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Columbia Type B "Eagle"


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The "Eagle" Graphophone is considered a common machine, but to me it has always been enchanting. The openworks motor is a joy to watch; it's simple but rugged in construction; it plays remarkably well; and the earliest examples date to the 1890s.  What's not to love?


I'll start with this (extra-) ordinary example. It's just a routine Type B, except for one thing -- the condition. It's remarkably difficult to find Eagles in superb condition. These were typically used hard, then put away in less than ideal storage. It's not uncommon to find them looking worn and tired. This one looks like it just came out of the local Graphophone store, complete with original reproducer and recorder in original boxes.








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Every variation discussed, I think not!!!!   Nickel plated version, on nickel plated base!

Dan's picture of an Eagle sold by the Eastern Talking Machine Company got me thinking about some of the various retailer markings found on Eagles.    When the Eagle was introduced in 1897, m

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A thread on the Columbia Eagle???  Rene, this is like throwing a juicy sirloin steak in front of a hungry lumberjack...




I've written at least three articles in the APS magazine over the years (March 2005, June, 2012, and December 2017) on the Eagle and its derivatives.  For such a common machine, the Eagle has much to commend it, and just enough variation over its 10-year production life to help date particular examples.  It was a much-loved machine in its time, sold all over the world (as Rod has shown above with a page from a French Pathe catalog), and widely copied in Europe and Switzerland by several firms.  I'll be dealing only with the U.S. Columbia versions.


Many are aware that the Eagle was named after the American ten-dollar gold piece commonly used at the time of the Eagle's introduction (August 1897).  Columbia made good use of the ten-dollar price point in its advertising, but only a careful reader of the time would have picked up on the fact that $10 would buy only the uncased version.  Rene's beautiful example above shows the classic cased ($12) version of the Eagle.  Relatively few chose the uncased $10 version, and by mid-1899, Columbia dropped it - from then on offering only the cased ($12) Eagle.




Serial numbering began at 80,000, with both uncased and cased versions sharing the same serial block.  Sales were very brisk (Edison's least expensive machine in August 1897 was the $40 Home.  Not until October would the price be lowered to $30).  Within a year (mid-1898), approximately 65,000 Eagles had been sold.  It was at this point that the Eagle underwent a few minor production changes.  These changes will delineate what I'll call the "Type 1" (earliest) and "Type 2" (later) Eagle.  Let's follow the progression of changes in order...


The  $10 uncased Eagles had no data plate for a serial number, so their numbers were stamped into the belt cover, like this one:



Evidently, Columbia realized that such an easily-removable serial number was an invitation to problems, so later uncased Eagles had their serial numbers stamped into their belt covers and in the edge of the base plate:





The sale of uncased Eagles ended in mid-1899, around No.180,000.  (I'd be obliged to anyone who can send a picture of a higher number on an uncased Eagle.)


The earliest cased Eagles had plain (unstamped) belt covers, and at approximately No.115,000 they began stamping them with patent information.  Note that the serial number was not stamped into the belt covers of cased Eagles:



At approx. No.145600, a few changes occurred which comprised the "Type 2" Eagle mechanism.  Perhaps the most noticeable was the change in how the spring barrels were secured to each other.  The "Type 1" Eagles used 4-screw plates for this.  The "Type 2" Eagles used tabs; each secured by a single screw.  Here's a picture showing the "Type 1" plates below and the "Type 2" tabs above:



At the same time, the lid handle was changed from solid wood to one with a metal cap at each end.


Almost immediately afterward, at approx. No.146500, the Eagle was equipped with a mandrel tag which proudly listed major cities around the world where Columbia maintained offices:


Prior to approx. No.146500:



After No.146500:



Over the years, many collectors mistakenly believed that all Eagles originally had mandrel tags, and in well-meaning attempts to make their early examples complete, they added tags from damaged/incomplete later Eagles to earlier examples.  Again - with very, very few exceptions - Eagles carrying serial numbers below 146500 were not originally equipped with mandrel tags.


The serial numbering of the Eagle went through the 100,000 block, but the 200,000 and 300,000 block were already in use, so Eagle numbering jumped from 199,999 to 400,000.  At approx. 411,500, the data plates had "U.S.A." added to the New York, NY address.  By around 415,000, the long Columbia plate at the front of the basboard also had "U.S.A." embossed into it.  At about 425,000 the Eagle data plates began to be stamped "BX."  Eagle serial numbering finally petered out around 430,000, accounting for approximately 150,000 machines.


