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100-year-old music technology returns to Hillsboro

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Kathryn Schlenk Olson drove from Lannon, Wisc. to donate the family’s 100-year-old Meteor Phonograph to the Music Makers Museum in Hillsboro. (Courtesy of Charlotte Pack.)

By Charlotte Pack

A 100-year-old Meteor Phonograph, an early wind-up type of record music player, returned to Ohio on June 21. 

On sultry June days, Kathryn Schlenk Olson and her partner, John Duffin, drove from Lannon, Wisc. to the Music Makers Museum in Hillsboro to donate a treasured family heirloom.

The Schlenk family owned the Meteor Phonograph for four generations. It was originally purchased new by George John Schlenk and Catherine Lang Schlenk, Olson’s great-grandparents.

In the early 1900s, patents from the Columbia and Edison Phonograph Companies began to expire. This opened the door for furniture makers and other companies to jump into the hot market of phonograph production. 

The Meteor Music Machine Company in Piqua was a side-venture of the Meteor Motor Car Company. References to its phonograph production began to appear in the “Talking Machine World” in 1917. It is estimated the company lasted around 10 years, according to “The Talking Machine Forum”.

This would be the peak period of crank phonograph production before radio and the recession pushed the phonograph to back corners, attics, and basements. Fortunately, when the Schlenk family was not using the Meteor Phonograph it was stored in its original packing crate keeping the mahogany phonograph in excellent condition. The crate was also donated to the Music Makers Museum.

“My four great-aunts Helen, Olive, Elizabeth and Hildegarde who lived in Iowa City played the phonograph a lot in their younger years and kept it after their parents died. I enjoyed visits with my Father Joseph J. Schlenk and my great-aunts, so I purchased the phonograph at Aunt’s Hildegarde Schlenk estate auction in 1987. I felt nostalgic whenever I thought of the phonograph, and it made me think of my father and his family who were wonderful people,” said Olson.

Due to retiring and downsizing, Olson spoke with her family members about the family treasure. They all agreed the family phonograph belonged in a museum. Olson began looking online to find a place to restore and preserve it. “I am so happy to have found the place we were seeking in Music Makers Museum,” said Olson.

She hopes future generations “will think about how people have sought to listen to music throughout the ages and created musical instruments including phonographs to achieve this enjoyment. Also, I would ask them to ponder how technology has changed the way we listen to music, from past times to current day,” said Olson.

“Olson has said it well. This is the goal of the Music Makers Museum to provide education, restoration, and preservation of early music recording and playing technologies so the voices from the past can inspire the future. Also, I think it is exciting that an Ohio phonograph is returning to the Buckeye state where it was originally produced,” said Charlotte Pack Curator of the Music Makers Museum.

“We had a group of senior citizens recently, ages from 60 years to 80 years, and only a handful remembered their family owning a phonograph,” said Pack. “We are getting far enough away from this early music-playing technology that the only place people will see it is on the internet and in movies, or it will be forgotten. At Music Makers Museum Phonograph Man Rodney Pack diligently restores the phonographs, so people can see and hear the phonographs play in person.”

For more information on the mission of the Music Makers Museum or to schedule a tour of the museum visit

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