Pre-1900 Ads

Trade and Popular Culture Magazine Ads

By Doug Boilesen 2019

The introduction of the coin-in-the-slot phonograph in 1889 was a pivital step for the phonograph to become a music and home entertainment machine. These early jukeboxes played music and recitations using cylinder records like the ones in Edison's first catalogue in 1890 which were called 'Musical Phonograms."(3A). Columbia made their graphophone machine and some of their earliest records featured music played by the U.S. Marine Band. Other companies and individuals would likewise make records for the coin-in-the-slot machines which were located in saloons, hotels, restaurants, train and ferry stations, and other public places.



FACTOLA: The first nickel-in-the-slot phonograph was installed November 23, 1889, by Louis Glass inside the Palais Royale Saloon in San Francisco. The commercial success of these early coin operated phonographs led to the introduction of easier to operate, cheaper, spring-powered phonographs which in the mid-1890's would be made and marketed for the home.

Columbia Phonograph advertisement for records. The Phonogram, February 1891


In 1893 the North American Phonograph Company produced a brochure with page 1 headlined THE EDISON PHONOGRAPH AS THE MEANS OF HOME ENTERTAINMENT followed by

"It is doubtful if any other instrument for Home Entertainment has sprung into popularity so quickly as the Edison Phonograph....The public soon realized the pleasure to be derived from hearing reproduced on this wonderful machine the efforts of distinguished Musicians, Singers and Comedians, with every characteristic of the artist as to expression, technique and feeling as faithfully reproduced as though the listeners heard the actual efforts of the person who had rendered his talent to the machine." (1)

The machine and accessories for the RESIDENCE described in this brochure, THE EDISON PHONOGRAPH OUTFIT FOR HOME AMUSEMENT, was expensive (ranging from $175.00 and up). Four different classes were offered "according to whether it is to be run by an Electric Motor and batter; an Electric Motor attached to an Electirc Light Current; a Water Motror; or a Foot Treadle."


North American Phonograph Company - 1893 brochure from The Thomas Edison Papers, Rutgers


When cheaper, spring wound phonographs began to be marketed in 1895 as a home entertainer its ads focused on simple themes: it laughs, talks, sings and can repeat your own voice or song; it plays loudly and clearly; it was easy to operate.

Munsey's Magazine, September 1896



Announcement of the Edison Home Phonograph, The Phonoscope, November 1896


The Phonoscope, November 1896



Trade magazine ad by George Gaskin making his services known as available to all record companies, The Phonoscope, November 1896



"Simplest and best ever made" advertisement for Columbia's 1897 Graphophone, The Phonoscope, November 1896


Top half page ad Edison Home Phonograph and Walcutt & Leeds Records, The Phonoscope, November 1896

One early star of story telling was Russell Hunting, known for his 'Michael Casey' recordings. Hunting placed a full page ad in The Phonoscope's initial edition in November 1896 and stated "I can supply you with a meritable record at a reasonable price."



"The records are endless in variety..." McClure's Magazine, 1896


Endless variety, however, didn't normally include specifics in the ads about who the actual artists were that were performing. Caruso and the Metropolitan's divas were not yet part of the "limitless reportoire" that an 1897 Columbia Graphophone ad said was now available. Instead, this reportoire constituted music "rendered by celebrated orchestras and bands, vocal and instrumental music, recitations, speeches, etc."

There were references in trade magazines to a few early recording stars like Dan W. Quinn, Geo. J. Gaskin, Edward M. Favor, Billy Golden; and some true celebrity recordings were being made in the 1890's, most notably by Gianni Bettini in his New York City phonograph salon and Julius Brock (1A) in Europe. Popular culture did have their own early recording stars like artistic whistling John Atlee and band music played by the "world-renowned U.S. Marine Band could be heard on "about 100 different selections" in 1891.

But celebrity music wasn't what the public was expecting to hear on the coin-in-the-slot machines. And it wasn't what they would hear on the early records that came into the home.

The general public from 1895 to 1900 saw magazine phonograph advertisements which had a priority of selling a phonograph to the home. The ads focused on the machine and not specific recording artists. The phonograph in early ads was seen as an opportunity for the home to hear “the world’s greatest Musicians, Singers, Actors, and Speakers..."; "the best bands"; "celebrated orchestras and bands." And the first step was to get consumers to buy a talking machine.




"Marvelous, yet so simple..." with the most enchanting selections..." Munsey's Magazine, 1896



The "most enchanting selections of the world's greatest Musicians, Singers, Actors and Speakers..." 1896



Selling the phonograph as a home entertainer joined the three other phonograph markets -- as a machine for business (dication and letter-writing); as an exhibition machine for phonograph concerts (2); and as a machine for the nickel-in-the-slot phonograph business (3).

