Congratulations to Rob de Bie, Rolf Christian Holth Olsen and David James who correctly identified this weeks mystery object – Mae Starr by Universal Talking Toys Company – U.S.A, 1930.
Talking Doll – Mae Starr by Universal Talking Toys Company U.S.A – 1930. Part of the EMI Group Archive Trust Collection
Mae Starr was made by the Universal Talking Toys Co., and uses the Averill Manufacturing Company’s cylinder phonograph motor. The cylinder mechanism is housed in a well constructed tin-plate housing at the back of the doll. the sound is directed out of the front of the chest. A small lever starts the motor and positions the stylus on the beginning of the cylinder, whilst a crank is used on the thigh to wind the mechanism. All of the dolls that used this type of mechanism used blue, 2 3/16 inch diameter, and 1 ¼ inch long cylinders.
Talking Doll – Mae Starr by Universal Talking Toys Company U.S.A – 1930 Part of the EMI Group Archive Trust Collection
This doll has celluloid arms, legs and head. Her body is cloth and stuffed, and has the metal cylinder holder in her back and a metal lined hole in her chest where the sound comes out. On her side is a hand crank. Mae’s eyes open and with brunette human hair wig. This particular doll stands 26 2/4 inches tall and comes with two original cylinders.
Mae Starr talking doll by Universal Talking Toys Company – Courtesy of the EMI Group Archive Trust Collection. Film courtesy of thegirlofmusic1– ‘Mae Starr Phonograph Doll – Nursery Rhyme: One, Two.’
This is the Excelda portable gramophone which is a fabulous piece. It’s one of the first playback machines designed to be portable; a proto-ipod. It was Swiss made by a company called Thorens in 1930. Thorens was formed in 1883 and originally made music boxes and, like many early, clocks. They continue to make high end audio equipment today.
The 1930 machine is another one of the many gramophones in the EMI Archive Trust’s collection. they describe it thus:
“This is a Excelda portable gramophone which was marketed as a ‘pocket’ version. It was similar to folding cameras available at the time, and was often referred to as a ‘Cameraphone’. The case is tin with a brown paint crackle glaze finish. the mechanism could all be broken down into a slim case for transportation and could even play 12 inch records.”
Thank you to the EMI Archive Trust for allowing us to show these pictures. You can find out more about the EMI Archive Trust (and even arrange a time to go and visit their gramophone collection) here.
We’d love to make contact with people who have an interest in these kind of devices. Please get in touch via the comments section below.