The Hammond Novachord, often considered to be the world's first polyphonic synthesizer, debuted at the 1939 World's Fair and represents a major milestone in electronic keyboard musical instrument history. It uses many circuit and control elements found in modern synthesizers, particularly subtractive synthesis, in order to generate tones.
In particular, its divide-down oscillator architecture, based on vacuum-tube monostable circuits, permit all 72 notes to be played polyphonically by deriving several octaves of notes from twelve top-octave oscillators. A similar design was adopted in polysynthesizers released more than 30 years later by Robert Moog and A.R.P. The Novachord is very well suited to producing rich, "otherworldly" timbres than range from dense sustained string-like and vocal-like timbres to the sharp attack transients of a harpsichord or piano. With over 150 vacuum tubes inside, this synthesizer has a thick, harmonically rich sound that you can't get elsewhere.
A rare find, only around 1,000 Novachords are said to have ever been made, and it is estimated that there are fewer than 200 Novachords still in existence.
This Hammond Novachord was ordered from Hammond by a high-end Chicago hotel in the early 1940s with custom fluted legs and the original blonde-and-black finish, both of which it retains, as seen in the pictures. It also should be noted that the silver control panel faceplate is factory-original, custom ordered in a brushed silver/steel. Regular Novachords have a brown control panel faceplate. This is the only known Novachord with a custom factory finish and design other than the white Novachords that were at the 1939 World's Fair. This Novachord is in good cosmetic shape for its age.
It comes with a folding dolly that was custom-built for the Novachord, built-for and owned by the electronic music pioneer Paul Beaver in the 1960s. This dolly is the only one we have ever seen of its type. It has an ingenious construction, consisting of a hinged platform that unfolds outward in front of the main platform and allows the player to set a bench on top of it, such that the Hammond Novachord never has to come off of its dolly in order to be played.
The inside electronics all appear to be original. The amps were removed at one point for purposes of additional safety during transport and are now back in place, but have not been plugged back in. This Novachord has not been tested.