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 Antique Radios and Phonographs 


The phonograph was invented in 1877 by Thomas Alva Edison at his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey.   On February 19, 1878, Edison was issued the first patent for the phonograph.

Very quickly two competing technologies evolved, those that used the cylinder as a recording device and those that used a flat disk.  Initially, those machines using a cylinder were called phonographs and those that used the flat disk were called gramophones. By the early 20th Century the general public was increasingly applying the word "phonograph" indiscriminately to both cylinder and disc machines and to the records they played.

In 1901 the Victor Talking Machine Company was established.  It rapidly became a dominate force in the gramophone market with their “Victrola” line of machines.  So much so, that many people came to refer to any record player as a “Victrola.”

The recording technologies were very different.  Edison and other cylinder players etched the cylinder in an up and down (vertical) motion while the gramophone disk was etched in a side to side (horizontal) motion. 

The cylinder record produced a better quality of sound, but due to manufacturing cost the flat gramophone disk gained in popularity.  Disks could be stamped out but cylinders had to be etched individually.  By the early 1920’s the cylinder was phased out and only disk recordings were available.  Even then Edison maintained the same horizontal recording technique so recording by a gramophone company would not play on an Edison machine and vice versa.

By the early 1990’s a new technology began to displace the phonograph in the home and that was the new compact disk.  Today, essentially all record production has ceased.


Early Radios

In the 1890’s serious experimentation with Radio waves were conducted by a number of scientist and inventors.  It was not until 1900 that Brazilian priest Roberto Landell de Moura accomplished the first transmission of the human voice by wireless.  Over the next 20 years radio equipment slowly improved and commercial broadcast started in Europe.

In 1920 Westinghouse offered the first home radio for sale to the public and started KDKA, the first commercial U.S. radio station.  This new technology was so popular that by the end of the decade 60% of all American homes had a radio.

The introduction of FM radio did not occur until 1937 with the construction of the first FM broadcasting tower.  By 1941 there were 50 FM stations in the United States.  Further development of FM was impeded by World War II and the reluctance of RCA to embrace the new technology.   By the late 1940’s RCA began to produce FM radios and FM broadcasting rapidly spread throughout the country.

The Cuero Heritage Museum is proud to have on display three of the earliest radios from the 1920’s.  Also on display is a very early Philco AM/FM radio from the late 1930’s. The museum wishes to thank Mr. Joe Reuss for loaning the radios and many of the phonographs shown in this exhibit.



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    Pharmacy & Medical Museum of Texas

    114 E. Main

    Cuero, Texas 77954



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