Think of sounds that bring people together: live music, recorded music, 
the voice of a loved one, the big game on tv. Over the centuries tolling of church and school bells has brought communities together.

When did your family first acquire a television? Have you used a rotary dialtelephone or talked on a party line? Today some wireless telephones take better photographs than our old cameras, and use satellites and electronic voices to guide us to our destinations!

Travel through Can You Hear Me? Now? and explore the evolution of 200 years of sound communication technology from the days of travelling musicians to today's era of cyberspace.

Can You Hear Me? Now?

DeMoss Family Lyric Bards of Oregon  ::  Sound Waves ::  All The Bells & Whistles :: 
Sound Off: Musical Instruments from the Civil War  ::  Flutes From Around The World  :: 
Telegraph  ::  Off the Hook!  ::  Radio  ::  Recording and Playback  ::  Television  ::
Sounds Like a Broken Record  :: 

DeMoss Family Lyric Bards of Oregon

The DeMoss Family Lyric Bards used music to communicate the ideals of founder James DeMoss to audiences around the world from 1872 to 1933.

James DeMoss, a minister in the United Brethren Church, and his wife Elizabeth came to Oregon by wagon train in 1862. After giving informal concerts for many years, they decided to make music their profession. For the next ten years, the couple and their 5 children (Henry, George, Lizzie, Minnie, and May) toured the country presenting programs of classical, spiritual, and patriotic music using over 41 different instruments.

Missing Oregon, Henry composed the song "Sweet Oregon," which served as an unofficial state song for a number of years.

DeMoss Family Lyric Bards with Instruments

"The DeMoss Lyric Bards of America". Henry, Lizzie, Minnie and George DeMoss, early 1890s.

In 1883, the family returned to homestead in Sherman County, eventually founding the town of DeMoss Springs where they lived when not on tour. They farmed, operated a hotel and ran a music publishing business.

After Elizabeth and May both died in 1886 and James remarried, the four remaining children, now adults, performed as a quartet. They gave concerts all over the United States and Europe and at five world fairs. During their six month engagement at the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, they wrote and performed a song for each state. Their programs often featured George playing two trumpets at the same time and Henry playing two different pieces of music while singing a third.

After Minnie died in 1897, the band added siblings Waldo and Aurelia Davis. Lizzie, who married Waldo in 1900, eventually left the band and taught music at Philomath College.

The band continued with George, his wife Aurelia, their sons, and Henry. During a career that spanned 61 years, George played in over 12,000 concerts. His death in 1933 also brought an end to the DeMoss Family Lyric Bards.

Can You Hear Me? Now? Sweet Oregon

Sweet Oregon sheet music. Written by Henry DeMoss.

Can You Hear Me? Now? Silver Cornets

Buescher cornets
Elkhart, Indiana
BCHS collection H10318A&B

Can You Hear Me? Now? Two Cornets Simultaneously

George DeMoss played two Buescher cornets simultaneously!

Can You Hear Me? Now? DeMoss Banjo club

DeMoss Banjo Club
Left to Right: George, Elbert, Homer, Aurelia

Can you Hear Me? Now? Zimmerman Autoharp

The Zimmerman Autoharp
Dolgeville, New York
BCHS collection H10123-1

Can You Hear Me? Now? DeMoss Family (Tour Guide)
DeMoss Family Bards of Oregon
Read a more complete DeMoss family history as written by Jennifer Lee for the Horner Museum Tour Guide Series.

Can You Hear Me? Now? Herschel Davis

Herschel Davis, DeMoss Lyric Bards, ca. 1910, with drum and tambourine. Photo by Foley, of Petoskey, Michigan.

Sound Waves

"Sound Waves!" focuses on how we hear. Artifacts include a 1925 carbon hearing aid, a whale ear bone, and a working oscilloscope.

All sound is produced by vibrations, or sound waves, created by air pressure. The source of pressure pushes the air next to it, and then releases the pressure. These pressure variations cause waves, and our ear drums vibrate in response. The brain perceives these vibrations as sound.

How loud those sounds are depends on the strength of the vibration and how far away it is from the listener. The speed of the vibrations determines the pitch: fast vibrations produce high-pitched sounds and slow vibrations produce low pitches. Humans can hear frequencies of 16 vibrations per second to 20,000 vibrations per second (16 hertz - 20,000 hertz).

Because different parts of objects vibrate somewhat differently, few sounds are pure notes of one frequency. Extra frequencies or overtones explain why a piano and a flute playing the same note don't sound exactly alike.

