Massani's "The Phonograph"

Form 935 Advertising Card - Delighted and Amazed 1906


Above is a postcard of "The Phonograph," a.k.a. "The Old Couple," adapted from Massani's original painting to be featured in an Edison advertising campaign. The first of the paintings by Massani, however, "showed an elderly man listening to a "Puck style" cylinder phonograph."



The oil painting known as "The Phonograph" was painted by Professor Pompeo Massani of Florence and was purchased by an Edison agent in April 1905. (1)

The version below has added the woman to become the old couple but still has a Puck-style cylinder phonograph. After its purchase the entire design was recopied by an American artist who substituted an Edison Home for the Puck. (2)



The Massani painting that was purchased in April 1905 with the couple and their Puck-style cylinder phonograph is now on display at the Edison Winter Home at Fort Myers, Florida. (Courtesy of the Edison and Ford Winter Home and APM).

For details about the original painting and more related history after it was purchased by Edison's agent see "Lost and Found: The Massani-Edison Painting Mystery" by Allen Koenigsberg in Volume 11 Number 2 of the Antique Phonograph Monthly (APM).


"The Phonogram" ©1905


"The Phonograph," read the back of one of 800,000 Edison advertising post cards, "depicts the delighted amazement of an old couple upon hearing a Phonograph for the first time."


"The Phonograph," Edison Form 935 (PM-2111)

"This famous painting is remarkable for the delight and amazement depicted upon the faces of the old couple upon their first hearing the Phonograph."


Allen Koenigsberg in his APM article writes that "the American copy of Massani's painting must have been made around October 1905 as the the two-minute style number 9107 appears on the cap of the cylinder box."


Form 1380 postcard

Issued by the National Phonograph Company, Orange, N.J. 1906


Here is what the Edison Phonograph Monthly said about this painting and the upcoming Edison advertising campaign in March 1906:

A STRIKING OIL PAINTING. A calendar for 1906 was mailed to the entire trade early in January. Its principal feature was a reproduction by the three-color process of an oil painting of an old couple listening in delighted amazement to an Edison Phonograph for the first time. The original of this picture was painted by Massani, a noted Italian painter. It was imported a year ago by William Johnson, then of Fifth avenue, New York city. Its first public exhibition in this country was at the Chalfonte Hotel, Atlantic City, where Mr. Johnson had an extensive exhibit of paintings, and where it was priced at $1,050. It was there bought by the National Phonograph Co. It is now being reproduced in a handsome and life-like manner in fourteen colors of lithography, and copies will later be distributed to the trade. This reproduction will be the full size of the original painting, 17 x 25 inches. It will be worth a place in any home. Other uses of the painting will follow. The subject is universally regarded as one of the most striking ever put out in connection with a talking machine.

The Edison Phonograph Monthly, March 1906



Back side of Form 935 Advertising Card for H. J. Ebenreiter, Pianos, Organs, Furniture and Undertaking, Plymouth, WIsconsin



Magazine ad with Edison Phonograph, December 1906


The Edison Phonograph Monthly, April 1907



Suggested Retirement

In 1908 Edison's advertising manager was ready to retire "the old couple":

"As an ordinary illustration, we have used it about as much as could be expected....While the uses we have made of the old couple have been satisfactory to the trade and we have had many favorable expressions concerning it, the trade, from my observation, constantly wants something new in the way of illustrated matter. New folders, new cards, new lithographs, new posters, etc., in my opinion, have a greater selling value than the continued use of one subject like the dog or the old couple."

Letter from L. C. McChesney to W. E. Gilmore, President of The National Phonograph Co., January, 1908


Not yet!

The complete retirement of the Old Couple, however, didn't happen and the June 1913 Edison Phonograph Monthly shows the couple are apparently considered "new and striking" and "bound to attract attention."

Here's the text for the article headed EDISON EIGHT-SHEET POSTERS.

Of all the effective ways of advertising at this season of the year, the local bill-board certainly should be most favorably considered. More people are out of doors now than at any other time of the year, and observe more that is new and striking in the way of advertising. Our "Old-Couple" poster, a standard eight-sheet, executed in high colors, is bound to attract attention. We furnish these free to Dealers, requiring only a copy of your contract with your local bill-posting concern to complete our records.

The Edison Phonograph Monthly, June, 1913, p. 9