Looking for the Band

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"Looking for the Band" was an advertising phrase meant to convey the confusion that some people felt when they heard a band playing music from a phonograph but they couldn't see the actual band. It sounded so real. Could there be a band inside a box or some trick?

The little boy ready to chop open the phonograph to find the band was one solution for answering that question about a machine that was said to be "The Acme of Realism."

Looking for the source of the "sound" was seen in phonograph ads and cartoons before 1900 and continued into the 20th century and the following decades when the radio and television would substitute for the earlier phonograph box mystery.

The 1970's advertising campaign for Memorex recording tape asked this question in iconic style: "Is it Live, or is it Memorex?"

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Edison Advertising Form No. 410, Circa 1901

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This 1903 postcard is from a series of "Looking for the Band" images where two sweet children are apparently listening to a phonograph and all is well. But then their father leaves the room.

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The father returns to room and, to his shock, the innocent children have taken apart the phonograph "looking for the band."

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The following is a 1906 Edison dealer hand-out titled "How the Boys Found the Band." It was a fold-down advertising piece that showed curious boys climbing over a wall to get a glimpse of the band they could hear. When you opened the fold-out, the source was revealed: The band music came from an Edison Triumph Phonograph (Model B introduced in 1906).

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Edison fold-down advertising Form No. 945

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edison Form No. 407 - March 1903 Trade card for Edison Gold Moulded Records

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following 1912 postcard shows a little girl searching for the source of the music:

 

 

 

 

c. 1910 postcard

 

 

 

 

 

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c. 1908 postcard

 

 

 

 

 

c. 1904 postcard

 

 

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The following is from the Phonograph trade magazine The Phonogram, October 1891

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Introduction to a Nickel-in-the-Slot

"What's that -- something to cure ears?"

"No; I reckon it's a lung-tester."

"Look out, Sam! You will get a shock!"

"I'll bet it's some kind of a sell."

"Sell, is it? Sam shouts, with the tubes in his ears. "You just hear this. It's a regular band playin'. No sell about that. If that ain't worth a nickel of any man's money, I'll pay for it."

Everybody laughed at Sam's enthusiasm expressed in such loud tones; but at his recommendation even the most skeptical dropped his little nickel in the slot and heard the phonograph. "How do you load them, mister?" "They don't load them. The music comes over the Western Union wires" volunteered a wise by-stander, in reply. "No!" "Yes, it does. Didn't you hear him say that piece was played by the United States Marine Band of Washington, D.C?" Then they both peered around the case to see where the wires came in." The Phonogram, October 1891, p 221

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Nickel-in-the-Slot circa 1890

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1921 Victrola ad perhaps revealing the secret of how sound comes out of the Victrola

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1974 Memorex ad - Is it live, or is it Memorex?

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Phonographia

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