The announcement of Edison's invention of the Phonograph was greeted with wonder, questions and many predictions about its future.
As an early exhibition machine it would be demonstrated as an invention based on science, "the talking wonder," "The Miracle of the 19th Century" and the "dream of the inventor realized." (1)
The subtext for all phonograph exhibitions, however, was surely that Edison's Phonograph was something so novel it had to be heard -- possible in 1878 traveling venues for 25 cents Adults, 10 cents for Children. These early phonograph exhibitions were akin to side-show or magic acts with their promotional posters, trade cards, and newspaper ads describing what to expect: "It Talks! It Sings! It Laughs! It plays coronet songs."
Edison's Phonograph, 1878 - Poster promoting demonstrations of the Phonograph (Courtesy of National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.)
When the phonograph did enter the home it was not promoted as a toy nor was it intended to be operated by children although an 1896 Columbia Graphophone ad pointed out that it was "so simple that even a child can make it pour forth the most enchanting selections of the world's greatest Musicians...."
"Marvelous, yet so simple that even a child" can operate it. Munsey's Magazine, 1896 (PM-1006A)
Records for children would be released and advertisements such as this 1906 brochure "Victor for Every Day" featured children operating and being entertained by the Victor Talking Machine and its records.
The Victor for Every Day in the Week, Victor Talking Machine brochure, c. 1905 (PM-0210)
The children's phonograph market, however, didn't take off until after World War I in the United States. Like the rest of the phonograph industry the children's phonograph market faded in the 1930's, re-emerged after World War II and continued to be part of popular culture through the 1980's.
Gallery of Children's Phonographs
The following are examples of children's phonographs and respective ads featuring popular culture characters and messaging the phonograph industry used to promote its children's market.
Howdy Doody Phono Doodle,Shura-Tone İKagran, 1955
Roy Rogers RCA Victor Model 9-EY-36 , 45 RPM, c. 1950
Donald Duck 78 RPM, Spear Products, Inc., 1961
Smurf Phonograph, Vanity Fair, 1983
The Victor-Victrola VV 1-2, the Nursery Model, c. 1925
Lemiphone, Leonhard Müller Company, c. 1926
See-A-Song, Mfg by The Wal-Feld Co., c. 1955
WKRP in Cincinnati Disc Jockey Control Center, Vanity Fair, 1982
Lindstrom Electric Phonograph, Model 777, c. 1948
Howdy Doody Phono Doodle, Shura-Tone İKagran - Three speed (78, 45 and 33 1/3 rpms) portable "Treasure Chest" design, c. 1955. (FP0641)
Howdy Doody Phono Doodle, Shura-Tone İKagran - Single speed (78 rpm) portable with no lid, c. 1955. (FP0397)
Howdy Doody Phono Doodle, Shura-Tone - Single speed 78 rpm, plastic case and the smallest Phono Doodle, c.1955 MIB. (FP0622)
1955 Catalog page showing three Howdy Doody Phonograph Models
Phineas T. Bluster Handkerchief, circa 1955 (FP1357)
Note: Howdy Doody is one of those popular culture characters that had a talking clock to wake-up children which used a miniature record and playing mechanism inside the clock. See the Howdy Doody Talking Alarm Clock made by Janex c.1977 in Phonographia's Talking Clock Exhibit.
Roy Rogers, RCA Victor Model 9-EY-36 , 45 RPM, c. 1950 (FP0403)
Roy Rogers & Dale Evans Phonograph, Spear Products, Inc., Stereo Speakers, 4 speed, c. 1961 (Photo courtesy Hakes)
Roy Rogers Portable Phonograph, Sears Catalog, 1961 (See full page ad)
See Roy Rogers - Records and Other Phonographia for more examples of Roy Rogers Phonographia Connections.
