Introduction to Talking Machine World

By Tim Gracyk (with help from R. J.Wakeman)

Talking Machine World (TMW) featured wonderful advertisements about new phonographs on the market, but it also advertised new records and new recording artists, such as the page to the right promoting Columbia's "hillbilly" artists of 1924.

Background Information About TMW

The phonograph industry's main trade journal from 1905 to around 1930 was Talking Machine World (TMW). It eventually covered radio products as carefully as talking machines and in 1929 was renamed Talking Machine World And Radio-Music Merchant. The 1929 Crash seems to have put an end to the publication, or at least I have seen nothing later than the December 1929 issue.

Manufacturers and dealers subscribed to TMW. If dealers kept old issues for any time, they discarded them when leaving the business. For whatever reason, issues of TMW are extremely rare, not at all common such as Victor catalogues and supplements, many of which had been given away free to record buyers.

Edward Lyman Bill- Founder

TMW's founder was Edward Lyman Bill, known as Colonel E. L. Bill (he had been a colonel in the Dakota Territorial Militia). At some point before 1905, he purchased and edited The Music Trade Review. Colonel Bill was treasurer of the New York State Commission to the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. He wrote several books. Days after he died at age 54 on January 1, 1916, the New York Times published his obituary. TMW's president and treasurer C. L. Bill was a relative, as was associate editor Raymond Bill.

Size

Issues are large, measuring nearly 11 by 15 inches, the paper high quality. Covers used for issues were made of an orange construction paper, today delicate and brittle. Issues from the 1916 era average 100 pages, but by 1920 issues were over 200 pages (the April 1920 issue, for example, is 246 pages), which says much about the proliferation of new companies and the industry's growth at this time. In the late 1920s, issues averaged 125 pages.

The journal was issued on the 15th of each month. The annual subscription was a dollar before World War I, $1.50 after. The rate was low because the many advertisements paid for production costs. Ads cost $5.50 per inch. A full page cost $150, with discounts for yearly contracts.

Interesting Advertisements

Until 1925, front covers featured large images of Nipper, Victor's icon. Though costly, such advertising was an effective way for Victor to declare its pre-eminence in the industry. Victor also paid for two full page ads early in each issue. Inside covers usually have full page Sonora ads. Back covers were reserved for Thomas A. Edison, Inc, with even the December 1929 issue running in this space a page ad for Edison "Light-O-Matic" Radio (the company had abruptly abandoned the commercial record industry). The New York Talking Machine Company and the Chicago Talking Machine Company, both large Victor dealers, usually had their own full page advertisements.

By early 1925 the Victor Talking Machine Company was in a precarious position financially, due to a few years of declining sales (the electrical revolution of 1925 would soon revive the company). After Victor advertising executives decided that the company could no longer afford the luxury of prominent advertising space in the trade journal, Brunswick bought the advertising space on TMW's cover as well as on other early pages previously reserved for Victor.

Aeolian-Vocalion, Brunswick, Columbia, Pathe, Edison, Emerson, Sonora and others had one to four full page advertisements in each issue. Individual dealers took out advertisements. Otto Heineman's General Phonograph Corporation--maker of motors, tone arms, and Okeh records--paid for splendid full page advertisements on heavy paper and in two-tone colors.

Advertisements announced all types of new products: carrying cases, horns, mica diaphragms, furniture moving covers, jewel styli, needles, needle cutters, piano rolls, records, record albums, record brushes, record cabinets, repeating mechanisms, spring and electric motors, sheet music, different types of reproducers and tone arms.

New products were announced in articles, and ads in the same issue promoted these new products. How much attention TMW writers, in articles, gave to companies was clearly determined by how much advertising space companies bought.

Full page ads for machines are common, and sometimes companies took out full page ads for individual recording artists. Okeh executives evidently realized that Mamie Smith's "Crazy Blues" was a special recording since the October 15, 1920 issue has a page ad--in color!--announcing Smith's first two Okeh discs. The same issue has an article on Mamie Smith with a photograph. It is a rare instance of an African-American artist being promoted in TMW though Jim Europe's Pathe discs were heavily promoted in 1919. Europe's premature death was noted, as was the death of Bert Williams.

Fascinating Articles

Each TMW issue had sections devoted to trade developments in parts of the U.S.--San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Toledo--as well as in Canada. A few pages were reserved for the United Kingdom. New dealerships were routinely reported, as were sales reports from different cities and areas, price increases, new machine models, conventions, dealer meetings.

Each issue has two pages of editorial comments. Material and energy shortages created by World War I were well chronicled, as were new business taxes. There are articles on how the flu epidemic affected business, on how firms had trouble finding young men for sales work, on Edison Tone Tests, on ways to develop sales skills. Developments in radio technology were well covered throughout the 1920s. Beginning in 1928, even television was covered.

