Our RCA Loudspeaker 106: How the First Electronic Instrument, the Theremin, was Heard.

A couple of weeks ago, some folks came into our shop looking to consign this thing:

teremin1

Was this going to be another what the heck is it? Luckily for us, there was a label on the back:

theremin3

Hmm….an RCA Loudspeaker 106 Electro-Dynamic.  That’s what we had to work with.  So this is some sort of speaker for a radio then.  I mean, look at it.  Any speaker I’m familiar with wouldn’t have a tapestry image like the one on the front.  This speaker was actually manufactured to look pretty, and not be just functional.  Check it out. Lots of detail in the wood and in the cover so it was meant to be seen as a piece of furniture.

theremin2

So what is so special about this speaker? When was it made? How much should we sell it for (and more importantly to us, was it worth taking in on consignment?)

In the early days of radio, when you bought your radio you could only listen to it with headphones.  Early radios didn’t have the power to drive a loudspeaker, and early amplifiers used a horn.

AmplionTrio

Loudspeakers like these and ours were made for amplification and for use in multiple rooms. The radio remained in one particular room while loudspeakers could be placed in other rooms, allowing the radio to be heard remotely. It was common to have one particular brand of radio working with a completely different brand of speaker. More uncommon was the radio that required a particular type of speaker to work with it.

In this case, the RCA Radiola 106 speaker (ours) was RCA’s top-of-the-line accessory speaker.  It was sold alone as a loudspeaker and worked with any 1920’s radio; BUT it came supplied with the RCA Theremin.

Theremin? That’s a really familiar name but I can’t remember exactly why I know about it.  Was it a radio? Oh, no! Isn’t it that eery electronic music from the olden days?

Yes! The theremin was the first electronic musical instrument, pre-Moog Synthesizer, where the performer (the thereminist) played the instrument without touching it.  Huh? How do you do that?

The theremin was made with two antennae.  The thereminist would move their hands in the air between the antennae in order to control the pitch and the volume of the electric signals being emitted.  These electric signals were then transmitted to the loudspeaker.  OUR loudspeaker.

The theremin was invented by Russian, Leon Theremin, and patented in 1928. Here is a video where Leon Theremin plays his instrument:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=w5qf9O6c20o#t=13

It has an eerie, Sci-Fi sound, doesn’t it? It isn’t an everyday instrument but it has been used in many, many recordings as well as in certain movie soundtracks such as “The Day the Earth Stood Still”.  Even though the instrument may be foreign, the sound is familiar.  The soundtrack to “The Day the Earth Stood Still” can be heard here.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cPEchNTSE0

Awesome! The question now is what can we get for this loudspeaker?  I found a few loudspeakers similar to ours, by Googling them, with a few selling for as little as $25 to $60.  :/  Not so great for my purposes.  http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/1824096  Shouldn’t it be worth more?

With a little extra work, we saw mention of one that sold on eBay for $375.  Great! Our price? $399.99 plus shipping. Here is our listing:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/RCA-106-LOUDSPEAKER-Antique-c-1925-Radio-THEREMIN-TAPESTRY-RADIOLA-COIL-SPEAKER-/371247014168?rd=1

The item sold in auction, first pass through a ten-day auction cycle.  So where is it going? ……  CHINA.  I think there must be a thereminist somewhere in that big country.  Our advice? Keep your eyes peeled for the tapestry fronted speaker. I hope you find yours for less than $50 too.  You WILL make a profit.  It can be, apparently, guaranteed.

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ART (Afternoon &) NIGHT & Painting Demonstration

(EL SEGUNDO, CA) (February 13, 2015) – STUDIO ANTIQUES has been a fixture in downtown El Segundo for the past 27 years. Laurence and Sally Martin, the owners, are known for their broad selection of antiques, collectibles and art as well as their appearances in the reality television series “Baggage Battles” and “Storage Wars”; currently airing in the USA and worlddwide.

This Friday, February 13th, from 2pm to 7pm, Studio Antiques is proud to present Maui artist, MICHAEL SEAN. Michael will be exhibiting his own work along with dozens of other pieces from the Studio Antiques & World Gallery Collection. During this time Michael will be demonstrating his own painting skills and engage any npassersby in vibrant conversation. You might also enjoy a sip of wine while listening to music and perusing the outside “gallery”.

Michael Sean is a self-taught artist who has been creating art in the form of paintings, sculptures and found art since childhood. His work has been shown in galleries from New York

City to Maui, Hawaii, where he won or placed in several competitions. In the past decade, Michael resided in Maui where his passion for realism and abstract art could be seen at Gallery Rafael.

