Inside the Hawthorne & Sheble Phonograph Horn Factory (Philadelphia, 1898)

A rare glimpse inside Hawthorne & Sheble’s “horn room” in the late 1890s. Ellsworth Hawthorne & Horace Sheble produced an excellent line of horns, cranes, and other phonograph accessories, but they seemed to have a knack for getting into legal trouble, beginning with their blacklisting by Edison for removing the nameplates from Gem phonographs.

They were involved in two record ventures in the early 1900s — first as sales agents (in partnership with John O. Prescott)  for the Odeon-backed American Record Company, which was shut down for patent infringement in 1906; and then as the manufacturers of Star discs. The latter were produced legally enough, using licensed (albeit disguised) Columbia masters, but a Victor patent-infringement suit involving H&S’s Star and Starola phonographs, combined with declining demand for horns, drove Hawthorne & Sheble into bankruptcy in 1909.

MSP_h&s_hornfactory-1898The whole colorful, convoluted story of Hawthorne, Sheble, and their associates is covered in a new history and discography being released by Mainspring Press later this year: