Children's Phonographs and Popular Culture Characters

Record Players with familiar faces

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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."

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Edison's Phonograph, 1878 - Poster promoting demonstrations of the Phonograph (Courtesy of National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.)

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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)

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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)

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"When the language lesson's done then the children have their fun" - The Edison Phonograph Monthly, October, 1904

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"RCA Victor Children's Record" stories begin with Little Nipper, 1951

 

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The children's own 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.

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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

 

Bozo the Clown, Steelman Phonograph & Radio Co., 1954

             

WKRP in Cincinnati Disc Jockey Control Center, Vanity Fair, 1982

 

Lindstrom Electric Phonograph, Model 777, c. 1948

 

Winnie the Pooh Electric Phonograph, Lionel, c. 1948

   

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HOWDY DOODY

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Howdy Doody Phono Doodle, Shura-Tone İKagran - Three speed (78, 45 and 33 1/3 rpms) portable "Treasure Chest" design, c. 1955. (FP0641)

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Howdy Doody Phono Doodle, Shura-Tone İKagran - Single speed (78 rpm) portable with no lid, c. 1955. (FP0397)

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Howdy Doody Phono Doodle, Shura-Tone - Single speed 78 rpm, plastic case and the smallest Phono Doodle, c.1955 MIB. (FP0622)

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1955 Catalog page showing three Howdy Doody Phonograph Models

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Phineas T. Bluster Handkerchief, circa 1955 (FP1357)

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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.

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ROY ROGERS

Roy Rogers, RCA Victor Model 9-EY-36 , 45 RPM, c. 1950 (FP0403)

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Roy Rogers & Dale Evans Phonograph, Spear Products, Inc., Stereo Speakers, 4 speed, c. 1961 (Photo courtesy Hakes)

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Roy Rogers Portable Phonograph, Sears Catalog, 1961 (See full page ad)

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See Roy Rogers - Records and Other Phonographia for more examples of Roy Rogers Phonographia Connections.

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DONALD DUCK

Donald Duck Electric Portable Phonograph, Spear Products, Inc., Model #21, c. 1960's

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Donald Duck Electric Portable Phonograph, Spear Products, Inc., Model #14D, c. 1960's (FP0616)

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Donald Duck Electric Portable Phonograph Model #21, Sears Catalog, 1961 (See full page ad)

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Donald Duck Electric Portable Phonograph 4-speed, General Electric (FP0407)

Donald Duck's Sing Lesson, Golden Record, ©Walt Disney Productions

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Courtesy Vintage Audio Love

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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)

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SMURF

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Smurf™ 2-speed Phonograph, Vanity Fair, 1982 (FP0650)

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Smurf™ 2-speed Phonograph, Vanity Fair, 1983 (FP0642)

Smurf™ 2-speed Phonograph, made by Vanity Fair, magazine ad 1983

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1982 Christmas Polaroid Photograph with Vanity Fair Smurfs Phonograph

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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)

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BOZO "THE CAPITOL CLOWN"

Bozo, the Capitol Clown, Phonograph, Herold Radio and Television Mfg. Corp., Mount Vernon, N.Y., Model BA-11, 1954

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Bozo BE-21 Phonograph, Toys and Novelties, March, 1954

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For more examples of Bozo's Phonographs and Records see Phonographia's BOZO THE CAPITOL CLOWN.

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SEE-A-SONG

See-A-Song Phonograph, Model 4500T, The Wal-Feld Co., Valley Stream, NY, c. 1955 (FP0713)

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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.

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Junior Operetta Records - Little Red Ridiing Hood

The Talking Machine World, November 15, 1923

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The Talking Machine World, November 15, 1923

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The Talking Machine World, November 15, 1923, p. 126

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VICTOR-VICTROLA VV 1-2 (Nursery Model)

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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)

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Victor-Victrola VV 1-2 "Aladdin" c. 1925 (Courtesy the Victor-Victrola Website)

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The Nursery Model VV-1-2, Voice of the Victor, May 1925

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LEMIPHONE

Lemiphone, with children decorating the lithographed record player, made by the Leonhard Müller Company, Nürnberg, Germany, c. 1926 (FP1222).

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The JEANNETTE

The Jeannette Phonograph, No. 4450, Johnson Smith & Co., 1926

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Baby Jeannette Phonograph and Genola, Butler Bros., Wholesalers of General Merchandise Catalog, New York, 1927, p. 75

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1930 Children's Phonograph ads

Children's Phonograph, Union Hardware and Metal Company Catalog, 1930

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Children's Phonograph, Union Hardware and Metal Company Catalog, 1930, p. 2710

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Admiral Phonograph, "Child-Proof, " Collier's, August 1946

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"Favorites of Tots and Teens," Penney's Catalog, 1947, pp. 46-47

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Children's Phonographs, Spiegel, 1952, p. 39

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LINDSTROM with Litho Characters

Lindstrom Electric Phonograph, Model 777, 78 RPM, c. 1948 (FP1510)

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WINNIE THE POOH

Winnie the Pooh Electric Phonograph, Lionel, ca. 1964

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WKRP in CINCINNATI

WKRP in Cincinnati Disc Jockey Control Center, Vanity Fair, 1983 (FP0388)

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For examples of Vanity Fair Phonograph ads see Phonographia's VANITY FAIR PHONOGRAPHS ADS.

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1981 Fisher-Price Phonograph Ad

Fisher-Price Phonograph, Fisher-Price Toys, New York, 1981

 

Penny's Four-Speed Phono Fun! - Mickey and Friends and Dr. Dolittle and his animals! 1968.

 

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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.

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Phonographia

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