My recent remarks regarding turntable speeds were, of course, part fact
and part conjecture. But in reply to Robbie's comment that he had
never seen a turntable driven from an electric motor through a gear
reduction, I suspect that such devices were standard for professional
disc recording and playback in the early days of electrical recording,
with much of the equipment made by Western Electric.
My circa-1932 Western Electric turntable is driven by a huge 1/3 HP
motor, through a rubber isolation coupling (as Robbie suspected), to
a beautifully machined, brass worm gear assembly. Although originally
installed in a New York hotel as a background music source in the
pre-dawn days of Muzak, the turntable is similar, if not identical, to
those used earlier for Vitaphone. It turns at 33-1/3 RPM, of course,
and accommodates 16" diameter discs.
I don't know what discs they played in 1932. The earliest Muzak
recordings that I know about began in 1934 and were vertically cut --
a standard that existed until 1954 -- and pressed on cherry-red vinyl.
I have some Fats Waller recordings from 1936 that are sonically better
than 78's: quieter, and with greater bandwidth and lower distortion.
If the performances weren't always as good, it might be due to the rate
of pay. I heard that organist Jesse Crawford got paid $50 per tune for
the Muzak Library, also known as Associated Recorded Program Service.