Victor MS Serial Number 13954 with Large Flower Horn
Build Date: 1905
Originality: 4 Cabinet has original finish, which was overcoated with varnish many years ago. Horn is an untouched original
Overall Condition: 4 Shows wear from age and use, but very presentable.
(See the Ratings/Condition page for our grading scales)
See it in action on YouTube. Click here.
The Victor MS was introduced in late 1902 as a premium phonograph in the early product lineup. It featured a 10-inch turntable, nickel-plated hardware, and an exceptional 2-spring motor. Unlike the lower-priced models, the Victor MS had a well designed, ornate oak cabinet with finely carved rounded column corners. In 1903, the MS was the first phonograph to adopt the "rigid arm" design, which was Victor's first attempt at a rear-mount tonearm (details on tonearm designs can be found here). The rigid arm was a good idea, but was awkward to use and did not provide the best sound quality, so in 1904, the "tapered arm" design became the standard configuration for all Victor models. Victor re-named the "MS" as the "Victor IV", in late 1904 or early 1905, but unsold "MS" models in plant inventory were upgraded with the tapered arm, and shipped with the "MS" designation. The Victor plant suffered a huge fire in 1904, which really complicated the production, serialization and delivery of machines, so accurate factory documentation from this time period is almost non-existent. Phonographs were likely destroyed by the thousands as many machines were burned awaiting shipment, so the serial number on post-1904 MS models may simply represent the "survivors" from the fire. Based on the design features and configuration, this machine was likely shipped from the plant in early 1905. The MS was available with either the Concert or Exhibition soundbox per the buyer's choice. This one came with the Exhibition version, as well as an optional large flower horn. With this optional horn, the machine sold at a substantial base price of $48.50 (which equates to over $1,300.00 in today's money), and obviously it was intended to be marketed to upper-middle-class households. This was a very pricey luxury at a time when the average wage was 22 cents per hour! It is uncertain how many machines with the early MS designation were produced, but based on surviving examples, it is probable that fewer than 10,000 were shipped, making this a relatively rare find.
This machine was purchased at an estate auction in 2016. All we did was clean it up, perform a complete mechanical rebuild, and install new felt on the turntable. The finish on the phonograph cabinet is original but as was a common practice in the 1940's and 1950's (when the original varnish started to fade), it was over coated with what appears to be varnish. The moderate crazing of the original finish underneath is clearly visible. The cabinet shows some signs of use and waer. It features beautiful "rope" carvings around the cabinet. The horn is all-original, with the correct Victor decal. and shows the typical dings, scratches and wear that we find on most of these fragile horns. No deformation or significant dents/damage are present.
This is a rare machine, at a very reasonable price. It shows magnificently, and performs load and clear. It will show very well in any parlor or music room.