Believe it or not, there's much more to the Eagle's story, and APS members can read more in the articles mentioned earlier.  I'm sure I've overstayed my welcome by now, so I'll bring this to a close, but I believe every collection should have one of these wonderful Graphophones!

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That's a wonderful overview, George. There really is a lot more to the Eagle story than most people realize. That's part of the fun.


Here's an example of a $10 uncased Eagle, with serial number stamped on the belt cover, which was 'improved' by the original owner. He constructed a case to carry it around, made of cheap pine but which he carefully painted with a faux burl wood pattern. He mounted the machine to a wood board as a base, with holes in the corners that fit over pegs in the bottom of the case to secure it. There are extensions for both the winding key and speed adjusting knob to let them pass through the left side of the box. The holes are oval in shape, allowing the right end of the machine to be lifted up just far enough to allow changing records without removing the entire machine.


Curiously, he pasted the return address portion of a Sears Roebuck invoice to the top of the box, and lacquered it over to protect it. My guess is that he was trying to make people think it was a commercial product and not homemade. I also assume that he went to all that effort in order to easily cart it around to give spontaneous exhibitions. In the late 1890s the Sears catalog pushed the Eagle "at a price which brings them into the easy reach of those of small means, who wish to give public exhibitions. ... You can make $5 to $25 every evening by giving public exhibitions ... by using hearing tubes and charging 5 cents for each individual." It would have taken a long time to generate $25 a night in nickels!


I've owned this for around 25 years, and as modest as it is, it's one of my favorite phonographs.

















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Rene's unique conversion of an uncased Eagle to a cased version is fascinating.  The owner was faced with several problems in making his Eagle operational while in the box (lengthening the speed control, lengthening the winding key, and making possible the changing of records), and one wonders why he didn't simply purchase Columbia's supplied case for $2, as shown in the advertisement included in the first post. 


Of course, two dollars in 1897-1899 bought far more than it does today.  The original owner may have been more endowed with mechanical/manual talent than with funds.  In any event, the imaginative solution he created 120 years ago is a good example of "Yankee Ingenuity." 


For those with an extra two bucks to spend, and wanting a case for their Eagle, the factory-made product was briefly available.  Here's an example, which at first glace appears to be a conventional $12 cased Eagle:




Sharp-eyed readers may have noticed the marking on the belt cover:



The serial number on the belt cover shows this to have originally been a $10 uncased Eagle.  There's another clue as well: no data plate where it's always found on the cased examples.  Plus, no tiny holes where the 4 securing brads would have been.  A wooden base like this can only be found only with a $10 Eagle converted to $12 status using the factory-supplied $2 empty case.  (Note the proper absence of a mandrel tag on this Type 1 mechanism.)



The long Columbia Phonograph Company tag was of course supplied with the empty cabinet:



The retailer, however, made sure everyone knew where it came from:



Here's a closeup of the celluloid tag:



So there you have it; there are $10 uncased Eagles, $12 cased Eagles, and two examples of Eagles converted from one to the other!


George P.

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That one is very interesting indeed! I haven't seen anything quite like that -- factory case but not factory-cased.


Here's another variation of an uncased Eagle mounted into a new case, this time with a fairly simple oak box supplied by Hawthorne & Sheble. No ads or catalog references have been found for these, so it's unclear whether H&S sold the cases and individuals mounted their uncased Eagles themselves, or if they sold the complete set with machine already mounted. Or, perhaps both options were available. I lean toward the idea of individuals installing the machine, based on the fact that one such H&S Eagle I have seen has the mechanism far enough to the left that the winding key must be removed for the lid to fit. On mine the lid fits with no problem. I'd love to find out more about these, but as of now there's nothing to go on.



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Another variation -- the short-lived "nickeled and polished" Eagle. Every part of the machine was heavily nickeled, including the gears and governor balls. It added $3 to the price of a $12 cased Eagle. That doesn't sound like much, but it translates to almost $80 in current dollars. Quite a lot for a bit of bling. The Polyphone attachment was a $15 option, so it was very pricey.