Recording debuts and comings and goings of artists were reported. I will cite a few examples from the late 'teens. When Amelita Galli-Curci's first Victor discs were issued in January 1917, they evidently created a sensation. The same issue announced Claudia Muzio as an exclusive PathÅ artist. The February 1917 issue has an Ada Jones article. In May 1917 Enrico Caruso described his dread of the recording horn. In December 1917 the Russian violinist Jascha Heifetz was announced as an exclusive Victor artist. Frieda Hempel was introduced as an Edison artist in January 1918. In May 1918 Vocalion records were announced, and Florence Easton is pictured in ads. Eddie Cantor was declared an Emerson artist in January 1920. The deaths of Cal Stewart and Maud Powell were announced in the same issue. Sergei Rachmaninoff recording for Edison was announced in January 1920. When Art Hickman's Orchestra traveled from San Francisco to the East Coast to make "jazz records," it was news. In 1920 TMW reported soprano Yvonne Gall being in a taxi accident.

The July 1920 issue devoted 15 pages to that year's National Association of Talking Machine Jobbers convention held in Atlantic City on June 28, 29, and 30. The Hotel Traymore hosted most events, including Eldridge R. Johnson speaking at a banquet (the "eight famous record artists" entertained). The final social event was at the Hotel Ambassador. Caruso sang. Rachmaninoff performed. Not mentioned in TMW is the hotel band, one that evidently pleased Victor executives that week--namely, Paul Whiteman's band.

In each TMW, two pages describe and illustrate new patents related to machines, records, and recording devices.

Advance Record Lists

Towards the back of each issue is "Advance Record Lists," a listing of records to be issued in the following month. Not every disc was listed in TMW. Paramount discs were not listed in the 1920s since Paramount had stopped advertising in TMW (it had advertised in the late 'teens during its initial vertical-cut days). Also, some discs made for regional markets, as opposed to national distribution, were not listed. For example, early Wolverines discs on Gennett were not listed, presumably because they were distributed only in parts of the Mid-West. Emmett Miller's first Okeh discs, 40237 and 40239, were not listed when issued in early 1925.

Best Pages From Talking Machine World

"Best Pages From Talking Machine World -- Special Emphasis on jazz and Blues." is a UNIQUE BOOK for collectors of 78 rpm discs from the 1920s, especially if you like jazz and blues! Full-page advertisements are duplicated, with some featuring RARE visuals of Louis Armstrong, Mamie Smith, Bessie Smith ("Empress of Blues"), pianist Clarence Williams, saxophonist Frankie Trumbauer (Tram), Billy Murray, Lonnie Johnson, Sophie Tucker, Irving Kaufman in the Okeh recording studio in 1927 with Tommy Rockwell (he produced the Bix sessions for Okeh--Rockwell would soon become Louis Armstrong's manager, and photos of Rockwell are rare!), Paul Whiteman, Al Jolson, Ted Lewis, Nick Lucas, etc.

TMW

This book duplicates many of the "Latest Record Bulletins" (from the late 1920s) that make Talking Machine World special for researchers--these are lists of NEW records released by the various record companies including Victor, Columbia, Gennett, Okeh, Brunswick, Grey Gull, Edison, etc. We know from these pages WHEN specific discs were issued to the public! Whereas Brian Rust's famous discographies tell us when material was cut in the studios, these lists tell us when the discs were AVAILABLE to record-buying public, which is another matter!

Some advertisements duplicated are those featuring the Dorsey Brothers and Their Orchestra (August 1929), Miff Mole (Okeh 41273--"Birmingham Bertha"), Emmett Miller, Frankie Trumbauer (Okeh 40979--"Mississippi Mud"), Bix Beiderbecke and His Gang (Okeh 41001--"Sorry" is listed among 5 other new Okeh discs in a full-page ad in the April 1928 issue of TMW), Seger Ellis, Joe Venuti, Ted Lewis (when he had a HOT band!), Charles W. Hamp ("The California Blue Boy"), Rudy Vallee, Two Black Crows, etc. etc. We see rare images of Bing Crosby, Boswell Sisters, Billy Jones, etc. Virtually no 78 rpm collectors have actually SEEN copies of Talking Machine World, the super-rare phonograph trade journal.

Only one complete set seems to have survived, and I made a copy from that set! As I already said, this trade journal tells us WHEN specific 78s were issued, which allows collectors to figure out when certain "important" 78s actually had an influence on other musicians. For example, Bud Freeman on Okeh 41168 ("Craze-ology") was issued on January 25, 1929. Another example is Harry Reser's Jazz Pilots' "Down Among the Sugar Cane" being issued on Okeh 41218 on May 5, 1929. Thousands of 78 rpm discs from this wonderful era! There is NOTHING ELSE LIKE IT!