Hearing: A Precious Gift

The Hearing: A Precious Gift

The Hearing: A precious Gift poster details the anatomy of the human ear, common hearing loss problems, and decibel levels. [Enlarged view is no longer available.]

Whale Ear Bone

Akutan Island, Alaska
Circa 1935

In humans, sound waves travel down the ear canal to vibrate a membrane (the ear drum) and hence the small bones of the inner ear. In whales, sound waves traveling through water cause small vibrations in the jawbone. An adjacent fat pad accentuates these vibrations and transmits the sound waves to the small bones of the inner ear. There is no external opening.

Whale Cochlea Ear Bone[


1925 Western Electric Carbon Hearing Aid


Electric Hearing Aid

Western Electric Company

Before the discovery of electricity, the hard-of-hearing used ear trumpets, or large horns, to amplify sound. This first-generation electric hearing aid replaced the "ear trumpet". This model 6033A was powered by three D batteries.

Anatomy of the carbon microphone hearing aid:
Battery pack - The square box contains three D batteries.
Receiver - small round part (goes in ear). The receiver projects the sound.
Amplifier - This model is controlled by an in-line volume/power control.
Microphone - Large round part with the clip on the back (looks like a small speaker). It collects the sound. It would have been clipped to the shirt or to a set of straps under the shirt for more discretion.


Allen Dumont Laboratories
Circa 1950

I can see what you're saying!

The Oregon State University chemistry department used this cathode ray oscillograph for several decades.

An oscilloscope allows us to observe the shape of electrical signals. The display is a plot of the signal amplitude versus time. A graph of Y versus X results. Both the time and amplitude scales are adjustable over a wide range of values.

In this example a microphone converted sound waves to electrical waves, which we can observe on the screen.

OscilloscopeOscilloscope Display




Dr. Smithline Three-Tone Stethoscope

Pat'd 1942

Dr. James Riley, one of the founders of Corvallis Clinic in Corvallis, Oregon, used this stethoscope in his practice from 1949-1984.

French physician R.T.H. Laennec invented the stethoscope in 1816. He used a paper tube to listen to his patients' heart and lungs.

All The Bells and Whistles

This exhibition doesn't include ALL the bells and whistles from our vast collections. It's a sampling of animal bells, school bells, church bells, souvenir bells, a kitchen timer, and whistles for many occasions. 

Bells and Whistles Preview

Turkey Bell

Corvallis, Oregon
Circa 1925

How do you keep track of a turkey? Put a bell on it! That's what the Weiss family did on their farm. Today the Weiss family farmland is known as Corvallis' Timberhill subdivision.

Turkey Bell



Cow Bell

Corvallis, Oregon
Circa 1935

Cecil Hayden, who was the herdsman from 1932-1938 at Children's Farm Home, Corvallis, Oregon, donated this bell.

Kings Valley Schoolhouse

Photographic print
E.F. Seifert, Photographer
Kings Valley, Benton County, Oregon
Approx. 1887

When children walked to school and had chores to do before school each day, schoolbells called students to school.

W. C. Fisher is the teacher. Students include (in no particular order) Nettie Frantz, Mary Kibby, _____ Allen, Jake Miller, Archie Chambers, Edna Price, Dora Allen, Tig Kibby, Wesley Kibby, Mark Bump, Daniel Bump, and Tom Allen.

Kings Valley School


School Handbell

Hand Bell

Benton County, Oregon
Circa 1900

Between 1897 and 1940, two generations of Benton County school teachers used this hand bell to call students' attention. Bertha Plunkett and her daughter Frances Thompson Ewing used the bell in schools at Alexander, Fern Ridge, Devitt, Nois and Wren. Ewing received the bell when she started teaching at Devitt in 1929-1930.

Plastic Whistle

Corvallis, Oregon

Kylee Juntunen's souvenir whistle is part of the museum's collection of school memorabilia. Juntunen graduated Corvallis High School in June 1988.

Plastic Whistle


Monroe, Oregon, Schoolhouse


Monroe School

Photographic print
Monroe, Oregon
After 1902

The Monroe Public School was built in 1902.

Brass Whistle

Corvallis, Oregon
Mid 20th Century

Corvallis American Legion marching band drum major, Don Beery, used this Acme Thunderer whistle in parades.

Brass Whistle

The Acme Thunderer Brass Whistle

Drum Corps Band

American Legion VFW Post #11 drum major Don Beery leads band in Corvallis, Oregon, parade.