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16 hours ago, sousaband said:

Such fascinating little machines! Here's one with an Eastern Talking Machine Co. tag.



Dan, I've seen only a handful of Eagles with the Eastern T. M. plate, and all of them have been numbered below 100,000.  I'd be curious to know if someone has an Eastern-sold Eagle whose number is higher than 100,000.  I expect that retailers found this practice  too time-consuming with a fast-seller like the Eagle.


George P.

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On 12/21/2020 at 2:55 PM, Tinfoilphono said:

Another variation -- the short-lived "nickeled and polished" Eagle. Every part of the machine was heavily nickeled, including the gears and governor balls. It added $3 to the price of a $12 cased Eagle. That doesn't sound like much, but it translates to almost $80 in current dollars. Quite a lot for a bit of bling. The Polyphone attachment was a $15 option, so it was very pricey.

Rene, for many years I thought the "BXP" designation that Howard Hazelcorn used in his book to describe the nickeled & polished Eagle was something he had coined.  Years later I had the opportunity to study a late 1899 catalog, and even though the BXP was no longer offered there, among the parts listed for sale were components for a "BXP!"  It was a retroactive designation on Columbia's part. 


The BXP was available for about a year (mid-1898 - mid 1899).  Here's another example:






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Dan's picture of an Eagle sold by the Eastern Talking Machine Company got me thinking about some of the various retailer markings found on Eagles. 


When the Eagle was introduced in 1897, many retailers had vivid memories of the various activities of the Columbia Phonograph Company, one of the sub-companies of the North American Phonograph Company (1888-1894).  Back then, Columbia wasn't a huge supplier, but just another competitor.  Consequently, when the Eagle burst upon the scene three years after the bankruptcy of North American, some retailers weren't happy with that tag on the front that proclaimed, "Columbia Phonograph Co."




The Indiana Graphophone Company (Spear & Co.) was having none of it.  Not only did they remove that "Columbia" tag, but they removed the American Graphophone data plate as well, substituting their own nickel-plated brass plaque:




Here's a closeup of the little plaque:



The lid of this Indiana Eagle was conventional in every way, and I wondered why the company had taken all the trouble to erase the machine's origins yet left the lid decal as it came from the factory.  A year or so later, I found proof that they hadn't always been so lenient:




And what about the serial number that was on that data plate?  There were rules about removing serial numbers...  Well, Indiana got around that by ink-stamping the number below the baseboard!




Indiana Graphophone wasn't the only company unhappy with having Columbia's name on the machines it was selling.  Our old friends at the Wurlitzer Company in Cincinnati, Ohio (see the $10 to $12 conversion photos earlier in this thread) knew how to deal with Columbia's grandstanding:




At least they left the data plate alone.  Here's a closeup of the celluloid tag:



Wurlitzer left the lid decal alone, but  - like the conversion pictured earlier - they made sure everyone knew who had sold this Eagle:



As we saw in Dan's earlier post in this thread, the Eastern Talking Machine Company was (for a short time at least) removing the Columbia Phonograph Company tags on the Eagles it sold.  Here's another example:



I mentioned that the Eastern Eagles I've seen have been very early production examples, and this one is no different.  In fact, out of approximately 150,000 Eagles manufactured, this one is No.156:



The Ohio Graphophone Company of Columbus wasn't as prickly about Columbia's name on the Eagle.  It merely applied an addition small decal on the front of the lid:



Understandably, the most common retailer marking found on Eagles is the Sears, Roebuck label:



I'd be interested in seeing other examples of retailer markings on Eagles.


George P.

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Check out the serial number of this ETM Co. Eagle that I previously posted. Pretty close. Would you say that these were part of a "batch" that was sold to ETM?




ETM Eagle serial number.jpg

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8 minutes ago, sousaband said:



Check out the serial number of this ETM Co. Eagle that I previously posted. Pretty close. Would you say that these were part of a "batch" that was sold to ETM?



Darn close!  I wouldn't be a bit surprised if our two Eagles were in the same store at the same time!  Interesting...  What are the chances?


George P.

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A couple of miscellaneous comments reference this thread:


1.      The Indiana Graphophone Company of Indianapolis, whose tag was featured on one of George’s Eagle photos, also labeled their cylinder boxes (a common practice) and published their own catalog which was near-exact to Columbia’s.  The catalog in this photo is a reproduction by Allen Koenigsberg.

