Model # AR-1017-A (super hetrodynl)
The Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company was already seventy five years old when it entered the phonograph business in 1916. Very shortly after entering the phonograph market, Brunswick introduced a clever tone arm and sound box assembly which could be adapted to play all three styles of disc records on the market at that time (lateral, Edison, and Pathe). Brunswick, aided by its immense cabinet factory, quickly became the number two phonograph manufacturer in the United States.
In 1925, Brunswick announced that it would produce a revolutionary new type of phonograph that used vacuum tubes and electricity to amplify phonograph records. The amplifier electronics were designed and supplied to Brunswick by RCA. The Brunswick Panatrope was displayed in concert throughout the United States and created a sensation when demonstrated. The first units were shipped in early 1926 at about the same time as similar machines from Victor. Some of the Panatropes contained only a phonograph, and other models were offered in combination with RCA Radiolas. This example contains the Radiola 28AC and is one of the earliest all electric radio-phonograph combinations. It cost a staggering $1275 when new.
The Panatrope pictured in the top photograph arrived in our home over twenty years ago. It has been only used as a decorative piece all these years. After some thought, I decided to find out more about this item and see if it is something that should be shared or if it should just stay where it is.
After looking around on the Internet, I found some experts on such items and began to ask about Brunswick and their phonographs.
E-mail correspondence with R. J. Wakeman firstname.lastname@example.org one of the nation's experts on Brunswick's history.
We have a brunswick panatrope radiola Model # AR-1017-A (super hetrodynl) in our home and would like to find out a little about it. Any information would be helpful.
Dear Mr. Leverenz,
Congratulations for owning the Brunswick Panatrope.. They are not commonly found. Your photo came through with fine color and clarity. Your Panatrope appears to be in excellent condition. How about the amplifier and internal works? The value of such a unit can vary greatly. So much depends on the condition of the cabinet and works as well as where it is sold. In the late 1920's Brunswick made some oustanding Panatrope and radio models. Many represent Brunswick's finest phonographs considering craftsmanship and quality of construction. Time often deals harshly with these units, however. Generally the wiring for the early Brunswick units is still okay; it does not tend to crystallize or break. The main plug was usually wiring insulated with guttapercha, which does tend to crack with time and age. Guttaperchaa is a tree resin with properties between a rubber and a hard resin. It was often used as wire insulation in the early days. Usually this wiring then has a cloth covering so any cracks present in the insulation are not evident. It would be best to install a new main plug wire.
Otherwise, these early units can be a real problem to restore. For sure the large vacuum tubes need to be checked and some possibly replaced; they are hard to find and expensive. The early capacitors in the amplifier unit were often merely rolls of tin foil in waxed paper and these nearly always need to be replaced--one by one. A major task. Sometimes the resistors need replacing. It is rare but sometimes the transformer is found burned; replacing these can be very expensive. Often the speakers are found frozen or burned or the leather covering is cracked. The early phonograph electronic pickups consisted of a permanent horseshoe magnet. The needle (or stylus) was inserted in a rubber frame between the open arms of the magnet. Usually the rubber needs to be replaced. Sometimes the magnet is found to be weak and will need to be replaced.
Otherwise...a restored all-electric Panatrope can have wonderful sound reproduction. I suggest you search the Internet for the antique radio collectors and restorers. There are more of them and they are better organized than the early phonograph and record collectors. They should have background information for your model and could even provide a schematics for your model. They might be able to put you in contact with someone locally who could be the most help.
As for the cabinet, Brunswick at this time was finishing all its cabinets with satin lacquer which was applied as fine sprays of stained lacquer in a closed room. This permitted Brunswick's woodworkers to use various types of wood and permitted the production of some vey beautiful cabinets. A lot of shading effects was created by this method.
In early 1930 the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company sold its phonograph and radio division to Warner Brothers Pictures.
R. J. Wakeman
Thank you for your reply. It was very informative. I am not sure what I am going to do with this antique. It has been in our family for twenty years now and I want to find out more. I am not sure, but if it is something of museum quality I would like to see it go into a museum.
Dear Mr. Leverenz,
Thank you for your message. Not sure the Brunswick Panatrope is worth considering as a real museum piece; perhaps it just about qualifies now. Worth a web site of its own? The all-electric Panatrope models do seem to be less commonly found than the mechanical or acoustic models.
Donate to a museum? Possibly. But we serious collector/listeners to the old phonographs and records have a real problem with museums and even archives. Once donated to a museum the item belongs to everyone--and no one. Our experience is that such a unit sits in the corner of the museum in a place of honor but is rarely played. A serious collector, however, would not only restore the unit and play it frequently but would keep it in working order and search for spare vacuum tubes. Similarly, the record archives tend to be open to the public on a limited basis and most of the real research on early phonographs, records, and recording artists is done by private collectors and not by museums, archives, and even universities. Typically the archives will photocopy material and tape an old record for you--for a high charge. Any collector would do it for free; I have done so many times.
Just a thought to consider....
R. J. Wakeman
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