THE ARETINO MACHINE
The Aretino is one of the rarest and most fascinating American talking
machines. It represents the ultimate achievement of a man of courage and ambition who
created a small talking machine empire in the Midwest. Arthur J.
O'Neill began as a salesman for dairy products in Wisconsin. He met
another man of considerable ambition, Robert Johns, who was determined to
move from milk and cheese to more permanent merchandise. Johns went to
Chicago and began distributing chinaware, to be used as store premiums.
O'Neill followed in the footsteps of his mentor and started the
O'Neill-James Company, also in Chicago, which was an advertising agency
chiefly involved with merchant premium promotions.
O'Neill created the "Busy Bee" brand of talking machine and
distributed it to retail stores, which offered their customers a
chance to own a talking machine in exchange for business loyalty.
During the first decade of the 20th century, a number of Chicago talking
machine firms competed for the business promotion dollar. O'Neill longed to
create an instrument that could be his "secret weapon" against the rival
brands. In the "Aretino" (named for an Italian monk who invented the first
notes of our musical scale) he reached his goal -- and even patented the
The Aretino disc record is seen here --
hole is fully THREE INCHES in diameter! O'Neill himself referred to it as a
"doughnut-shaped" record. But the brilliance of O'Neill's idea was as
follows -- the Aretino record could be played on ANY competing talking
machine -- EVEN THOSE WITH ENLARGED CENTER SPINDLES SUCH AS "STANDARD" or
"HARMONY." You could effectively play it on Victor, Columbia, Busy Bee,
Standard Disc, Harmony, United, etc., etc., etc. HOWEVER, the Aretino
talking machine would ONLY play Aretino records. So, when a dry goods store,
for instance, awarded a customer an Aretino machine for paying off his or
her charge account, the customer HAD to buy Aretino records to play on the
machine. The dry goods store could reward its clients with the Aretino
machine at little or no profit, yet be assured that person would be back to
buy records, on which the store DID make money.
The distinctive, original Aretino banner decal.
commissioned the Columbia Phonograph Co. to manufacture the Aretino to rigid
standards, and this is evidenced in the design and construction of the soundbox
(needle head). The Aretino sound box is considerably
different than those used on conventional Columbia talking machines of the
period. It is in fact better! The diaphragm is larger in
diameter, giving louder reproduction, but the body of the soundbox is made
of aluminum, so the fact that it is larger does not result in record wear. Furthermore,
O'Neill arranged for the cabinet to be constructed of chestnut -- while
"most" talking machines of the period were made of oak. O'Neill insisted on a better motor than Columbia customarily
offered in instruments of this size. The Aretino motor is in fact a
single spring version of the one used in the Grafonola, Columbia's premier product at the time.
O'Neill demanded high standards for the instruments sold under his brand.
Aretino horns were always green, with gold stripes, as seen here -- we have
put our 43 years of experience to the test and created a cool, breezy
translucent green finish that glistens like crème de menthe!
machine has been thoroughly and completely restored, cleaned, polished and
painstakingly adjusted. It was literally taken down to the smallest
screw and meticulously reassembled. Remember, the Aretino has a
3" diameter center spindle, which can not be removed. You can only
play Aretino records on this instrument.
Price: $1450.00 US, including needles and two Aretino disc records, plus s/h (NY State residents must pay tax, if applicable).
More Aretino records are available at additional cost.
US Post: Phonophan
PO Box 747
Henrietta, NY 14467 USA
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