media/Materials description
Indeterminate Softwood (Woods) Brass (Metals - Non-Ferrous) Steel (Metals - Ferrous) Other Glass (Glass) Iron (Metals - Ferrous) Wool (Textiles)
Signature/Marks
<on top front > Polyphon
<on disc inside cabinet> POLYPHON ! MARQUE DE FABRIQUE SCHUTZ MARKE TRADE MARK
<on cast backing plate inside cabinet> POLYPHON
<on disc release lever> 18238
<on plates on both sides near coin slots> Drop a Penny in the slot
D.R.G.M.
History and use
The Polyphon is a turn-of-the-century music box. Made in Germany for the English market, this player was restored by Harold Dickinson in the 1950s and played to friends and guests outside his music room at Indooroopilly.

Harold and his brother Eddie both became blind from inherited Glioma and both were educated at The Blind School in Brisbane. The two young men became cabinet makers by trade and ran their business from the house at Goldieslie Road, where Harold lived with his wife Mercy, who was also vision-impaired. The music room was integral to the couple’s life in Brisbane. It was fit out with walnut panelling and large tonal speakers, and in an alcove just outside was the Polyphon. Many children of friends and family enjoyed being given the very special experience of putting a penny in the slot, and winding up the mechanism before dancing or marching along to the music.

The Polyphon could play a greater variety of songs because the discs were easier to store flat and collect than their bulkier predecessors, the musical cylinders. Cylinders were only able to play a set number of tunes on rotation. The principle of operation was the same, however, where small steel teeth were plucked to create a tune.

Uploaded to the Web 27 May 2011.
Registration number
H46553.1

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