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iTunes of the 1920s

With their hit phonograph machine, the Victrola, Victor Talking Machine Company was the Apple of their day.

At the height of their success in 1917, more than 500,000 hand-powered Victrolas were being sold each year.

But Thomas Edison, who had invented the phonograph many years earlier, never understood what it could do best – entertain.

Seeing this opportunity, the Camden, NJ company emerged in 1901 with a different phonograph design. It played songs that were pressed on to flat records, which were easier to mass produce than Edison’s delicate wax cylinders.

Then the company then did something else Edison had been loathe to do – pay royalites to artists – which provided Victrola customers with a steady supply of new entertainment.

To capture more of the market, Victrola was offered in many styles and prices – from $25 to $1500 (about $260 to $16,000 in today’s dollars).

Songs in the 1920s cost about $1 – about the same as they do on Apple’s iTunes store. However, a dollar at that time had the same purchasing power as about $10 today.

Click the images to explore these vintage ads and many more on Footnote.1918 - New Victrola releases9
Victrola Newspaper Ad
Explore the Footnote Newspaper Archives to find more about the news of yesterday.

Sources: Time Magazine, and Footnote archives.

One Comment

  1. could i please add your website to ours? our website is a tribute culture of the 1020’s. my family owned many of the movie palaces in chicago in the 1920’s. their company was called balaban and katz, thanks in advance. david balaban