Shopping for a Phonograph

"This Columbia Grafonola looks mighty good to me. Let's go down town and hear it."


By Doug Boilesen 2019

Phonograph advertisers had many themes to choose from to encourage the purchase of a phonograph. But an important goal in phonograph advertisements was to get consumers to visit a dealer and listen for themselves. "Hearing is Believing" said the Victor and Columbia ads.

Let's go down town and hear it," says the husband to his wife in the above Columbia Grafonola ad.

Courtesy of Collections of Maine Historical Society (2)


1908 C. B. Haynes & Co., Richmond, Virginia


Hannibal, Missouri Music Store with Phonographs, 1910


Phonographs and records for sale as part of a general store (see cigars, Orangeade, etc.), unknown location, ca. 1910


"Ritt's Music Store, St. Peter, Minnesota," 1912. Courtesy Nicollet County Historical Society, via Minnesota Digital Library and DPLA Exhibitions Golden Age of Radio


Once in a store how should a shopper choose a phonograph? A 1926 Crescent Phonograph ad offered this explanation: "People make mistakes in choosing phonographs because they do not know how to choose. "Ask a dealer to play a Crescent Phonograph side by side with any other instrument that you have in mind. Play the same record on each and let your own ear judge which tone sounds best to you."

One could also simply order a phonograph by mail and have it delivered without even entering a phonograph store which is what Mari Sandoz father did at the beginning of the 19th century in the sandhills of Nebraska as described in her The Christmas of the Phonograph Records.

The following advertisements feature scenes of 'shopping' and reasons identified by the phonograph companies for selecting their machine.


"Can you send it home today?" - The Ladies' Home Journal, December 1918


"Buy Edison Records. Dealers everywhere have them." Munsey's magazine, 1900


"Look for the Dog if you want to hear this music at its very best." The Booklovers Magazine, 1904


"Only asks a hearing." McClure's magazine 1904 (PM-0974)


"Hearing is Believing" Victor Talking Machine Company, Munsey's Magazine, 1905

Cholly Cashcaller Selling a Phonograph (the machine that makes records)

Omaha Daily Bee, November 27, 1904 Courtesy of University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries, Lincoln, NE


Columbia Dealer Signage (PM-0768)


Columbia's 'Music Master' helping Madam with her record selection, 1906


Why the Graphophone is the Best - The Music Master Visits the factory. 1906


Columbia's 'Music Master' is "delighted" with the marvelous tone of Columbia Records. "I am annoyed that any choose the tin-type when at their command is the tone phonograph so perfect, of the Columbia Record." Pearson's magazine, 1906


The 'Music Master' has a 'great idea" for your Holiday purchases. "One gift for the whole family -- The Columbia Graphophone." Munsey's magazine, 1906


Shopping for a Phonograph Horn, The Talking Machine World, April 1907


"The Victor For Every Day in the Week" brochure - Delivery of the Victor and Victor records. 1907

Ordering the Edison Amberola 30 - F.K. Babson Catalogue, Edison Phonograph Distributor


The Talking Machine World, July 15, 1907


Buy your Phonograph "direct from the factory to you," The Cosmopolitan, 1907


Advice for Edison dealers regarding customers entering their stores

The Edison Phonograph Monthly, October 1908


Music Master: "I give the assurance that the improved by the use of Columbia Records," Cosmopolitan Magazine, 1910.


"Offering your customer" record cabinets to go with their phonograph. The Talking Machine World, November 15, 1911


"Hearing is Believing" - Columbia Grafonola, Cosmopolitan, 1912


Make your decision based on "three vital features", Hearst's magazine, December 1915 (Source Internet Archive, Charles Perrien)


"Here comes our Columbia." Cosmopolitan, May 1914

Women are the shoppers whom you don't want to disappoint by not having the record in stock they are looking for.

The Talking Machine World, Feburary 1917

"Let me send it to your home on trial." Columbia Grafonola, The Saturday Evening Post, November 1917


"Buying a Phonograph the Columbia Way" - Columbia Grafonola, Ladies' Home Journal, 1918

The Pleasant Business of Buying a Grafonola, The Ladies' Home Journal, 1918


"You Forget You are in a Store" Columbia ad, April 1918


The Inevitable Choice, March 1919 The National Geographic


"The Perfect Gift," Sonora Phonograph Company, 1920


"Here's Daddy with Some New Columbia Records," 1921


"Look what Daddy's brought home!" The Ilustrated London News Christmas Number, 1925


The Brunswick Shop Sales Receipt ready for writing up a sale, circa 1923


"The line that sells at sight" The Talking Machine World, March 1923


Some one of the beautiful new models of the Othrophonic Victrola will suit your income and your home, The Ladies' Home Journal, 1926


Playthings, September 1926 Toy Catalog


"Let your own ear judge..."

"Quality of reproduction -- or TONE -- counts most in your selection of a phonograph." Crescent Talking Machine Co., 1928


Combination Victrolas and radio - both in the one cabinet. "Why isn't that the ticket?" The Ladies Home Journal, January 1929

"Really, we never spent money to better advantage. It has been a life-saver on more than one occasion. We have no "entertaining problem" now.

Hear it! Magestic Radio-Phonograph, 1930


The RCA Victor radio-phonograph and the Victor Library of Recorded Music. A Gift Beyond Price (6.5" x 10") 1935


How to Buy a Radio-Phonograph, The Saturday Evening Post, 1947


STOP! LOOK! and LISTEN! Stromberg-Carlson, 1948