Corvallis Bell Towers


Corvallis Church Steeple Bell Towers

Photographic print
Circa 1915

This view to the north from 4th Street at Adams, Corvallis, Oregon, highlights steeples of the new St. Mary's Catholic Church [built 1912], the earlier St. Mary's church, the Presbyterian Church at 4th and Jefferson, and Benton County courthouse in the distance.

Temple Bell


Oregon State University professors and trustees donated thousands of interesting artifacts to the Horner Museum. This bell was a gift from Marion Weatherford, who served as trustee of the OSU Agriculture Research Foundation.

Thai Temple Bell


Simpson Bell


Church Bell

Photographic print
Alpine and Monroe, Oregon

The Simpson Chapel was built in 1904 before the official naming of Alpine, Oregon. The bell from the tower is dated 7-1906 and measures 26" tall and 38" diameter. This photo shows the bell after it was moved to the Monroe United Methodist church in October of 1968 by Harold McCallum, David Barclay, John Starr, Keith Crocker.

First Presbyterian Church Bell

Photographic print
Tom Warren & Dean Almgren, Photographers
Corvallis, Oregon

In a May 17, 1889, story about the Presbyterian church remodeling, The Corvallis Gazette reported, "The old bell which has rung nearly every Sunday for a quarter of a century and which was brought around 'the horn' from West Troy, N. Y. will take a rest for a while."

The bell tower is 12 feet square. The bell is 19 inches high with a diameter of 26 5/16 inches. Two patent dates (1858 and 1860) are noted on the bell and the words "Meneely Bros Troy NY 1864".

First Presbyterian Church Bell, Corvallis, Oregon


Manual Door Bell

Manual Door Bell, Hanging


Electric Door Bell

Corvallis, Oregon
Circa 1922

Electric Door Bell


USS Maine Souvenir Bell

"Remember the Maine," 1904 St. Louise World's Fair Souvenir Bell

St. Louis, Missouri

The bell, with ribbon, was made from metal recovered from wreck of the U.S.S. Maine battleship at Havana, Cuba.

Counter Bell

Early 20th Century

Domed, round metal bell which 'dings' when button on top is pressed. Used to 'call' attendants to a desk or counter.

Counter Bell


Kitchen Timer


Kitchen Timer

General Electric Company

Elapsed Time Switch, Edison Electric Appliance Co.
No. 44971, Type TM-6, Volts 110, Cycles 60
Cat 100Y 120

Anna Abraham Fischer purchased this kitchen timer with her G.E. stove in 1926. For the next 28 years, the family cooked on the stove in their house, located at the southeast corner of Fifth and Jefferson streets in Corvallis, Oregon.

Toy Tin Whistle

Cracker Jack
20th Century


Plastic Whistle

Corvallis, Oregon

Plastic whistle from the 2001 first annual Willamette River Canoe and Kayak race.


Small Brass Whistle

20th Century


Wooden Advertising Novelty Whistle

Star Brand Shoes
20th Century


Benton County Courthouse Time Capsule Metal Whistle


A small metal whistle was one of the items included in the cornerstone time capsule of the Benton County courthouse at downtown Corvallis, Oregon. During the 1988 courthouse centennial celebration, officials removed and opened the timecapsule. Most of the contents of the time capsule are in the Museum's collection.


July 4, 1888, Dedication of Benton County Courthouse, Corvallis, Oregon, USA

Metal Tuning Whistle

20th Century
Tuning whistle with seperate tubes for G, D, A, and B.


Beaver Creek Schoolhouse

Photographic Print (addition in photo built in 1911)
Photo taken after 1911.

Photo shows the bell in the tower.

Corvallis College Bell

Photographic Print
Circa 1870
Facing 5th Street between Monroe and Madison.


Sound Off: Musical Instruments from the Civil War

In "Sound Off!" we learn about a deserter being drummed out of camp and see cherished instruments that have been preserved over the past 150 years.

When we think of the American Civil War, several sounds come to mind: the deafening thunder of cannons, rhythmic and melodious folk tunes, and military cadence of fife and drum.

In "Sound Off!" we feature several cherished instruments from the era that have been preserved over the past 150 years.

"Sound Off", slang
1. To express one's views vigorously: was always sounding off about higher taxes.
2. To count cadence when marching in military formation.

