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MMD > Archives > February 2001 > 2001.02.11 > 01Prev  Next

Guitarophone 47-Key Mechanical Zither
By Marty Roenigk

Recently we (Mechantiques) purchased a Guitarophone, which is a quite
rare mechanical zither.  We had one other example, probably ten years
ago, and can probably cite a total of five or six of them as being
extant.  Little is known of the Guitarophone, and when we wrote the
MMD in a search for discs, Robbie asked us to provide some additional
background on this fascinating machine.

The Guitarophone we have is identical to the last one we had and,
I think, the same as the others we know about.  It is 18-1/4" wide,
21-1/2" deep, and 8-1/4" high.  An interesting aspect is that this one,
and the last one we had, were both coin operated.  That seems odd for
such an instrument; perhaps they weren't sold for retail consumption.

While this one is missing its feet and legs and coin box, and has
a bit of molding missing, it is generally in very nice condition.
It cites "U.S. Patent Pending" and does cite a German patent number.
The zither is marked "Menzenhauer Guitar-Zither #2-1/2".  It also says
"Jersey City & Berlin" and "Oscar Schmidt Manufacturer".  The serial
number is 742 and it is an amazing 47 keys.

We have not tried to play it since it will be another month or so
before we get discs for it.  It has a spring-wound motor and the
previously mentioned coin operation (not currently operative).  The
original zither in this example is excellent while the one in our
last example was beyond repair, but we were lucky enough to find an
identical replacement -- apparently Menzenhauer made the zither for
both manual and automatic use.

We did not receive any discs with this Guitarophone, and thus we
were making the inquiry to MMD.  However we have since learned that
Barry Johnson in California has copied seven examples of the
Guitarophone disc, which is 14-1/2" in diameter.  There is more
information on page 359 of Bowers' "Encyclopedia".  This piece is
for sale for $3500.

Marty Roenigk

 [ Thanks for the nice photos, Marty.  I'll place them at
 [ in hopes that some day we
 [ will have an audio file of the instrument playing.  ;-)
 [ -- Robbie

(Message sent Sun 11 Feb 2001, 22:42:23 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  47-Key, Guitarophone, Mechanical, Zither

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