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Collecting Cylinder Phonographs in Quebec
Pathé Celeste

Since that day back in 1970 when I acquired my first cylinder phonograph at an antique shop in Quebec City, I have had numerous occasions to search throughout the world for more. I must say that if Quebec is not the worst place (I spent 5 years in Morocco and found only one machine, even if it was an exceptional one), it is not the best place either for a phono-sarafi.

It is not surprising that my first machine was an Edison Standard Model D, because this kind of machine was very popular at that time in this province, particularly the one from the International Correspondence School of Scranton, Pennsylvania, for learning English. At that time it was a must if you wanted to upgrade your position in society or emigrate to New England to find work. When they are not Edison Standards, the cylinder machines you find are Amberolas Xs and 30s, Homes, seldom Gems, but never Triumphs, Operas, Class M or, much less, Idelias. Usually you can also find Columbia BKs, Bs or Qs, and nothing else. But sometimes through a stroke of luck I have found something else. It has struck four times during my 28 years of collecting.

Regina Hexaphone

The first extraordinary machine found by me in Quebec was a Celeste made by Pathé in 1900. It was the only type of cylinder machine sold to the public to play the unique Celeste cylinder of Concert diameter, but twice as long at 8.5". Originally it had been the property of the Cyclorama of Jerusalem, located in Ste-Anne-de-Beaupre. Its last owner, a native of Ste-Anne, was living 450 km from there with the machine, 5 Concert and 1 Celeste cylinder. The rest of the cylinders, 80 Concert and 4 Celeste, were still in the Cyclorama building. After several negotiations all of them joined the collection.

Hiller talking clock

The next year a young visitor told me that his father in Montreal had a non-working cylinder machine with 6 cylinders in his basement. It was a Regina Hexaphone, made after 1908, that we acquired after several discussions and a memorable trip to Montreal during a snow storm, to be sure of not losing it to another collector. Inside there were several Edison Blue Amberol cylinders of the 5000 series, electrically recorded and issued in 1928.

Four years ago I found a Hiller talking clock in an antique shop on hwy. 20 between Quebec City and Drummondville. 300 of these were made from 1910 in Berlin. The phonograph is located under the clock mechanism and announces the hour, quarter and half hour with a Pathe type sapphire reproducer for vertical cut recording. A celluloid ribbon with 48 grooves moves by means of perforations, as on 35mm film. With 40" of length, this ribbon can be assimilated to a cylinder of 12.75" diameter.

Finally, near Sherbrooke last year, I was lucky enough to buy one of the masterpieces of my collection - a large (5.75" in diameter and length) original tin foil phonograph. Its last owner was of German origin and a friend of one of Berliner’s sons. He told me that this machine had been made by Emile Berliner himself, while experimenting at the very beginning of sound recording, before his experiments with the lateral cut method. I am soon expecting to have proof of its origin. If this turns out to be true, I can definitely assert that miracles do exist, especially for those living near the Ste. Anne basilica!