Sound Off: musical instruments from the American Civil Wa

Civil War Soldier's Pocket Diary, 1863

George F.Dennick
Mount Pleasant, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania


The diary of Union soldier George F. Dennick details his daily life during the American Civil War. On Sunday, January 18, 1863, Dennick observed a deserter being banished from the military post. His journal entry sheds insight on the saying "drummed out of camp".

"This morning I landed at the mouth of Agnia creek the weather was clear cold and frosty...about two oclock that afternoon I saw a man drumed out of camp his head was shaved and he was branded letter D on the right hip" - G.F. Dennick

G.F. Dennick, 1860s Studio Portrait

Reverse: "Lieut Geo Dennick, ? Co E 105 Penn Inf" By McBride, Bank Block No. 31 Fifth Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


Circa 1860

R.O. Jones (1845-1944) owned and played this violin prior to, during, and after the American Civil War. The wooden violin case has a red flannel lining. Rosin, spare parts including 4 strings, a tail piece, key, peg, small metal container, a handmade mute, a music clip and an 1880 invitation to the "Tenth Annual Ball of the Lawrence Fire Department" are found in the case compartments.

Civil War Era ViolinViolin Case and ContentsR.O. Jones

American Civil War era violin. Violin case and contents. R.O. Jones playing his violin.

Civil War Side Drum


David G. Frost, Union Army Drum Major under General Phil Sheridan, Co. B. 116th Ohio Vol. Infantry carried this drum circa 1863-1865.


Tuning Fork

Circa 1860
R.O. Jones carried this tuning fork through the American Civil War.



Circa 1865
Price Clough was an enlisted musician soldier in the Company C, 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry during the American Civil War.

Flutes From Around The World

Longfellow said "Music is the universal language of mankind." [Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Outre-Mer]

That universality extends to the instruments that produce the music. For example, flutes can be found in almost all cultures from as early as 35,000 years ago.

All flutes are hollow tubes without a reed. Some are held upright (end blown) and others held crosswise so the musician blows air across a hole. Musicians create sound when their breath hits the rim of the hole or the baffle inside.

Flute exhibition

Bone flute


Bone Flute


Native Peruvians made this flute from a human rib bone, sometime prior to their first contact with Europeans in 1532.

Silver Flute

Circa 1700 A.D.

The motif on this Bolivian flute mimics the patterns on Incan ceremonial flutes.

Bolivian flute detail

Detail Image, Bolivian Silver Flute

Bolivian flute


Silver Flute


Silver Flute

United States
Early 19th century

This flute has an extended mouthpiece.

Wood Flute

J.C. Haynes & Co.
Boston, Massachusetts
circa 1860

Price Clough, who enlisted as a musician in the 21st regiment of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry, carried this flute through the American Civil War.

Flute Detail Image

Detail Image

Wood Flute


Nach Hannover Flute and Case

Nach Hannover Flute


H.F. Meyer 
Hannover, Germany

Ivory and Wood Flute Detail

H.F. Meyer
Hannover, Germany
Late 19th - early 20th centuries

The modern flute descends from mid-19th century innovations by the Bavarian goldsmith, Theobald Boehm.

Hannover Flute Detail

Brass Flute


Traditional African flute made of brass, leather and cowrie shells.

Chad Flute

Thai Khaen Pan Flute



A khaen flute player holds the bamboo pipes upright and blows into the mouthpiece, while fingering the holes.


The invention of the telegraph brought about a transformation in communications and sparked the invention of many other devices.

In 1840, American Samuel Morse patented his telegraph. Because his code assigned a unique pattern of dots and dashes to each letter of the alphabet, all kinds of messages could be sent quickly across long distances once telegraph lines were erected.

Pressing the telegraph key closes the circuit and sends a short pulse (dot) electricity along the wire. Holding the key down a bit longer sends a longer pulse (dash). Originally, the incoming electrical pulses created a magnetic field, causing a pen to to move down to mark a dot or dash on a paper tape. As operators became more skilled, they found they could recognize the pattern of sounds for each letter and decode the message before the tape printed. By 1850, the pens were eliminated and the message transmitted by the sound of the clicks.

With a grant from Congress in 1843, Morse and his partners built a 40-mile telegraph line between Baltimore and Washington. By 1850, the United States had 12,000 miles of telegraph lines. The line was extended all the way to California in 1861 and on to Oregon in 1864. Messages which had taken ten days to reach California by Pony Express would now arrive the same day. And with the discovery of a waterproof coating, underwater telegraph cables made it possible to connect continents. The first working transatlantic cable was completed in 1866. By 1880, almost 100,000 miles of undersea cable carried messages around the world.

