Cable Addresses and the Phonograph

International Communication before the Telephone


By Doug Boilesen, 2021

The United States Postal Service was a resource for the phonograph industry in the nineteenth century with phonograph, record catalogues and promotional material delivered by mail if a phonograph advertisement caught someone's attention and they wanted more information. Rural Free Delivery in 1896 further improved mail service with expanded home delivery.

Early ads invariably included lines like "Send for Illustrated Catalogue"; "Write to us."; "Write for Particulars," etc., followed with the company's mailing address.

Cable addresses a.k.a., telegraphic addresses, were added to phonograph related business ads when some companies pursued marketing their records and phonographs "in Foreign Counties" at the end of the nineteenth century.

As an internationally unique number, like an internet domain name used in a URL (Uniform Resource Locator), cable addresses are also interesting when you remember that in the nineteenth century there were no transcontinental telephone lines in America or transatlantic telephone lines. The number of telephones in the United States was growing in the 1890's but phone numbers weren't part of national ads. Communication between national phonograph companies and customers was basically limited to mail and telegraph communication with international messages using cable addresses made possible by the completion of the transatlantic cable in 1858.

The first official transatlantic telephone call didn't take place until January 7, 1927, however, it was not transmitted by wire but instead used short-wave radio.

The following phonograph business ads from The Phonoscope are examples of the inclusion of cable addresses in some ads beginning with Russell Hunting's PHONOCASEY NEW YORK" in the March 1898 ad where he is offering his services as a General Sales and Purchasing Agent for "Individuals and Dealers in Foreign Countries."



FACTOLA, March 1898 - Russell Hunting, whose legacy included his "Casey" series of records, started his own company, RUSSELL HUNTING.

As General Sales and Purchasing Agent his Cable Address was "PHONOCASEY NEW YORK." This was the first inclusion of a Cable Address in The Phonoscope ads.


The Phonoscope, March 1898


The following are examples of some other phonograph related companies who added a cable address to their business ads prior to 1900.



FACTOLA, October 1899 - Cable Address for The Polyphone Co., and Leon F. Douglass, Vice-President Chicago, U.S.A. was "POLYPHONE, CHICAGO."

The Phonoscope, October 1899


FACTOLA, December 1899 - Cable Address for the American Micrograph Co. was "MICRO" N.Y.

The Phonoscope, December 1899


FACTOLA, April 1898 - The cable address for the Edison Phonograph Agency in New York, N.Y. "FUSE, New York."

The Phonoscope, April 1898


FACTOLA, May 1898 - The cable address for Maguire & Baucus, Limited, selling agents for T. A. Edison for all the genuine Edison and Lumiere military and Naval films carried in stock, Edison Phonograph Agency in New York, N.Y. was "Cousinhood," New York and London.

The Phonoscope, May 1898


FACTOLA, October 1898 - The cable address for William Roche, manufacturer of batteries for phonograph motors was "ROBAT."

The Phonoscope, October 1898


FACTOLA, January 1899 - The cable address for C. E. Stevens, Selling Agent for Phonographs and "all apparatus manufactured at the Edison Laboratory and genuine Edison goods, was "ESTABAN."

The Phonoscope, January 1899


FACTOLA, February 1899 - The cable address for the Phonograph Sapphire Co., makers of "Jones" Jewels for all Talking-Machines was "JOSSAPH NEW YORK."

The Phonoscope, February 1899


FACTOLA, March 1899 - The cable address for Reed, Dawson & Co., makers of first-class original RECORDS, was "REDAW."

The Phonoscope, March 1899


FACTOLA, November 1899 - Cable Address for American Talking Machine Co., was "TWINEAST NEW YORK."

The Phonoscope, November 1899


The TransAtlantic Cable transmitted its first message on August 17, 1858. The artist shows Brother Jonathan (left) shaking hands with John Bull. (Library of Congress).


The Hunting Talking Machine Telegraphic Code

FACTOLA: Besides Russell Hunting adding his Cable Address PHONOCASEY NEW YORK to his March 1898 PhonoScope ad, Hunting also introduced what he called "The Hunting Talking Machine Telegraphic Code." His telegraphic code contained over seven thousand sentences and phrases used in the talking machine trade. Telegraphed orders using the Hunting's Talking Machine Code could save customer's money by the reduction of words otherwise needed in ordering phonographs and records.

For the fascinating details about Hunting's Telegraphic Code see Allen Koenigsberg's "Music Codes in Telegrams of the 1890's: Culture vs Technology" (Allen Koenigsberg, The Antique Phonograph, June 2012.)


Courtesy Library of Congress and Allen Koenigsberg, The Antique Phonograph, June 2012