Collector’s phonographs, sound and optical devices a trip back in time

TELL CITY, Ind. (AP) Stepping into Joe Powell’s home is like traveling back in time to the turn of the 20th century.

Phonographs of all sizes, makes and designs line nearly every square inch of space along the walls in every room. The only room which might not have one is the kitchen, and that is probably because it is full of antique crockery and vintage advertisements.

I just eat on the couch, he said.

Phonographs are not the only collectibles to take up space in Powell’s home. A flip-card machine that uses stereoscope photographs to show a movie starring Charlie Chaplin in Party Time holds a place of honor. A hand-cranked street organ on steel wheels only needs a monkey to complete the scene. Wall telephones, Dictaphones and radios are all part of his home museum.

After I got divorced I just went to some auctions to have something to do, Powell said of his beginnings in the collection hobby. I always liked those old radios, so I bought an old radio. If it’s torn-up broke, people aren’t going to put out that much (money). I can fix them myself, so I’ve got the edge on a lot of people.

I’ve sold a lot of stuff through the years. I just fix things up to sell to make a few bucks so I can buy more stuff, he said.

It is apparent while visiting Powell’s home the phonograph is his favorite device. According to Powell, Thomas Edison’s 1877 invention once used tinfoil as the recording implement. It soon favored a wax cylinder and later, a disc. Powell has the complete history of the phonograph on display, including mannequins of Edison and other characters dressed in period garb. One straw hat-wearing character started out as a boy mannequin from a local clothing store.

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