A Century of Silvertone


Sears began to have great success with its Silvertone phonographs, and the initial line changed as Sears figured out what sold and what didn't. Some folks wanted a fine piece of furniture as their 'talking machine,' something lovely and impressive to wow their friends with at get-togethers; or something pretty for the living room, or perhaps to sit on a table. Other folks just wanted to be able to play some records. Sears had something for everyone in this regard, from solid oak cabinets with gold-plated hardware, down to the most basic turntable and reproducer combination they could sell.

  • As the phonograph made itself known in American homes, so did the accessories.

  • Tabeltop model, B-III from 1918.


With 1,000+ pages in nearly every Sears catalog, it's going to be hard for me to stick with just the Silvertone-branded items, so forgive me if I come across something from over the decades that I've just got to share with you; there were so many fascinating things available from Sears... it was the Amazon.com of its day!

Like this 'auto robe.' No heater in the new automobile? What to do when it's cold? Wrap up, of course! Sears had dozens of robes available for use in your flivver. But don't listen to me, let's hear from the lady in the car: "There's little danger of our freezing with this robe!" Great... 'little danger.'

OK, then... how about a nice house? Everyone needs a house! Sears had a few dozen to choose from just in the Fall 1917 catalog, over 100 (barns, too!) if you sent for the 'Honor-Bilt' specialty catalog!

Plenty of floor plans and styles to choose from!


One of the top-of-the-line models was advertised in full color on the back cover of the Fall 1917 catalog, the model B-XVI:Did you notice the 'B' up there on the ad? Up until now, it was just the Roman numeral model number, as shown in our rundown of the initial 1916 models. But now, all Silvertone phonographs have a great big 'B' in front of the model numbers What does it signify?

It means that all Silvertone phonographs can now play all types of records, vertical or lateral cut discs, through means of an adjustable reproducer head. This was a very big deal for Sears, and they spared no ink in telling you about it:


The low-end Model I was still going strong, a couple of bucks more this year, but now able to play every kind of disc with the new 'B' prefix on its model. George Finfrock was quite pleased with his original Model I, and was happy to let Sears know about it.

Looks like we finally got ourselves a Model IV.


The big phonographs were given full-page listings, touting all their refinements and appointments, and sold by low monthly installments.

Here's a typical installment plan notice:


Here's the top of the line for 1918, the "Louis  Fifteenth Design" B-XVI, available in mahogany or walnut:Look at this listing for needles. I love how Sears tries to talk you out  of buying the diamond point.


Speaking of needles, in addition to the common steel needles that were changed after every couple of record plays, and the cactus thorn 'Tusko' needles, Sears also sold a fibre needle:

Here's a multi-pack of steel needles, with different needles recommended for different types of music or playback situations.


The lowest end of the line is now going by name rather than model number; presenting the 'Junior' and the 'Senior.'

As folks' record collections grew, so did the need for storage. Here's where we get the origin of calling a collection of songs an 'album.'

If you didn't want a full collection of the many types of steel needles as seen above in the 1918 section, you could choose your favorite in individual tins:


Guitars still going strong:Here's an interesting bit from the page above; metal  bridges!

Ukuleles were available in the familiar 4-string and also a few 8-strings versions.


Now that every Silvertone plays every type of disc, they've dropped the 'B' from the model numbers this year.

Even though Sears no longer sells the 'old-fashioned' cylinder machines, they still sell the cylinders in two-minute and four-minute varieties, with dozens of titles.

Still no end to the oddball instruments that Sears offered...

On to 1920