Connections

 

Connections and the Creation of an Industry

By Doug Boilesen 2020

Phonographia are popular culture connections with the phonograph.

Ever since Edison's invention was first reported in Scientific American on December 22, 1877 the phonograph has been seen and heard in each era's popular culture conversation. The phonograph industry created, manufactured and marketed what started as a "wonder" and became an essential home entertainment device.

The galleries of Phonographia.com are predominantly popular culture advertisements and paper ephemera organized by phonograph related themes such as PhonoToons, PhonoFood, PhonoDrinks, PhonoAds, etc.. Examples show the phonograph's presence in daily life throughout every decade.

Bill McKibben describes what I think is the fundamental attribute of connections when he says in his book Falter that "everything comes with strings attached, and you can follow those strings into every corner of our past and present."(1). Additionally, there are interconnections, with connections within the connections. (5A)

Artists, musicians, performers, producers, song writers, music teachers, sheet music, recording studios; various music venues such as the opera, symphonies, local bands, church choirs, minstrel shows and broadway shows which each provided content and expectations regarding what could be recorded; copyrights (after 1909), patents, corporations and contracts; designs and aesthetic details for how the phonograph would work and what it would look like; raw materials for the manufacture of machines and records, factories and workers; marketing strategies and advertisements in various media; jobbers and dealers who handled specific brands of phonographs and stores to shop and listen to a phonograph; mail order and delivery from phonograph companies and from catalogs like Sears and Montgomery Ward with additional degrees of separation connections like the Rural Free Delivery Act of 1893; the typewriter, the sewing machine - in short, phonographia has connections everywhere.

Nor do the strings of those connections seem to have beginnings or ends since examples of phonographia that we pick out are serendipidous points in time and space that quickly reveal other connections. Individually we also find different meanings in these objects and connections depending on our own interactions with the objects.

The following are a few phonograph industry connection entry points to glimpse some aspects of "our past and our present."

 

Artists and Recording Performers

Discographies comprehensively list songs and their artists who have recorded since April 7, 1857 when Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville made what is now recognized as the world's first recording, the French folksong "Au Clair de la Lune."

A subset example of artists from those comprehensive discographies are the opera prima donnas who made records and in the process added opera's prestige and implicit, if not direct support for the message that a phonograph recording can be a substitute for live performance.

 

"Home is more comfortable than an opera house... whenever you want, without going a single step away from home. 1910

 

Six early opera stars who made records and appeared in phonograph advertisements and who also had connections (2) with Willa Cather opera related characters are seen in Phonographia's webpage titled Willa Cather's Opera Prototypes who were Recording Artists.

FARRAR FREMSTAD NORDICA GARDEN SCHUMANN-HEINK BORI

 

 

Relationships were established between musicians and the phonograph industry so that music and its "fleeting pleasure is made permanent" - one of the key reasons for owning a phonograph.

An RPPC circa 1908, unknown location

 

 

 

Sheet Music

Before the phonograph, sheet music could be the key to learning or hearing a song. After the phonograph, songs didn't require sheet music in the home -- just put on the record. Sheet music, however, remained important for popular music even as its songs quickly were turned into records.

In 1910, the song and its sheet music Gee! But the Moon Makes Me Lonesome was released.

Gee! But the Moon Makes Me Lonesome. Courtesy of The Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection, Johns Hopkins

 

In the June 1911 issue of Edison's The New Phonogram it was announced that Record No. 694 - Gee! But the Moon Makes Me Lonesone" sung by Mr. Manuel Romain was being released. (3)

 

This new Edison Amberol Record No. 694, like all recorded music, was dependent on popular culture taste, song writers, publishers, performers, vaudeville tours, and sheet music including sheet music illustrations like this one that The New Phonogram took as the basis for its own catalog cover.

Showing this connection between the illustration of Edison's catalogue and the original sheet music is simply that - a connection in a point in time in which many other connections could also be shown although they would be going off in other directions.

For just one of those other directions visit Phonographia's PhonoArt gallery Phono Sheet Music Art to see examples of sheet music with phonograph themed connections

 

 

Performance Venues replaced by the Home

References to some of the prominent venues of the world like the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City where Geraldine Farrar sang "Carmen" or the La Scala Theatre in Milan where "Il Trovatore" was being performed; or general references to Broadway, the opera, vaudeville, etc. -- all of these venue references in phonograph ads were outside of the home. And in each of these ads the consumer was reminded, often explicitly, that even if the song by a prima donna could be heard live it would require a ticket and then your attendance in a specific venue in some city at a specific time and date.

Munsey's, Victor Talking Machine Co., 1906



New Victor Records Catalog, December 1916

"The best of the Broadway hits are now available no matter how far you may be from Manhattan."

 

 

"The Edison Phonograph is the theatre --the opera, the drama, the concert, the vaudeville---"

"The voice of all the people on the stage - The choice of all the people off the stage.

Edison ad, artwork by Gil Spear 1911

 

For more examples of the home replacing the public performance venues visit Phonographia's PhonoAds gallery The Stage of the World.

 

Patents

The Patent History of the Phonograph, 1877-1912 by Allen Koenigsberg (4) identifies 2,118 patents and 1,013 inventors who helped create the talking machine industry.

The big three of the early twentieth century, i.e., Victor, Columbia and Edison, were often involved in litigation, protecting and responding to patent lawsuits with each other and anyone else who tried to infringe on what they said they owned.

