Victor, Victrola, Model XVI Phonograph

The Victor Victrola Model XVI Phonograph

An upright floor model, the Model XVI was the original internal-horn Victrola; first introduced in 1906, it remained the Victrola flagship model for many years. Although it was originally advertised as “Victrola the Sixteenth” (XVI), the metal identification tag first used a “VTLA” designation.

The first VTLA’s used the mechanics from the deluxe Victor 6 external horn phonograph, along with a flat-lid cabinet design that made access to the turntable rather difficult. In addition, unusual “L” shaped front doors were used to hide the record storage area. These early versions were made for Victor by the Pooley Furniture Company of Philadelphia (using Victor’s mechanics), but production was gradually transferred to Victor’s growing woodworking facilities. A selling price of $200.00 limited sales to relatively wealthy buyers. It is currently unclear as to the serial number of the first true production XVI, but it was likely around no. 100.

During the early months of production, Victor experimented with several designs, including a cabinet called the “Mertz”, which had a very boxy look, but retained the flat-lid. The earliest existent XVI/VTLA currently on record is serial number 406, which is of the Mertz design. In early 1907, the VTLA adopted a domed-lid design, allowing the turntable to sit nearly flush with the top of the cabinet. The “L” shaped storage doors were retained. This design became an immediate hit with the buying public, and became the standard lid configuration for Victrolas for nearly twenty years. Victor and Pooley shared production of these domed-lid models for a few years, and by 1909, Victor’s factory took over all manufacture of Victrola cabinets. The demand for these models exceeded Victor’s wildest dreams, and based on the public’s response, new lower-priced internal-horn models were quickly introduced.

In 1908, Victor introduced a super-deluxe VTLA model, advertised as “Victrola the Twentieth” (although this model was still tagged “VTLA”). This phonograph featured ornate carving (most versions had gold gilding covering the carving as well) and a unique “V” shaped mahogany veneer on the front doors. Selling for a whopping $300.00, this model was too expensive for the buying public, and it was discontinued in 1909. Unfortunately, “XX” production was intermixed with “XVI” models, and there is no unique dataplate identification to differentiate between the deluxe (XX) and standard (XVI) models. Thus, there is no clear way to determine how many XX’s were made. All XX’s have a standard “VTLA” dataplate.

An “A” suffix was added in mid-1909, and the metal tag was changed to indicate “VV-XVI” shortly afterwards. A few months later, the suffix was updated to “B”, and the ornate carving under the lid was removed, and the cabinet was widened slightly. The “Victor-Victrola” label under the lid was also changed at this time, now reading just “Victrola”. The “C” suffix series of early 1910 adopted the “tab” style brake (replacing the earlier bullet brake).

1911 saw the addition of a “D” suffix model, which included some minor changes to the mechanical design; an “E” suffix was added in 1912, wherein the cabinet design was significantly changed. The “L-doors” were eliminated, and the horn opening was widened. In addition, wooden slats were added inside the horn cavity. The crank was moved forward as well.

An “F” suffix was briefly used in 1913, which replaced the round speed control with the crescent bezel design and used a different style winding key (crank). Before the end of the year, the “F” was replaced with a “G” suffix, that included some additional minor mechanical changes. In early 1914, the “H” suffix was adopted, which replaced the circular speed control with the wide-window speed control/indicator and moved the crank position further back. The rear corner posts of the “H” (and subsequent) series are carved.

The “H” suffix remained until early 1917. At that time, the wide glass speed indicator was replaced with the small glass design, and suffices were dropped from the serial number. At the same time, the XVI adopted the “fat” tone arm, which was a forbearer of the soon-to-be-introduced No. 2 Soundbox.

No further design modifications were made to the XVI until it was discontinued in 1921. The last recorded serial number (from factory records) for the XVI was 197005.

The XVI was the first Victrola to add the electric motor option in 1913 (VE-XVI). Some VE-XVI’s have been found with a suffix letter after the serial number, but the exact design details related to the letters are still unknown. In addition, while factory records indicate that approximately 12,000 VE-XVI’s were made, VE-XVI’s with serial numbers as high as 15,900 have been found, indicating that at least 15,400 were manufactured (assuming a S/N 501 start in 1913). Many feature details and design changes of VE-XVI’s are still unknown. VE-XVI 521 has recently shown up at a phonograph show, and is currently the earliest existent one known.

XVI’s were also made in a wide variety of special finishes, including the gold-painted Vernis Martin, Black Lacquer, Ebony, and many more. These machines are quite rare and valued by collectors today. Exact production numbers of these special finishes are still unknown.

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