The Berliner gramophone is one of the foremost examples of the earliest talking machines produced. Berliner was the first company in the world to produce disc records commercially and this was the machine on which to play them.
Emile Berliner patented his invention in 1887 (patent 372786 for a Gramophone using a non-wax disc photo-engraved with a lateral-cut groove). In 1888 Berliner demonstrated an improved gramophone at the Franklin Institute using a flat seven inch disk with lateral-cut grooves on one side only (manually rotated at 30 rpm with two minute capacity).
Edison had first recorded a human voice on his experimental tinfoil cylinder recorder in 1877 and was continuing experiments with wax cylinders at this time, however he and other recording pioneers were unable to mass-produce copies of their machines.
Berliner originally manufactured the gramophone as a toy in Germany in 1889. It was first manufactured commercially in Washington in 1893 with great success, the following year Berliner made and sold 1000 machines and 25000 records (7-inch hard rubber discs). After that the gramophone was manufactured in Philadelphia. In 1896 Fred Gaisberg discovered that shellac was an improvement upon the hard rubber records - the museum acquired this machine with four such records. This Berliner gramophone was manufactured in Philadelphia and dates from about 1896.
Emile Berliner also developed the carbon microphone transmitter that varied the contact pressure between two terminals as a voice acted on it. Berliner, then only 25, sold his patent to the young Bell Telephone Company for $50,000.
The early history of this particular machine is not known. It entered the phonograph collection of Mr Warren Trexler in about 1958 where it remained until the early 1980s. The Berliner, auctioned in March 1984, was purchased by Mr Mark S. Kaplan, a dealer who operated a company in New York called Musique. The machine made its way to a private Australian collection and was donated to the Powerhouse museum by that collector in 1994.