at the museum

The Cheney Talking Machine

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The Cheney Talking Machine Company was founded in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 1914 by Forest Cheney, a concert violinist of the early 1900s. He designed the Cheney Talking Machine to suit his ideas for sound transmission. His machines were in square, boxy cabinets, but the most intriguing feature was their unusual sound – constricted air passages as well as step chambered tone arms and internal horns.

This machine has a 12” turntable powered by a hand wound double spring motor which runs quietly and smoothly. If the spring motor is wound fully, an entire 78RPM record could be played.

When they were introduced, there were six models ranging in price from $60 to $300.

The Cheney Talking Machine Co. was sponsored by the Marshall Field & Company Department Store in Chicago, where they had a talking machine parlor and demonstration rooms.

The record on our machine is from RCA Victor manufactured in 1905 and is made of shellac, which was the only product that would work for recordings until the early 1940s.

The machine at the museum, which still plays records, was donated by Darlene Pleck.

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