I was a little bit surprised to see these phonographs for sale in a wartime catalog, but they are shown here in the 1944 Sears Christmas catalog.
They’re surprising for a couple of reasons. First, they’re an interesting juxtaposition of an acoustic phonograph with an electric motor. I assumed that acoustic phonographs were wind-up models, and that electronic phonographs had an electric motor. But there’s no reason why there can’t be some overlap..
But I was more surprised to see phonographs for sale, despite the fact that the manufacture of phonographs had ended by order of the War Production Board (WPB) on April 22, 1942. It’s unlikely that there was much old stock left in the Sears warehouse at that point (although it’s not at all unlikely that there were electric phonograph motors left over when the ban went into effect).
Interestingly, these are not being sold as phonographs. They are being sold as toy phonographs. I’m not aware that the WPB made an exception for acoustic phonographs. But apparently, they did make an exception for toy phonographs.
The model on the right looks like a toy, especially with the decorations. But the model on the left doesn’t really look like a toy. It looks more like just a low-end portable phonograph. I suspect that more than a few were sold, not for the kids, but because it was the only new phonograph people were able to buy.
The video below shows a similar instrument manufactured, surprisingly, as late as 1974: