The Phonograph with a Soul






Fidelity of the phonograph was a major advertising theme in selling the phonograph to the home. Realism and a machine that accurately repeats sound as close as possible to the original sound became a growing expectation for consumers as the phonograph industry repeated this objective in their ads.

As the phonograph developed, ads became more definitive in promoting the fidelity of a recorded voice in comparison with the original, living voice. A 1909 Victrola ad confidently stated "Only Life itself can compare with the Victrola."


"Only life itself can compare with the Victrola" Collier's, 1909



Farrar's voice "s just the same as hearing her on the operatic or concert stage...with all the personal charm and individuality of the artist."

The American magazine, 1914




As the phonograph industry increased its relationship with opera and the "greatest artists of the world," its talking machine transformed into an 'instrument,' and then the personification of the performing artist: The instrument that is the greatest artists."

"The Victrola is the greatest artists in the homes of the people." Victrola 1920



Ads that focused on the "higher class music" and opera related records would also envoke the listener's potential enjoyment of "the soul-stirring arias and concerted numbers...with all its hidden mysteries."

Or as the 1919 Columbia Grafonola ad described its "magical voice of music:" The Columbia Grafonola is greater than any artist or any musical instrument. For it is all artists and all instruments in one magical voice of music." Hearing it "you forget instrument, record, and artist alike-- only the soul of immortal music thrills you."


The golden voice of the Grafonola and its "soul of immortal music"

"A Magical Voice of Music," Columbia Grafonola, 1919



The "soul of immortal music" could now be delivered by the phonograph and its records. All that was missing was the soul itself -- not simply the soul thrilling experience of hearing the music but the phonograph and its record personified as artist and soul.

The following are some examples of "The Phonograph with a Soul" starting with the Edison Diamond Disc Phonograph of 1916, The New Edison, which was said to be "The Phonograph With a Soul." This was a "mechanical musical device possessing the human element." The New Edison has bridged "the gulf between the human and the purely mechanical..." "This musical marvel of all ages captures " the very magnetism of the artist's personality."


The Music Trade Review, 1916 (courtesy of International Arcade Museum Library)




The New Edison, "The Phonograph with a Soul" 1921




"The Talking Machine With a Soul," The Talking Machine World, June 15, 1918





"Columbia Records -- they are the best -- they have the soul." Munsey's Magazine, 1906




"The voice of the Victor is the human voice. It "reproduces every note, every tone, body and soul."

"The voice by the fireside" - "You listen and forget it's the Victor; it is the perfect living voice." 1906




Edison's Sublime Gift to Mankind

The New Edison has the "precious power to speak the sublime language of the soul." 1916


"This precious power" that Edison was offering to mankind could be viewed by readers as another example of Edison as the "Wizard of Menlo Park." With the introduction of Edison's Diamond Disc Phonograph and its records described as a "miracle" of the "master inventor," his "re-created music" was simply an extension of the original wonder of Edison's invention of a machine that "captured sound" and then reproduced the human voice.

With Edison's ads offering a machine in which sublime music was "re-created" it seems a small marketing step to also say that such a machine was a "phonograph with a soul."


The 'actual Re-Creation of music... Advertising postcard, 1915



The 'actual Re-Creation of music" not a mere mechanical" reproduction. Advertising postcard, 1915




"Music is the soul of man struggling to express itself."

Thomas A. Edison Dealer Book, 1917




"Unless music comes into your home, that home is not half a home. It is only a house."

Thomas A. Edison Dealer Book, 1917



Open your heart to the world's great music! The Talking Machine World, July 1919




The Starr Phonograph plays The Soul of the Artist - The Talking Machine World, August 1922


"The human voice is human on the New Othrophonic Victrola...with the very personality of the artist." The Ladies' Home Journal, 1927