Talking Clocks and the Phonograph

Westminster Public Library, December 2017, Westminster, CO


In April 1878 Edison wrote an article titled "The Phonograph and its Future" to identify "probabilities" for its future. One of those probabilities was 'Clocks."

Clocks. -- "The Phonographic Clock will tell you the hour of the day; call you to lunch; send your lover home at ten, etc.".

For an overview of the history of talking clocks from 1878 see The Phonograph and its Future: Clocks.

This exhibit features toy clocks from 1968 to 2000.

Several toy clocks in the 1950's and 1960's 'talked" by using a miniature phonograph and record inside the toy, however, the 1968 Mattel-a-Time Talking Clock was the first toy that was a talking clock and a working clock. There was a history, however, of talking clocks and the recorded voice going back to 1878.

FACTOLA: Frank Lambert made a lead-sleeve phonograph in 1878 for the Ansonia Clock Co with the hours of the day engraved by the inventor himself. Lambert's recording "is the "oldest direct-to-ear track of sound" existing. (Credit: Frank Lambert's Amazing Time Machine, by Aaron Cramer with additional research by Allen Koenigsberg in The Antique Phonograph Monthly, Issue 97, 1992).

Lambert's phonograph itself wasn't a talking clock but his recording included the hours of the day "One o'clock, Two o'clock, Three o'clock, Four o'clock, Five o'clock, Six o'clock, Seven o'clock, Eight o'clock, Nine o'clock, Eleven o'clock, Twelve o'clock." The APM article noted that "Ten o'clock was omitted, perhaps because Lambert was still a relatively new immigrant." It was concluded by the Cramer APM article that Lambert's testing "beyond a traditional "one, two, three...could only have been done for the full sound track necessary for a talking clock!"

Lambert's phonograph with its 2 5/8" engraved lead cylinder which included Lambert's recording of the hours of the day. (Courtesy Ibid. APM, cover page.)



Mattel-a-Time, 1968

In the 1970's and 1980's a variety of children's talking clocks were marketed that kept time and spoke messages using a small phonograph "record." These talking alarm clocks featured pop culture characters like Howdy Doody, Big Bird, Batman, Charlie Brown, Mickey Mouse -- each, with its respective voice, telling the child that it was time to get up.

In 1979 Sharp released the world's first quartz-based talking clocks and in the 1990's computer chips replaced records in talking clocks.

The following clocks were displayed in 2017 at the Westminster Public Library, Westminster, CO, in the and Friends of the Phonograph exhibit titled "Talking Clocks and the Phonograph."









Archie 1983



1985 Little Green Sprout Talking Alarm Clock and ad, courtesy Minnesota Historical Society


Howdy Doody Talking Alarm Clock, Janex, 1977 ( FP0925)


Bugs Bunny Talking Alarm Clock, Janex-Equity, 1977 ( FP1453)


Mickey and Friends Talking Alarm Clock, Bradley, 1980 ( FP0520)



A few other Time related Phonographia


Say Kids. What time is it? "It's Howdy Doody Time!"


Simon Says How to Tell Time, SS-24 Record Guild of America, 1964


Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Time to Play!

(Phoenix International Publications, ©2016 Disney Enterprise Inc.)

"Play-a-Sound" - Move the clock hands and then press Time to hear the clock time spoken aloud!

Now its time to say goodbye

To all our company...

See you real soon

(Songwriter: Jimmie Dodd, Mickey Mouse Club Alma Mater lyrics © Walt Disney Music Company)




The following lists of songs with Time Connections are just examples. Search for other lists...there are many.



100+ Songs With Time in the Title by CARSON MCQUEEN, June 22, 2020


McQueen's Top 10 "Time Songs"

1. “One Moment in Time” by Whitney Houston

One Moment In Time (Both sides "A" and "B") [ 7 inch VINYL single. 45 rpm ], Arista Records 1988


2. “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper

3. “Love me Two Times” by The Doors

4. “Time is on my Side” by The Rolling Stones

5. “Does Anybody Really Know What Time it is?” by Chicago

6. “Time of my Life” by David Cook

7. “Any Time at all” by The Beatles

8. “Too Much Time on my Hands” by Styx

9. “Big Time” by Peter Gabriel

10. “One Time” by Justin Bieber


On the site Pop Culture Madness there are 100 songs listed about Time and Clocks

Here are the top ten from that list under the heading Past, Present, Future Songs

1. 12 Days of Christmas – various

2. When I’m 64 – the Beatles

3. It Was A Very Good Year – Frank Sinatra

4. Time (Clock of the Heart) – Culture Club

5. Yesterday – The Beatles

6. Time Of Your Life – Green Day

7. Time – Pink Floyd

8. Time After Time – Cyndi Lauper

9. Time In a Bottle – Jim Croce

10. Time Is On My Side – Rolling Stones



And, of course, there are new songs every year with time connections.

And for Phonographians, when they are released on vinyl, it's even more noteworthy.

The Folklore "in the trees" edition deluxe vinyl LP, 2020

Taylor Swift, 2020 - "It's time to go"




All items in this exhibit are from the Phonographia Collection