He is currently a resident of El Segundo where he and his wife, Laura, continue to create art for the world to enjoy. Collectors of Michael Sean’s work appreciate his land and seascapes, portraits and abstracts as well as his uncanny ability to create sculptures out of vintage furniture pieces.

Please join us anytime Friday, February 13th, between 2pm and 7pm at STUDIO ANTIQUES & World Gallery; 337 Richmond Street, El Segundo. 310-322-3895 www.studioantiques.com We are looking forward to seeing you here!

 

 

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The Roadium Open Air Market and a Euphonia: A Love Story

Our shop is ordinarily closed on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Laurence and I had decided that this week we would go and have a look around the Roadium on Wednesday morning.  http://www.roadium.com/  There are a lot of vendors at this market, and most of them do not have antiques or collectibles. Mondays are the best day for old stuff there, but what-the-hey…it’s Wednesday; we are off of work and the sun is out!  Ready to go, empty basket in hand.  You never know what we are going to find…

roadium sally

 

Because it is Wednesday, not so many sellers have old stuff with them. There are lots of clothes and tools here this particular Wednesday, but one random guy had a few interesting bits and pieces at his table. HINT: If someone is selling tools or clothes, check out the side table, maybe even at the back of the tent, where they are getting rid of what they DON’T know about…yep, you got it right. The treasures he/she doesn’t know about just might be good.  Check it out:

market2

So, WHAT is that? You tell me…

globe1

globe2

It’s a globe that has a piano hinge and opens up.  Hmm…it’s about 14″ tall and roughly 9″ in diameter.  It appears to be made of wood with some sort of painted plaster on the outside.  The image is a woman, Mother Nature (?) embracing the globe and holding the hand of a putti (cherub) in one of her’s and a garland in the other.

The process of deduction begins.  Something would be hidden inside. Something with a top that is larger on top than on the bottom.  A head? Maybe a head with a wig on it? There’s no base either, just an opening.  Oh! Wait! There are some markings on the base:

globe3

It reads: “COPYRIGHT LC MAYER” on the left side.  And there’s something really light on the other.

globe5

It took a while and I especially needed the right light.  It reads “JAN 1915″.  So what have we figured out?

  • It’s a globe meant to hide something.
  • It MIGHT be made at the turn of the last century.

Next step, Google “mother earth lc mayer” https://www.google.com/search?q=mother+earth+lc+mayer&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8  Unfortunately, that wasn’t much help. How else could I describe it? I tried:

  • Vintage globe
  • Globe holder vintage
  • “love and life around the world” – found that somewhere

But, absolutely NO LUCK! Normally I can figure out what something is by using words to describe what it looks like, but I wasn’t having any luck or even finding any clues to lead me down the path of discovery.  It was time to pull out the expert resource: www.antiquers.com  This website is a wonderful gathering place of antiques collectors and experts.  My feeling is that there is just too much to know for anyone to know everything; but maybe someone on the board could help.  So, I posted pictures and asked the “what-the-heck-is-it?” question.

With esteemed kudos to Terry5732, here was his answer:

“It should sell for a small fortune I would think
It is a cover for a candlestick phone
http://www.collectorsweekly.com/stories/5494-phone-globe

WHO would have thought?!?  Apparently, telephones were considered ugly and utilitarian early on, so this globe was intended to hide the telephone so that nobody could see just how ugly it was.  This lady and putti are beautiful. That’s for sure. 0201_mayer_06

And a little bit of telephone history: Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone is 1876.  By 1892 the “candlestick phone” came into popularity and was used up until 1926.

candlestick phone  yellow-oval-room-c1910

On the left is the candlestick phone.  On the right a parlor or sitting room (about 1910).  You can see how this unsightly utilitarian piece just wouldn’t fit in with the beautiful items in the room. (smiley face).  Also, how many people had a telephone in the early 20th century? Not many, I’d say.  A telephone was probably only used by the elite, wealthy set.  Not may phones to hide at that time.  The globe been referred to as the Euphonia Hide-a-Phone.   It was only made for a few years so they are rare and difficult to find. No wonder nobody knew what it was!

And the term, Euphonia? Well, other than referring to the tropical bird species, euphonia can be defined as referring to a pleasing mixture of sounds.  Just like the telephone.  And the love story? That would be us.  In love with the hunt and in this case the find.  Of this treasure.  We LOVE it!

Do you love it too? We are selling it now. On eBay. Here. Buy it! You know you love it!

It’s right here: http://www.ebay.com/itm/L-C-MAYER-Antique-1915-CANDLESTICK-TELEPHONE-COVER-Figural-HIDE-A-PHONE-Euphonia-/371244185921?ssPageName=STRK:MESE:IT

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