2.      George also provided an example of an Eagle with a Wurlitzer tag.  I have a Regina 17a music box in a custom made case, not original to the machine.  The ship-date database indicated the manufacture-date and the ship-to address of Wurlitzer Corporation.  In a separate-thread, it would be interesting to learn of other examples of Wurlitzer branding efforts or knowledge of same.


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Rod, I really REALLY like that cylinder box!


I have a couple of those Spear & Co. reprints that Allen did years ago.  (By the way, you're right - it's identical to the Columbia catalog of the period, because it IS the Columbia catalog.  Spear & Co. probably paid extra for their imprint on the cover...or maybe large dealers/jobbers could have it imprinted for free...)  I have the catalog displayed with the Spear & Co. Eagle shown in this thread, the decaled lid, and a cylinder carrying case with the nickel-plated plaque.






Thanks for posting those Spear & Co. pictures!


George P.

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Interesting thread. I have I believe at one time or another read all the articles by George. All as I remember informative. My Eagle has the Sears decal on the tail end of the Columbia decal. Mine is a type B but will not show you any photos as there is nothing different from what I see but was so glad when it became available. I believe I was told mine a tad later then many is all I can remember. Neil

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I'm happy to know you have been reading my articles.  I hoped that someone was!


As for your Sears Eagle, the firm stopped putting its decals over the factory Graphophone lid decals in late 1901, so yours should predate that.  If you can share your serial number, I might be able to narrow down a bit further.  If your Sears paste-over is partially missing, knowing which addresses are on the Graphophone decal beneath it would help.


I'm pleased to see you back online, and I hope your recovery is going well.  Very best wishes for a full and complete remission!


George P.

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Well, it seems that nearly every known variation of the venerable Eagle has been discussed in this thread except for the final one - - the BX.


In one of the articles I wrote years ago, I made the erroneous presumption that because Columbia began cataloging the Eagle as the "BX" in 1899, the machines must have marked that way as well.  In fact, data plates on Eagles weren't embossed "BX" until 1905.  This makes no sense to me, but the proof is irrefutable (I'll be happy to share that proof if anyone is interested).


By the time Eagles were being marked "BX," the "D" reproducers had supplanted the earlier smaller models, and the plain flat key had been replaced by a cast filigreed model. 


The earliest BX in my 15 year-old (and still growing) database is No.426382.  The highest number BX I've recorded is No.430157.  Here's a very late BX (only 4 known higher serial numbers) which shows the few changes the Eagle underwent over its decade of production:



In the picture above, a smaller decal has appeared.  All BX Eagles and the last B Eagles carry a similar lid decal.


Below, the mechanism of the BX:


In the picture above, the fancy key and D reproducer are obvious changes.  The long "Columbia Phonograph Co." tag in front carries the names of 8 cities, as do the tags on the late-production B.


The late-production B and all BX Eagles have a 1901 patent date stamped into the belt cover:



All in all, the Eagle had very few changes made to it over the years - a remarkable success in design and production.


George P.

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The Eagle was truly a remarkable talking machine, eclipsed only by the immense popularity of the "lowly" Q. 


Has any other cylinder machine manufactured surpassed the popularity of these 2 models? I'd guess not.



Edited by Fran604g
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I had forgotten about this variation.  One normally thinks of the fancy nickel-base as being associated with the Q.


Is this the same base, or different, and how do the screw-holes align.


This is a very nice example.

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Its dimensionally the same base.   However, the hole pattern is different than on the Q version to accommodate the different hole pattern on the Eagle.  I have seen Q bases with two hole patterns drilled, one for the cast base and one for the metal base.  I've seen Q bases with only one hole pattern drilled (for the metal OR the cast base) I've only seen a couple of the Eagles, and they only had holes drilled for the Eagle pattern. 

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Yes, The cool thing about the Mobley for the Eagle (and the Q as well which is different) is that it can be added to and removed from the reproducer without any modification!  Edison Mobley attachments were intended to be permanent to the reproducer. The first picture is a Mobley for the Eagle, the second is a Mobley for a Q.  And yes, they are uniquely fitted to each machine - not interchangeable. 


I guess the Columbia Mobley's ability to be easily removed is the reason they are so seldom found today!



Picture 4 F2.png

Picture 1 G.png

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