Edison's original patent No. 200,521 for his"Phonograph or Speaking Machine" would itself later be used in important litigation regarding how a record is made with attention to the definitions of a stylus indenting, etching, engraving, or inscribing the sound waves in the recording process.

 

 

Courtesy United States Patent and Trademark Office








Factories and Manufacturing

Postcard, 1909

 

See Mainspring Press for excellent information regarding some early Record-Pressing Plants.

 

 

 

 

 

Phonograph Stores

When the Phonograph became a machine for the home there were several ways to get one. You could order directly from the phonograph company perhaps in response to something you read in a magazine's or newspaper's phonograph ad or an advertising postcard; you could order through a catalog, like Sears or Montgomery Wards, or from a catalog available from the phonograph and record companies; or visit a phonograph store, music store or other local business carrying "talking machines."

The phonograph companies had different ways of recommending how to shop for a phonograph but Columbia had one of the catchiest lines: "Hearing is Believing, -- and you can hear today at the nearest Columbia dealer's."

 

1908 C. B. Haynes & Co., Richmond, Virginia

 

 

Hannibal, Missouri Music Store with Phonographs, 1910

 




General Store with Standard Model A Phonographs, Nebraska ca. 1910

 

 

For an excellent website that uses an interactive map to identify record store dealers in Paris visit Disquaires de Paris which is designed to pay "tribute to the record dealers and venders of phonograph cylinders, who allowed Parisians to discover recorded sound as early as the end of the 19th century."

"Disquaires de Paris" includes all shops in Paris from 1900 to 1940 that once sold recorded music (records and phonograph cylinders). A significant share of these businesses never specialized in record and cylinder sales and some existed long before the birth of the recording industry, like the piano sellers and luthiers that very early began selling recorded music.

 

See Phonographia's Shopping for a Phonograph for more advertising examples about shopping for a Phonograph.

 

 

Jobbers (Distributors)

List of Firms handling Edison Phonographs and Records as Jobbers in Canada and the US in 1903

The Edison Phonograph Monthly, April 1903

Jobbers were wholesalers who would supply machines and records to other stores in their area but they could also be a local dealer store.

 

 

ADVERTISING

List of Publications where this Edison ad appeared in April 1903

 

The Edison Phonograph Monthly, April 1903

 

 

Victor Billboard in New York's Herald Square, 1906. Courtesy Camden County Historical Society

Victor's enormous sign in New York City's Herald Square according to historian David Suisman (5) was "seen by an estimated eight hundred thousand people daily," was "illuminated by more than a thousand lightbulbs," and was reportedly the most expensive sign in the world up to that time.

For more examples of phonograph advertising visit Phonographia's PhonoAds for its menu of Phonograph Advertisements and Themes.

 

 

 

Delivery to the Customer

"The Victor For Every Day in the Week" brochure - Delivery of the Victor and Victor records. 1907

 

 




Freight Rate Reduction Negotiated, The Edison Phonograph Monthly, February 1906

 

 





Ordering the Edison Amberola 30 - F.K. Babson Catalogue, Edison Phonograph Distributor





The Talking Machine World, October 1908

 

 

 

 

"Rush Orders!" - The Talking Machine World, December 1908






 

 

Advertising postcard, Sonora Delivery Truck, 1920

 

 

 

SUMMARY

Phonograph and records are not unique in having innumerable connections throughout their life-cycles -- all consumer products have countless connections related to what they are and to their culture of the time.

Phonograph connections are, however, unique in being part of the first industry based on the altered human audio perception of sound and voices being captured "for future use." Previously limited by the moment and place, live performances became available as audio home entertainment to anyone, anytime, and to be heard as often as you wanted.

Each new home and personal entertainment device since the phonograph (6) continued with the phonograph's foundation of advertisements that promoted the altered world of perceived sound and the promise of the "best seat in the house."

The phonograph, 78's, LPs and 45s; radio, AM, FM; television, hi-fi, stereo and surround sound TVs; the tape recorder, 8-tracks, cassette recordings; Walkman's and boomboxes; VHS and Betamax VCRs; CDs, HDCDs, SACDs; Laserdiscs and CED Video Discs, DVDs, Blu-rays, 4K Ultra Blu-rays; computers with digital and multiple audio formats, music streaming services -- each and more offered their revised version of what the original phonograph said it could do for you in bringing personal entertainment and the "Stage of the World" into your home as if you were a king, or a millionaire or the possessor of Aladdin's Lamp.

The Phonograph was a wonder, a consumers' dream and its revolution is still turning.

"Seventh row, center. Forever."©

 

"It is reality, nothing less; for "The Stage of the World" presents the artists themselves to you..." Columbia Grafonola, 1916

 

 

 

 

"Ring Up the Graphophone Curtain in Your Home, and the Whole World of Entertainment Appears!" 1906

 

 

 

 

Carnegie Hall - Magavox Stereophonic High-Fidelity -- "recorded music suddenly comes alive...creating an exciting illusion of "living presence...with amazing realism." 1958





"Fifth-Row-Center-Sound"

"Full, live sound..." Wollensak Stereo Tape Recorder 1963




 

"...hear something you've never heard before: perfection." "you listen to your favorite artists as though you, and your armchair, were centered in the spotlight above." Courtesy Sony 1983.