About This Site


Phonographia are popular culture connections with the phonograph.

Three facts help explain the significance of the phonograph:

1) The Phonograph changed the human perception of ephemeral sound.

2) The Phonograph was a machine that started social, cultural, and literal revolutions with records revolving and playing "bottled up" music and voices on-demand.

3) The Phonograph was promoted as a necessity for every home offering "the best seat in the house" where the world of entertainment could be enjoyed like a king or a millionaire or the possessor of Aladdin's lamp.

The Edison Phonograph Monthly, December 1906

As a virtual scrapbook (1) phonographia are primarily paper ephemera from magazines, newspapers, ads, cartoons, books and other daily life encounters. Each example originates from its respective time and cultural context but two underlying themes recur in every decade -- namely, sound can be captured "for future use"(2) and secondly, those recorded sounds are always available for anyone, anytime, and anywhere.

Being able to listen to "bottled up" sound was a universal revolution in audio perception, altering the ephermal to be sound lasting potentially forever. Early advertisements said there was something for everyone if you owned a phonograph. "Its repertoire is as limitless as the realm of melody itself."

As an advertised consumer product, however, the images were more targeted. The homes in phonograph ads were primarily scenes of comfort or wealth and always in the context of white demographics. Advertising images of 'privilege' were understood by consumers, as were the references to opera and high culture entertainment. This is one reason why opera was seen in so many early phonograph ads and why its opera stars played such an influential role in the messaging that recorded sound should be considered an equivalent of live music and not some sound-reproducing novelty.


Munsey's Magazine, May 1898


No one, of course, became a member of the privileged class simply by purchasing a phonograph. And other entertainment such as "famous bands and orchestras, popular singers and comedians" were prominent in early phonograph advertisements. But a happy family and the home as one's castle were embedded values in popular culture. And regardless of wealth or where one lived, if your family could be happier and could enjoy the same entertainments of the privileged then owning a phonograph surely was an appealing prospect. After all, who wouldn't want a happy home and "the whole world of entertainment" in their own home, be it otherwise 'ever so humble.'


"Home Sweet Home," postcard, circa 1910


Edison added another detail to the American Dream and "Home Sweet Home" in a 1907 ad saying "I want to see a Phonograph in Every American Home." (3)

Phonograph ads, the phonograph's popular culture connections, the ephemera, and the "small stories"(4) related to the phonograph entering every American home are more of the B-side of phonograph history. For phonographia.com the B-side tracks are its foundation and its contribution to the overall "prismatic recollection of history."(5)

Named like any Friend of the Phonograph would expect for phonograph related ephemera there is hopefully whimsey and insights in galleries like PhonoArt, PhonoToons, PhonoDrinks, Factolas, PhonoAds, etc.

Friends of the Phonograph also have their own subgallery featuring memories about the phonograph and individual stories.

Phonographia.com has many hyperlinks which are additional connections with the phonograph. Since this is neither a book nor a linear history I'm hoping the links from my pages don't distract or get readers lost "in the funhouse of endless hyperlinks." (7) It is a legitimate concern in the age of the Internet, social media and Google searches.

For several angles on my life-long connections with talking machines and phonograph ephemera see Collecting and Phonographia - One Collector's Perspective.

For my one-off about perspective of "What's It All About?" read About This Site - Postscript.


That is all.

Doug Boilesen a.k.a. DB




10" x 14" circa ;1899 broadside advertising the "Finest Entertainer in the World"

“Every home will sooner or later have its phonograph as a necessity”

Courtesy of rareamerican.com