Siren #123: Feedback

Siren #123: Feedback


This straight neck Magnavox Radio Speaker Horn was originally manufactured in Oakland, CA in the 1920’s. It has a 14” bell, stands 21” tall, and is paired with a salvaged walnut base. This particular horn can swivel in its base.

In 1911, Peter L. Jensen and Edwin S. Pridham had a small farmhouse and barn at 1606 F St. in Napa, CA.  They were interested in improving the sound of the telephone, and the barn was their laboratory.  Their financial backer, Richard O’Connor, picked this site because it was away from the distractions of San Francisco; he thought it would allow them to be more productive.  But their research wasn’t going all that well – AT&T was working with other inventors, and thought Jensen and Pridham’s system was too large and bulky.

In 1915, Ray Galbreath, a blacksmith and avid baseball fan, visited Jensen and Pridham’s lab.  Ray was upset that he often couldn’t hear announcements at the ballpark, and suggested that Jensen and Pridham’s telephone research could possibly be applicable.  That suggestion caused a shift in Jensen and Pridham’s thinking – rather than work on improving sound over long distances, they decided to work on improving volume over shorter distances.

Later that year, Pridham and Jensen did their first test from their parlor, using their telephone apparatus connected to a phonograph speaker horn.  Here are the results, according to Jensen:  “When the final connection was made to the terminal of the storage battery, a crack like the report from a gun came out of the horn, followed by a screaming howling noise which was ear-splitting and terrifying.”

This horn pays tribute to the first known instance of Feedback.

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