Each of the phonograph markets could promote the phonograph as "marvelous," the "greatest invention of the age (4) and the wonder of the world." But what would have its greatest impact was as a home entertainer a decade later when consumers started to understand that they didn't need to leave their home to hear the 'greatest artists;" that it didn't matter when or where the 'performance' had taken place because it was available to you now and as often as you wanted; and that its repertoire could even be accepted as "the stage of the world" in your own home.

The "best seat in the house! Forever" was the phonograph's fundamental premise and promise, and it would be a theme repeated by each of its descendent home entertainment for the next one hundred years.



"no limit to the versatility of the GRAPHOPHONE" and its "limitless repertoire". The four competing uses for the phonograph in the 1890's: Business, Coin-in-the-slot, Home Entertainment and Concert/Exhibitions. The Cosmopolitan, 1897



"Nothing ever invented is capable of giving such a variety of pleasures." The Cosmopolitan, 1897


Munsey's Magazine, January 1897

The Phonograph - "the greatest invention of the age..." The Phonoscope, January 1897



Munsey's Magazine, March 1897

Chicago Talking Machine Co., Munsey's Magazine, May 1897

Munsey's Magazine, May 1897


Munsey's Magazine, July 1897

"It is the most versatile entertainer of the age." Munsey's Magazine, 1897


The Music of the Spheres. All Music is its Province.

Munsey's Magazine, October 1897



Munsey's Magazine, October 1897

"A True Mirror of Sound," The Phonoscope, March 1897


The Cosmopolitan, 1897


The Cosmopolitan, 1897



The Prince of Entertainers - "It affords an inexhaustile supply of fun and pleasure." McClure's, 1897


1897 Sears, Roebuck & Co.,Cheapest Supply House on Earth, Chicago. p. 485



Munsey's Magazine, December 1897

"Nothing gives a larger return of pleasure for the money than a Graphophone." Munsey's Magazine, March 1898



Munsey's Magazine, May 1898



McClure's November 1898 Courtesy NYPL



Laughs, Talks, Sings; Performs Orchestral and Other Music. Record Your Own Song -- Your Friends' Voices.

Munsey's Magazine, 1898


Munsey's Magazine, December 1898


The Edison Gem, May 20, 1899 Courtesy NYPL


"Fascinating Inexhaustible Amusement is the Genuine Edison Phonograph" - McClure's and Munsey's magazines, January 1898



Munsey's Magazine, January 1898


The Phonoscope, March 1898


The Phonoscope, March 1898


Munsey's Magazine, March 1898

Munsey's Magazine, May 1898


Munsey's Magazine, July 1898


Munsey's Magazine, July 1898


"Gives new life to Exhibition Business," The Phonoscope, September 1898

The Edison New Standard Phonograph" - Munsey's Magazine, November 1898


Munsey's Magazine, November 1898

United States Talking Machine Co., Munsey's Magazine, November 1898


You can "make a fortune exhibiting" with this wonderful machine. The Phonoscope, December 1898


"A Gift for Christmas and all the Year" Frank Leslie's Popular Magazine, December 1898



"The World's Greatest Singers, Speakers and Players at your own home! Like a living thing, with a thousand voices." The Cosmopolitan, March 1899


Quarter-page ad for Edison Phonograph, Munsey's Magazine, 1899




"The Pinnacle of Perfection," The Phonoscope, February 1899



"The Graphophone - Why It Has No Rival." Munsey's, February 1899, 6 3/4" x 9 3/4"


"It enables the owner to have the world's talent within four walls." The Phonoscope, March 1899


The Phonoscope, March 1899



"The Graphophone - Five Dollars" Munsey's, April 1899, 2 3/4" x 4"


The Saturday Evening Post, May 27, 1899




"No Bother, Much Fun" Munsey's, July 1899, 2 3/4" x 4"




Munsey's Magazine, February 1899, 2 3/4" x 4"




The Edison Concert Phonograph, Munsey's, May 1899, 2 3/4" x 4"



"Mirth and merrymaking the Year Round" Munsey's, December 1899, 4" x 5.5"



Hartford Graphophone Co., 1899



Edison Form 52, 1900 (Courtesy NYPL) (5)




"Perfectly reproduces the human voice just as loud--just as clear--just as sweet." 1900



Puck, 1900



Harper's Magazine, 1900



The Graphophone - Columbia Phonograph Company, c.1900