Newspaper Clippings and the Phonograph

Clippings from two small town newspapers in Nebraska pre-1895


By Doug Boilesen 2023

This gallery features articles and references to Edison's invention reported by two small town Nebraska newspapers: St. Paul's "The Phonograph" and Red Cloud's "The Red Cloud Chief." The clippings illustrate what communities like St. Paul and Red Cloud were reading and learning about the phonograph in the 1880's and early 1890's prior to phonographs being marketed for the home.

The Phonograph was established as a weekly newspaper at St. Paul, on the 2nd day of September, 1878, by Arthur B. Lewis. There are eleven known newspapers that used "Phonograph" in recognition of Edison's sound-writing invention as the name of their paper in the United States between 1878 and 1881. Edison's Phonograph was invented on December 6, 1877 with its patent issued on February 19, 1878. See Phonographia's Newspapers Named the Phonograph for more details about the other "Phonograph" newspapers.

Most of these articles were locally adapted or reprinted from national newspapers in the era when news syndication was growing. The same content, therefore, would have been seen by many readers across the country.

Predictions, cartoons, jokes and other 'news' about the phonograph reflect the addition in popular culture of a consumer machine that recorded and played back human voices and sounds.


Request to exhibit Edison's phonograph, 1878.


The Red Cloud Chief, April 11, 1878, p. 2.


Tom Edison's Career with "Biographical Notes of a Great Inventor and Electrician," 1878.


The Red Cloud Chief, April 11, 1878


Humor - An 1880 Patent Alarm Bed with Phonograph attachment (supposedly built from "Edison's" plans: "You Old Mucker, Pile Out" spoke the Phonograph).


The Red Cloud Chief, October 21, 1880


Predictions in 1881 for houses in 2081: Visitors will ring the doorbell, speak into a tube and if no one is home the phonograph will answer "No" and then record any message the caller wants to leave. "When the lady of the house comes home she will turn the handle of her phonograph, and hear, in the very voices of her visitors, what they had to say."


The Red Cloud Chief, December 15, 1881


How does the Phonograph Work?


The St. Paul Phonograph, St. Paul, NE, June 5, 1885 via Inter Ocean.


Phonograph's potential impact on courtship, 1888


The Chadron Democrat, Chadron, Nebraska February 2, 1888


Kisses reproduced by Edison's phonograph


The St. Paul Phonograph, St. Paul, NE, December 12, 1888


The Red Cloud Chief, October 25, 1889


Edison's Phonograph, his Mighty Achievement, makes speech no longer proof of the divine design in man.


The St. Paul Phonograph, St. Paul, NE, August 30, 1889


Phonograph humor, 1890

The Red Cloud Republican, January 11, 1890


Sing at his own funeral by means of a phonograph.

Webster County Argus, May 22, 1890


Queen of Belgium purchases several phonographs, 1892

The Red Cloud Chief, November 4, 1892


Local residents take their phonograph on trips

The Red Cloud Chief, August 4, 1893


Phonograph humor, 1895

The Red Cloud Republican, June 7, 1895


There are also many examples of phonograph 'concerts' in small towns where the phonograph was being exhibited at a school, or used for fund raising, or part of a social gathering at someone's home where the phonograph might have been the only one in town.


Sociable at the residence of Mrs. A. H. Brown with supper and one selection on a phonograph free. The Red Cloud Chief, Red Cloud, NE, November 17, 1893.






Credits: The Prouty Power Press, circa 1880 The Henry Ford