Pre-1900 Trade and Magazine Ads

A Talking Machine for the Home


When the phonograph began to be marketed as a home entertainer its early 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, September 1896


In 1896 the Berliner Gram-o-phone was also advertising that its records "are endless in variety, including nearly every song that you are acquainted with."


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


Endless variety, however, didn't normally include specifics 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 (1) 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.


Columbia Phonograph advertisement for records. The Phonogram, February 1891


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 for consumers to buy a talking machine.





Selling the phonograph as a home entertainer joined the other three 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 the wonder that would have its most 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 believeably 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 off-spring 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 gives a larger return of pleasure for the money than a Graphophone." Munsey's c. 1897




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



"Marveous, yet so simple..." with the most enchanting selections..." Munsey's magazine, 1896





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





The Edison Gem, May 20, 1899 Courtesy NYPL





"Simplest and best ever made" advertisement for Columbia's 1897 Graphophone, 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."



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






Frank Leslie's Illustrated, March 1890





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





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




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





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



The Cosmopolitan, 1897




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




The Cosmopolitan, 1897




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



The Phonoscope, March 1898



The Phonoscope, March 1898



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



"Fascinating Inexhaustible Amusement is the Genuine Edison Phonograph" - McClure's January 1898





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



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



The Phonoscope, March 1899




The Saturday Evening Post, May 27, 1899




Munsey's Magazine, 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