Donald Duck Electric Portable Phonograph, Spear Products, Inc., Model #21, c. 1960's
Donald Duck Electric Portable Phonograph, Spear Products, Inc., Model #14D, c. 1960's (FP0616)
Donald Duck Electric Portable Phonograph Model #21, Sears Catalog, 1961 (See full page ad)
Donald Duck Electric Portable Phonograph 4-speed, General Electric (FP0407)
Donald Duck's Sing Lesson, Golden Record, ©Walt Disney Productions
Courtesy Vintage Audio Love
Note: Mattel's Chatter-Chum pull-string toys used a miniature record and playing mechanism inside its figures and included Donald Duck as one of its talking characters. c. 1976 (FP0154)
Smurf 2-speed Phonograph, Vanity Fair, 1982 (FP0650)
Smurf 2-speed Phonograph, Vanity Fair, 1983 (FP0642)
Smurf 2-speed Phonograph, made by Vanity Fair, magazine ad 1983
1982 Christmas Polaroid Photograph with Vanity Fair Smurfs Phonograph
Note: Mattel's Chatter-Chum pull-string toys used a miniature record and playing mechanism inside its figures and included Smurf and Smurfette in their series of talking characters. c. 1982 (Smurf, FP0143)
Smurfette Chatter Chum, Mattel c. 1983 (FP0142)
BOZO "THE CAPITOL CLOWN"
Bozo, the Capitol Clown, Phonograph, Herold Radio and Television Mfg. Corp., Mount Vernon, N.Y., Model BA-11, 1954
Bozo BE-21 Phonograph, Toys and Novelties, March, 1954
For more examples of Bozo's Phonographs and Records see Phonographia's BOZO THE CAPITOL CLOWN.
See-A-Song Phonograph, Model 4500T, The Wal-Feld Co., Valley Stream, NY, c. 1955 (FP0713)
The See-A-Song Phonograph plays its record and a Zoetrope with a light inside rotates while the song plays music/story to match the images. Lithographed figures included Mother Goose, the Wizard of Oz's Tin Man and Scarecrow, The King of Hearts, and The Cat and the Fiddle.
VICTOR-VICTROLA VV 1-2 (Nursery Model)
The Victor-Victrola VV 1-2, the Nursery Model and renamed the "Aladdin" in December 1925, was designed for children and was decorated with storybook characters.
The original 1925 selling price of the VV 1-2 was $18.00 (the average hourly earnings for United States workers in manufacturing was 49 cents per hour in 1925). (2)
Victor-Victrola VV 1-2 "Aladdin" c. 1925 (Courtesy the Victor-Victrola Website)
The Nursery Model VV-1-2, Voice of the Victor, May 1925
Lemiphone, with children decorating the lithographed record player, made by the Leonhard Müller Company, Nürnberg, Germany, c. 1926 (FP1222).
The Jeannette Phonograph, No. 4450, Johnson Smith & Co., 1926
Baby Jeannette Phonograph and Genola, Butler Bros., Wholesalers of General Merchandise Catalog, New York, 1927, p. 75
1930 Children's Phonograph ads
Children's Phonograph, Union Hardware and Metal Company Catalog, 1930
Children's Phonograph, Union Hardware and Metal Company Catalog, 1930, p. 2710
Admiral Phonograph, "Child-Proof, " Collier's, August 1946
"Favorites of Tots and Teens," Penney's Catalog, 1947, pp. 46-47
Children's Phonographs, Spiegel, 1952, p. 39
LINDSTROM with Litho Characters
Lindstrom Electric Phonograph, Model 777, 78 RPM, c. 1948 (FP1510)
WINNIE THE POOH
Winnie the Pooh Electric Phonograph, Lionel, ca. 1964
WKRP in CINCINNATI
WKRP in Cincinnati Disc Jockey Control Center, Vanity Fair, 1983 (FP0388)
For examples of Vanity Fair Phonograph ads see Phonographia's VANITY FAIR PHONOGRAPHS ADS.
1981 Fisher-Price Phonograph Ad
Fisher-Price Phonograph, Fisher-Price Toys, New York, 1981
For an on-line collection of children's phonographs (kindergrammophones) see Peter W. Burgherr's Collection.
For other examples of lithographed children's phonographs see Phonographia's PhonoLithos.