The top doors have elaborate pierced iron hinges and latches with plush backing. The plush has now faded to a mottled gold colour. The reproducer, horn neck, turntable, on/off/brake levers and winding handle all have a "hammered" iron finish. The bedplate is in the normal black japanned finish. The patent plate is stamped SPECIAL in place of the normal model type. Access to the motor is via a flap at the rear. The base of the motor compartment is latticed, allowing sound to emerge downwards as well as through the cloth-backed frieze panel. The two record compartments, with 80 and 69 slots respectively, have felt-covered divisions, with ivorine index labels below. A roof-mounted light is provided in both compartments.
An Edison Company publication, Edison and Music, which describes the Art Model range accompanies the phonograph as does an Edison record cleaning pad with the printed inscription in Dutch Eigen Edison is Goudwaard (Your own Edison is worth gold).
Thomas Edison always considered his 1877 invention of the Phonograph as his favourite, and up to the early 1900s so did the rest of the world. However, by 1910, competition from the disc-playing gramophones from companies such as Victor/HMV and Columbia were threatening Edison and his cylinder-playing phonograph. The patent situation in America barred Edison from manufacturing a lateral cut record and equivalent machine, even if he had wanted to, so the natural step was to substitute the cylinder with the more convenient disc for vertical recordings. The disc format had been mooted by Edison as early as 1877 during the first experiments with the repeating telegraph which led to the Phonograph.
The machine with which Edison finally responded in 1912 was the Diamond Disc Phonograph and the records known as Diamond Disc Re-Creations. The machines were not cheap; the standard range was priced from $60-450, but in 1916 the company introduced the Art Model range. These carried the same mechanisms as the "Official Laboratory Models" (the machines priced at $250 and up) but were housed in made-to-order period style cabinets of impressive size and quality. They were priced between $1,200 and a staggering $8,320. The top two were both of the French Gothic style and were exact replicas of famous pieces of furniture. Research has shown that perhaps only one or two of these were made for display at the official unveiling at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York in 1916. From then on they were dubbed the "millionaires' phonographs". This period in America was the end of the "Gilded Age" when the so-called Robber Barons were scouring Europe for antiques to furnish their lavish new mansions, not only on Park Avenue and in Newport, but also Detroit and Des Moines. Indeed, what better to furnish a chateau-style residence than a phonograph in a French Gothic cabinet?
In the end the Art Model range was not a success--the First World War and the introduction of Income Tax was not conducive to such extravagences. The Art Models are discussed in detail in George Frow's book The Edison Disc Phonographs. These machines were the largest and most expensive phonographs of the acoustic period , with both Victor and Columbia keeping most of their top-of-the-range models in the $1,000-$2,000 bracket.
This example was the second most expensive of the range at $5,295 (in 1920). The serial number, 1001, suggests that this was the first and only one made. Surprisingly, the owner was not an American millionaire, but Edison's Dutch agent, H.W.K. de Brey. Heer de Brey was in the timber trade in the Far East and met Thomas Edison while touring America in 1920. Edison was obviously impressed by this successful young man (who probably showed the 'hustle' Edison was so fond of) and offered him exclusive rights to market the Diamond Disc range in Holland and the Dutch colonies. He opened his Kunstzaal Edison in The Hague in 1922 and followed with shops in Rotterdam and Amsterdam. It was for the opening of the Amsterdam shop in Leidschestraat that the machine was sent from the factory in New Jersey in November 1924. Its huge size (7½ feet wide) ensured its prominence in the showroom and de Brey purchased the machine for 10,000 Guilders (about $3,816, presumebly the wholesale price) from a slightly reluctant Edison and made it a permanent feature. It has remained in the family since that time.