Researching Phonographs - Abraham Tewolde
In the third of a series of posts our Stanford University Libraries 1st-generation intern Abraham Tewolde has produced during his summer at the Archive of Recorded Sound, Abraham discusses the research work he is currently undertaking into the Archive's world class phonograph collection. This work has involved him learning basic research methodology, utilizing Searchworks, XSearch, and other such discovery tools to identify books, articles, and online resources pertaining to phonographs. I tasked Abraham with improving upon the Archive's current information for each phonograph, locating information for facets such as original price, city and country of production, date of production, and any additional background information he found during his search. The results of his research will form the basis of a description for each item in an upcoming online phonograph gallery, to be published shortly on the Archive's website.
"These past few weeks I have been spending a lot of time researching the many phonographs in the Archive of Recorded Sound. The history of the phonograph is very interesting and there have been many different formats between the antique cylinder and the modern MP3. Most of the phonographs in the ARS are 78 RPM disc players, but there are also a few cylinder and reel players too. A favorite of mine is the Mikiphone portable phonograph. It can fit into my palm easily and I’m pretty sure it’s the smallest phonograph ever designed for 78 RPM records. It was Swiss made which explains why it looks so much like a pocket watch. This machine employed a very clever design to be able to fit all of the pieces into such a tiny package. Unfortunately that means it takes a bit of assembly to actually get it to play any records, but it’s amazing that this little thing can play anything at all! Besides being difficult to put together, the sound quality was not fantastic because it used plastic for its resonator. I shot a video of Jonathan putting the Mikiphone together so you can all see. I like the Mikiphone because of the fact that it is so portable. The records that this machine was built to play were far larger than the phonograph itself, which meant that the phonograph needed a clever design to keep everything balanced out. This machine is simply efficient because the entire design was created to house all of the phonograph's parts and also be durable enough to carry around. Unfortunately, the Mikiphone phonographs were not produced for very long, only for three years in the 1920s, because of budget issues. Over 100,000 were made and they sold for about $13 in a variety of colors. I’m glad I had the opportunity to see this phonograph while researching the collection because it certainly was a unique piece that I’ve never seen before".