"Illustrated Records" A poem by Howard T. Middleton

The Talking Machine World, February 15, 1909


By Doug Boilesen, 2023

A future of visualized phonograph songs is the subject of this poem by Howard Taylor Middleton.

Illustrated Songs were often part of going to the early "silent" moving picture shows with music for those songs provided by live performers or musicians, pianos, organs and even phonographs.

Howard Middleton was a writer and artist for one of the phonograph industry's trade magazines "The Talking Machine World." In its February 1909 issue Middleton wrote an article titled "Illustrated Records" in which he promoted the idea that consumers would enjoy having their own devices to project postcard illustrations so that they could see and listen to thematically related records.

Middleton said this was a business opportunity for phonograph dealers since they could sell devices like a "Reflectograph" and sell phonograph records which would accompany postcard images projected on a screen.

Think of the hit such an announcement will make with your customers. Will they not be delighted, when they call upon you to hear the new monthly supplements, to learn that they can procure from you an outfit capable of producing beautiful colored illustrations life-size on a screen, and when they hear you name the price they will undoubtedly purchase it on sight.

Middleton also suggested the dealer "can make a bunch of money right now by having pictures similar to the colored postal cards, now so popular, printed to illustrate records."

When you think, Mr. Dealer, that artistic picture post cards can be bought at any news stand, drug store, or from venders on the street for as low a price as three for a nickel, you can easily imagine how cheap you can afford to sell cards of a similar quality, made especially to illustrate talking machine records. It looks good to you, doesn't it?


The following concluded Middleton's "Big Idea for Mr. Dealer" article with his poem "Illustrated Records' and the future of hearing and seeing phonograph songs.


Listen to "When Love is Young" by Frank C. Stanley with Orch., Edison Cylinder Record No. 9355. Listed in July 1906 (Courtesy David Giovannoni Collection).



The machine capable of doing the illustrating is already before the public and can be purchased at retail as low as $4, so no time need be taken up with a description of it. It is simply necessary to state that it will do the work, and do it well.


The Mayer Reflectograph, The Talking Machine World, January 1909.


H. C. White Company's "Radioptican" Postcard Projector, 1910-1915 (Courtesy The Henry Ford)




Watch Ring Out the Bells for Christmas - Edison Record No. 9806 released in 1907 and slide-show using phonograph related postcards and illustrated ephemera. ("Christmas Wishes" postcard, PM-0225, December 23, 1910).



Columbia Grafonola, The Ladies' Home Journal, January 1919 - Visualizing with Songs Across the Sea (PM-0845).