Book is 9 x 11 inches, spiral binding, nearly 200 pages--not fancy in format but the content makes up for that since these pages have not been seen by collectors/researchers ever. There are even pages from OTHER sources, such as Phonograph Monthly Review. "Paramount blues" pages duplicated, too. Original Dixieland Jass Band material is duplicated for the first time, including letters and telegrams sent to the band as early as 1916 and 1917! Interesting article from June 1926 about the "first releases of Vocalion Rare Records" in the phonograph/78s market, with a banner of King Oliver's rare Vocalion record 1007 featured as a visual! Frankie Trumbauer has photos on various Okeh ads, such as on the ad dated December 1927 announcing the release of "Singin' the Blues" and "Clarinet Marmalade" on Okeh 40772 (famous Bix disc!).

I'll name typical artists in the "advanced records lists" (there are THOUSANDS of names and records listed in this book due to the New Record Bulletins, so I'm listing a MERE handful!): Paul Whiteman, Ted Weems, Ben Pollack, Rudy Vallee, Helen Kane, Gene Austin, Leo Reisman, Creole Crooner, Coon-Sanders Orchestra, Ernest V. Stoneman and His Dixie Mountaineers, Fred Hall's Jazz Band (with Irving Kaufman singing), Victoria Spivey and Lonnie Johnson, Noel Taylor (this is really Irving Kaufman), Arthur Fields, George Beaver (again, this is really Irving Kaufman), Missouri Jazz Band on Banner records, Dixie Jubilee Singers, Annette Hanshawe, the Harmonians, Henry Burr (his last record as a solo artist--Columbia 1515-D was issued in October 1928, "Out of the Dawn"), Vaughn de Leath, Tennessee Ramblers, Dr. Humphrey Bate and His 'Possum Hunters (hillbilly on Brunswick), Ruth Etting, Cliff Edwards, Joe Venuti's Blue Four, Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra ("Take Your To-morrow And Give Me Today" was issued on Okeh 41145 on December 15, 1928) Two Black Crows, Texas Alexander (on Okeh), B. A. Rolfe (Edison Diamond Discs and the late Edison lateral discs), Smith Ballew, Sam Lanin, Abe Lyman, East Texas Serenaders (hillbilly on Brunswick), Duke Ellington (the rare piano solos titled "Black Beauty" and "Swampy River" were issued on Okeh 8636 on December 15, 1928), Tampa Red, Uncle Dave Macon, Vernon Dalhart, and the list goes on. I'll say it once more, in this book are RARE advertisements from Talking Machine World--unusual Okeh ads, Gennett Electobeam, ads for Edison needle type records, Grey Gull, Columbia, Radiex (made by Grey Gull Records, Inc.), and so on. Companies with records listed include Victor, Columbia, Brunswick, Okeh, Edison Diamond Disc (52000 series!), Edison Blue Amberol, Domino, Regal, Vocalion (hot blues!), Harmony (one of Columbia's "cheap" brands--Diva and Velvet Tone were others), Banner...some phonograph information, too!


Sample Ads

Below are just SOME of the ads found in Talking Machine World and duplicated in this new book (state-of-the-art digital xeroxing process used, spiral binding). Also in the book are record companies' official lists of "new releases," with release dates announced!

Okeh
>
Mamie Bessie Smith
Book Of Blue King Oliver
Billy Murray Bing
Black Swan

Talking Machine World from 1918

The best pages compiled from 12 issues. Thick--over 400 pages; spiral-binding.

This is something I refer to for research. It is a huge book that compiles the best pages from the 12 issues of 1918, January through December. About 450 pages! Beautifully reprinted/duplicated. The MOST INTERESTING pages, not dull ones--and 1918 was a great year for the phonograph industry since new companies were created. They were all advertising in TMW! Good amount of attention given to Victor, Columbia, Edison and the minor companies of the day like Pathe, Operaphone, Emerson. Fascinating advertisements. Typical articles: "Berliner's Latest Invention" (yes, Emile Berliner), "Now the Columbia Graphophone Manufacturing Co." (Columbia kept changing its legal name!), "Talking Machines in Switzerland," "Fake Victrolas in New Swindle," "Progress of the Domestic Talking Machine Corporation," "Columbia Managers Hold Meeting," "Figures on Columbia Expansion," "Developing the Demand for Records in St. Louis," etc. Lots of info on machines. Ads: "Will There Be a Victrola in your Home This Christmas?" "The Perfection Ball-Bearing Tone Arm," etc...the tip of an iceberg.

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Question about a machine? One expert you can contact is R. J. Wakeman. He knows about the history of machines but will not answer questions about how much machines are worth.