Businesses used the telegraph to check prices, place orders and confirm credit. The telegraph provided the communication necessary for firms to operate across the country and contributed to the rise of big businesses. Railroads used the telegraph to dispatch and monitor trains.  During the Civil War, both armies had telegraph crews to put up temporary lines to coordinate troop movements and report battle results. Newspaper reporters could witness important events and immediately report their stories for publication in the next day's paper. The competition to report news from many places led to the formation of the first wire service, Associated Press.

So many people sending telegraph messages meant bottlenecks at relay stations and delays in delivery. The potential profits from devising a way to make existing lines more efficient attracted inventors. Their efforts produced not only improvements to telegraphy but also new discoveries and entirely new inventions, such as the telephone.


As the telegraph sounder clicked the dots and dashes of Morse code, the operator typed up the message on long strips of paper and pasted them on a blank form. A messenger would then deliver it to the recipient's home or business. Large companies that sent many telegrams would sometimes have their own telegraph operators.

Telegraph Key

Telegraph Key

Morse Code


Western Union Holiday Greeting telegram.
BCHS 1994-009.0001AT

Off the Hook!

Telephones from 1882 to 1992 were featured in "Off the Hook!" as well as the Monroe, Oregon, switchboard and an operational "party line" for museum visitors to call from 1920 to 1940 to 1960!

Telephone Exhibit

"Off the hook" slang

1. A phone that rings too much may be purposely left off the hook.
2. Escape from blame, e.g., "They let me off the hook without paying a fine."
3. Excellent
4. Intense or out of control, but typically in a good or fascinating way. The term is derived from a boxing metaphor; when boxers train on a heavy bag they can knock the bag "off the hook."

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Telephone Hands On Exhibit

Working Party Line Exhibit

Working party line uses a 1940s wooden phone booth
Sponsored by: Pioneer Telephone Cooperative

American Electric Telephone Front ViewAmerican Electric Telephone Side View

American Electric Telephone, Kokomo, Ind., Hunnings Patent

"Three Box" Wall Telephone

American Electric Telephone Company
Patented 1882

The bottom box holds wet cell batteries. The middle box contains the generator and bells. To operate the middle box, one must push a button to wind the generator and press a lever to transmit. The Blake transmitter and Bell hand receiver on the top box are connected by external wiring. 

Oak Wall Telephone

B-R Electrical Telephone Mfg. Company

The transmitter on this phone reads "Kellogg, Chicago, U.S.A - Pat'd Nov. 26, 1901". Inside the phone is a paper manufacturer's card which details "Instrument No. 18, Assembled by Lesslre, Tested by 32, Date 7/5/07".

B&R Electrical TelephoneManufacturer's Paper Label Inside Phone

1907 B-R Electrical Telephone Mfg. Co. Kansas City. Manufacturer's paper label is inside the telephone.

Automatic Electric TelephoneAutomatic Electric Telephone, circa 1920

Wall and Desk Telephone

Automatic Electric Company
Circa 1920

Combination wall and desk telephone manufactured by "Automatic Electric Inc." of "Chicago USA." The bracket holds a hand unit stamped "Monophone Reg. US Pat. Off, Patents issued & Pending."

Metal Wall Telephone

Western Electric
Circa 1930

Telephones of this era could be purchased with or without a dial. The first dial telephone exchange was invented in 1892; however, it wasn't until the 1930s that most of the nation's switching equipment was able to use it.

Western Electric No Dial Wall Telephone

Western Electric no dial wall telephone

Telephone Booth


Wooden Telephone Booth

Automatic Electric Company
Circa 1945

Wooden outdoor telephone booths were replaced with glass booths during the 1950s.

Clark Kent uses a brown wooden telephone booth to change into his Superman suit in the 1941 cartoon "The Mechanical Monsters."

U.S. Army Signal Corps Field Telephone

WWII Field Telephone


Field Telephone Inside CaseField Telephone Case Detail

U.S. Army Signal Corps field phone inside case and field telephone case detail.

Dial Instructions

Philomath Telephone Dial instructions 

Pioneer Telephone Co-operative
Philomath, Oregon

Pioneer Telephone Co-operative formed in 1951, taking over the Coast Telephone Company's five exchanges, including Philomath. The directions about how to dial a telephone were supplied to all Pioneer Telephone customers.

"On July 31, 1954 at 10:00 P.M. your telephone will be connected to the rest of the world. The following directions should be read carefully, so that you can use and understand your new telephone."


