The Mikiphone – The iPod of the Twenties

‘Miki’

    (La Chanson du Mikiphone) by Fred Pearly, Pierre Chagnon & Jacques-Charles, published by Lucien Brulé (Paris, 1926) and illustrated by Robert Laroche.

The cover for the ‘Miki’ song triggered my curiosity about the Mikiphone. The sheet music tells us that it is a pocket phonograph and that the Moulin Rouge and Mistinguett were contracted to market it in one of their famous revues.

Around 1917 two Hungarian brothers, Nicolas and Etienne Vadasz, began designing a small gramophone. After completing the development in 1924, they patented the appliance. A Swiss company did the mass production and in 1925 the Mikiphone went on sale. With a diameter of 11.5 cm, and only 5 cm thick when closed, the round tin box resembles an oversized pocket watch.

The Mikiphone. Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France, Gallica.bnf.fr
Publicity for the Mikiphone
Publicity for the Mikiphone by Miklos Vadasz (source unknown)

Imagine, in the roaring twenties, arriving at a party with the newest gadget, a Mikiphone, in your trouser pocket…Then you take it out and while all youngsters gather around you in anticipation, you start assembling the parts which all fit in the box. This takes time and quite some skill as you can witness on the video. But at last you put on a 10-inch fox-trot shellac disc, you crank the winding key with your hand and the dancing party can begin.

The Mikiphone. Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France, Gallica.bnf.fr

The sound membrane consisted of a mica sheet coupled to a bakelite sound resonator. Never mind it’s impracticality, it is a marvellous piece of design, praised by Le Corbusier. I love it!

Around 180.000 of these cute mini record players were sold. Alas, three years after the first production the Mikiphone sales stagnated, and its production was discontinued. A few decades later, the mini rage of the sixties had yet to begin…

One thought on “The Mikiphone – The iPod of the Twenties”

  1. Astonishing ! I had never heard of that.
    Did you find one ?

    Thanks for letting us discover such incredible things !!!

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