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The Charles D. Stein Collection of
Early Electronic Instruments

Caricature of Charles Stein playing the thereim

Charles Stein "picks music right out of the air" for diners at Harding's Colonial Room, 21 S. Wabash, Chicago, February 1931. Sketch by Ferd Himme, Chicago, 1931. Gift of Howard F. Stein and Nance Cunningham, Oklahoma City, 1996. NMM Archives.

Highlights of the Collection...

The Charles D. Stein Collection of Early Electronic Instruments was donated to the Museum by Howard F. Stein and Nance Cunningham of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on March 7, 1996. It includes the following items:

NMM 5935. Theremin by Radio-Victor Corporation of America, New York, ca. 1930. Model AR-1264. With separate stand and amplifier.

NMM 5936. Theremin by Radio-Victor Corporation of America, New York, ca. 1930. Traveling model with detachable legs, in case. Amplifier in case.

NMM 5937. Emicon by Emicon, Inc., Deep River, Connecticut, ca. 1932. Model S.

NMM 5938. Emicon by Emicon, Inc., Deep River, Connecticut, ca. 1932. Traveling model built into case. Amplifier built into separate case.

Three scrapbooks relating to the early career of Charles D. Stein (1906-1996), a representative of the Lyon & Healy Company, Chicago, ca. 1930-1936. One scrapbook details Mr. Stein's early years as a violin teacher and performer, as well as the numerous lecture-recitals given by him on the theremin (NMM 5936) and the emicon (NMM 5938) in the greater Chicago metropolitan area, 1930-1934. A second scrapbook details Mr. Stein's four-month appearance at the Century of Progress Exposition, Chicago, May 16-September 29, 1934. A third scrapbook details Mr. Stein's two-week appearance at the Texas Centennial Exposition, Dallas, June 6-20, 1936.

Charles Stein demonstrates how to play the theremin

Archival material in the Stein Collection also includes an unpublished manuscript of a Theremin method book written by Charles D. Stein in 1931; handwritten copies of familiar songs and tunes played by Stein on the Theremin and emicon; photographs; programs; vacuum tubes; and correspondence.

Charles D. Stein demonstrates the Theremin at 
the Texas Centennial Exposition in Dallas in June 1936

Charles D. Stein demonstrates the Theremin to a model at the Texas Centennial Exposition in Dallas in June 1936. The Theremin (originally called the Aetherphon or Thereminvox) was one of the earliest electronic instruments. It was developed in 1919-20 at the Physico-Technical Institute in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) by physicist and 'cellist, Lev Sergeyevich Termen (1896-1993). Its sound was based on the principle of heterodyning; i.e., combining two inaudible frequencies, produced by radio oscillators, to produce different, audible frequencies.

Charles D. Stein shows a model how to play the emicon at the Texas Centennial Exposition in Dallas in June 1936. The emicon is a monophonic electronic keyboard instrument invented by Nicholas Langer in 1929-30. It can produce tones similar to those of a violin, 'cello, saxophone, oboe, trumpet, mandolin, guitar, and bagpipe.

Charles Stein shows a model how to play the emicon 
at the Texas Centennial Exposion

Stein's emicon (NMM 5937) is on display in the Everist Gallery. Other materials from the Stein Collection are available for examination by appointment (see access guidelines) in the Museum's study-storage areas.

For additional information about the Stein Collection, consult Bibliography.

Stein plays the theremin

In addition to the Stein electronic instruments, the Museum also has, in the Arne B. Larson Collection, a third RCA theremin made about 1930 (Museum NMM 4154) as well as an extremely rare fingerboard theremin (also called a cello theremin) (NMM 1133) manufactured about 1930 by the Teletouch Corp., Leon Theremin's New York company. Instead of a string, it has a flexible, black plastic film fingerboard which, when touched, produces a tone. As long as the finger remains depressed, a tone is sustained. The volume is controlled by a lever on the player's right and the tone color is controlled by knobs. It has an external amplifier. No bow is necessary. Both of these instruments are on display in the Museum's Everist Gallery.

For further information about the Theremin and related electronic instruments, link to the Theremin Homepage.

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Most recent update: March 3, 2014

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