Politics and the Phonograph



In 1871, Mary Potts of Ottumwa, Iowa, revolutionized the industry by patenting an iron with a detachable handle. This newspaper woodcut is from 1878. See Phonographia Factola for this ad.



"His Satanic Majesty Takes a Hint from "The Mikado" - How he will make the punishment fit the crime" Puck, March 1886

"The Congressman who is forever prosing,

Of speeches shall have no stint -----

His own shall be ground the whole year around,

And without any "leave to print."



John Withrow advising "The Wonderful Perfected Phonograph" to be very careful what it says in its speech about Commercial Union (from The Grip Sept. 22, 1888, p. 6). - Courtesy The Canadian Antique Phonograph Society (CAPS)



Edison at work trying to invent a machine that will give 12 percent on 6 percent investments.

Extract from Judge 1997 lithograph by Grant Hamilton showing "What Some Of Our Prominent Men Are Doing For The Benefit of the Public -- and Incidentally For Themselves" (figures included William McKinley, J.P.Morgan, Thomas Edison, and others).



"Oratory Made Easy," The Phonogram October 1892


Celebrity and political Impersonation speeches (e.g., McKinley original Speech is what Brainey is currently recording) Judge, June 1897


The Phonoscope May, 1898


Temperance and Prohibition, His Master's Voice, 1904 (Courtesy of Ohio State University) (from Prohibition Cartoons by D.F. Stewart and H.W. Wilbur, Defender Publishing Company, 1904


Duma - Reprinted from New York World, The Talking Machine World, June 1906

This cartoon relates to the Duma, the newly organized Russian parliament, and the Czar of Russia, showing the "Russian people as making new strides toward freedom of thought, consicence and political rights."


Lest We Forget Pictorial Record of Conditions Under the Last Democratic Administration (1904)

Stagnation - Prosperity. This 16-page pamphlet features a selection of political cartoons/illustrations published in Harper's and Leslie's Weekly in 1893-1894 editorializing the failure of policies under the second Grover Cleveland administration (though Cleveland's name is never explicitly mentioned).

Published by Moses King of New York in 1904, it may have been distributed in an effort to strengthen President Theodore Roosevelt's second term campaign. An interesting slice of the societal unrest at the time, the cartoons and accompanying text depict the plight of the unemployed and hungry, financial panic in the Stock Exchange, strikes and work stoppage across the country, and police violence against unemployed rioters, among other things. 7-1/2" x 5", 16 pages, saddle-stitched, B&W with orange.


"Liar!" "Mendacious Scoundrel"... Reprinted from New York World, The Talking Machine World, June 1906

This cartoon is said to "bear upon the recent deplorable controversy at Washington, in which Annanias played a leading role."


His Master's Voice - William Jennings Bryan running again in 1908



1908 Campaign Button - Bryan vs. Taft (Courtesy Heritage Auctions)


Harper's Weekly, 1908

In 1908, for the first time in history, Americans could listen to the recorded voices of the presidential candidates, Republican William Howard Taft and Democrat William Jennings Bryan.

In this cartoon, Bryan reacts in horror to his own statements for "government ownership," "initiative and referendum," and "any old ism"; his criticisms of previous Democratic nominees, President Grover Cleveland and Alton Parker; and his contradictory comments for and against imperialism.

Bryan bellows to his vice-presidential running mate, John Kern, who is turning the gramophone, to stop the infernal racket. Between them the dog of "hard times" wails, while on the shelf (upper-left) a bust of Andrew Jackson, on a base inscribed "Thomas Jefferson," casts a distressed glance at the party's current standard-bearer.

(Text source: cartoons - litho from the collection


Edison Phonograph Monthly, August 1908


William Jennings Bryan, in his Presidential bid of 1908 recorded a series of cylinder phonograph records for the Edison Phonograph Company. In this cartoon, Taft is seen complaining that he has missed out on this innovative campaigning. The Edison Phonograph Monthly in September 1908, however, announced the release of 12 Edison Records by William H. Taft made at Virginia Hot Springs, after Mr. Taft delivered his speech of acceptance at Cincinnati. The EPM called this an announcement of great importance, noting that "no matter how the November election may result we shall have Records by the next President. This makes new history. It indicates progress."


Making the Taft Records

The morning papers were filled with accounts of Taft's 'canned speeches.' Everybody ... was discussing them as well as the report that Mr. Bryan said the opposition had stolen his campaign thunder. They all seemed greatly interested in the part that the Edison is playing in the Presidential campaign.

...both Messrs. Bryan and Taft gave the Edison first choice for introducing their personal views into American homes. Was ever such a compliment paid a talking machine?

As reported by The Edison Phonograph Monthly, September 1908



1908 Taft vs. Bryan Presidential Campaign on Victor Records (courtesy of phono78 blog)




The Talking Machine World, August 15, 1908


Reprinted in Talking Machine World, August 15, 1908


Life, March 3, 1910


Life, June 16, 1910


Palace Preparation Practice, January 5, 1910, Berryman Political Cartoon Collection, The U.S. National Archives


Life, September 15, 1910


Life, December 6, 1910



The Talking Machine World, December 15, 1911



The Talking Machine World, December 15, 1911


The Lincoln Daily Star, July 4, 1912


Postcard of hand-drawn cartoon of William Jennings Bryan's New Phonograph for 1912, Postmarked 1912


Reprinted from the New York World, "The Talking Machine in Cartoon," - President William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt name-calling, The Talking Machine World, July 15, 1912


"A Favorite Record - Taft Records" The Edison Phonograph Monthly, May 1912


"A Favorite Tune," January 7, 1914, Berryman Political Cartoon Collection, The U.S. National Archives


The Saturday Evening Post, September 4, 1954


©1988 FarWorks, Inc.


Go Reagan! December 13, 2003 Dave Blazek



Following the 2020 Presidential Election and the continual refusal of Trump to concede the election, Jimmy Kimmel made this observation about Trump:

“Trump’s like the guy who puts 20 plays of ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ on the jukebox before he leaves the diner.” — JIMMY KIMMEL (November 10, 2020)