The Collector’s Minute: Sonora Cabinet Phonographs and Radios
The Travafore cabinet radio by Sonora Phonograph Company cost $170 at the time—a hefty sum considering annual income averaged $750.
This Sonora Minuete hand-cranked record player is a console cabinet sold for $400 on eBay in 2013.
With the passage of time, the names of once well-known companies that were advertised
daily on radio and in newspapers have faded away.
Sonora is one such company.
Sonora Phonograph Company was a large phonograph and radio manufacturer. Familiar Sonora slogans
of the time were “The Instrument of Quality” and “Clear as a Bell.”
The original Sonora
Phonograph Company was founded in New York by George Brightson and operated between 1913
In 1923, the Sonora Phonograph officially merged with Herzog
Art Furniture, based in Saginaw, Mich.
With its eye on the future, Sonora recognized the growing
popularity of radio, and around 1924 its model line was extended to radios. The radios
were not produced in its own plant; the parts sourced from other makers, and manufacture
of cabinets was done in house.
In summer 1927, the company’s headquarters moved to
Saginaw, but by 1929, things turned grim for Sonora. New York investors obtained
complete control, and Senora went bankrupt in 1930.
Sonora had a branch in Oakland, Calif., that later became Magnavox, a name that survives to this day.
The radio ad shown here was the Travafore model, one of its less-expensive pieces, which sold for
$170 in 1919. Even at this price, though, it would have been a big purchase at the
time, as the average annual wage at the time was $750.
Like many phonograph and radio makers
of the time, Sonora’s products were offered with a payment plan to make it more marketable
to average families.
Values today for the entry-level Sonora machines like the
Travafore are quite modest, with most in good working condition going at auction for
less than $350.
Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.
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