Kellogg Switchboard and Supply Company

The Monroe Telephone Company purchased this used switchboard from a Yoncalla, Oregon telephone company. The Monroe, Oregon company used it from 1956 through 1958. They replaced it with a dial system on December 20, 1958.

Telephone Switchboard

Monroe, Oregon, Telephone Switchboard

Ericsson Ericofon Rotary Dial Telephons

Ericsson Ericofon Rotary Dial Telephone

Rotary Dial Telephone

Circa 1960

Swedish telephone manufacturer Ericsson produced this "Ericofon" in 1956. The rotary dial and hang-up device are hidden in the base of the phone.

Plastic Wall Telephone

Western Electric

The Juntunen family of Corvallis used this wall phone in the 1970s.

Plastic Wall Telephone

Yellow 1970s wall telephone

Red Streamline Desk Telephone

Red Streamline Telephone

Streamline Desk Telephone

Circa 1980

The Benton County Historical Society used this phone in the elevator of the museum from 1980 to 2001.

Cordless Telephone


Philomath mayor and pharmacist E.C. Golden used this Uniden 3100 cordless telephone in his Philomath residence.

Uniden Cordless TelephoneUniden Cordless Telephone Detail

Yellow Uniden 3100 cordless telephone

Motherly Cell Phone

Motherly 2900 Cellular Telephone

Cellular Telephone


Everett and Mary Jane Kidder purchased this Motherly 2900 three watt cellular phone to use while travelling in their motor home. The handset of this model SCN2500A phone is labeled as "US West Megaphone".


Featuring seventy years of radios from our museum collection:

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi combined a spark generator to send electromagnetic pulses to a coherer (receiver) to create the first wireless telegraph. With his equipment, ships at sea could communicate with each other and with stations on shore. By 1910, most naval vessels and commercial ships had adopted Marconi's wireless telephony.

Reginald Fessenden invented several devices essential to the development of broadcast radio. He invented both a better wireless receiver and a high-speed alternator capable of producing an electro-magnetic wave that could carry speech as well as Morse code. On Christmas Eve in 1906, for the first time ever, he broadcast greetings, Bible readings, and music to ships at sea.

Antique Radio

Antique Radio Exhibit

Homemade Crystal RadioCrystal Radio Set. Homemade by Kirby Austin

Crystal Radio

Homemade by Kirby Austin
Dial by General Radio Co.
Circa 1920

In 1906, H.H.C. Dunwoody discovered that the very hard mineral carborundum would work as a simple radio receiver when placed between a pair of copper contacts with a thin wire (a "cat's whisker") over it for tuning. A small company began producing these crystal sets as a low-cost receiver for radio hobbyists. Because the crystal did not amplify the signal, the user also needed a large antenna and headphones.

Radio: Kirby Austin



Philadelphia, PA

1923 Atwater Kent Radio


Atwater Kent Radio Detail

Radio Name Plate

Loud Speaker

The Rola Re-creator
"The Perfect Loudspeaker"
The Rola Company-Seattle



Airline Art Deco Bakelite AM Radio Model No. 93BR-508A.

Airline Art Deco Radio1994-097-0001


Philco released the cathedral style "Superhet 9" radio in June 1931.

1931 Philco Radio




The Belmont table model radio model no. 791B with wood cabinet features one broadcast band and one short-wave band.

1939 Belmont Radio1982-069.0874



Detrola table radio with wood cabinet and bakelite knobs, model number 148.

1937 Detrola Radio

Transistor Radio

Westinghouse Transistor Radio1988-024.0001


Circa 1960

After licensing transistor technology from Bell Labs, Texas Instruments worked to develop a consumer application - the pocket radio. In addition to replacing vacuum tubes with transistors, they redesigned many other parts to fit into a small case. The company introduced the new radios under the Regency brand name for Christmas, 1954.

The small radio was especially popular with teenagers for listening to rock and roll music so other companies also began producing them. Most came with an earpiece so, for the first time, people could listen to music or sports privately while in public places. The pocket transistor radio was the iPod of the 1950s and 1960s.


General Electric, model P-780B
Circa 1960

When designing its transistor radio, General Electric decided to emphasize durability and performance instead of small size. This radio uses 8 transistors and has larger speakers for better sound quality. It operates on 6 D batteries. Radio collectors consider it to be the best portable AM radio ever made.

GE 8 Transistor Radio

GE 8 Transistor Radio

Recording and Playback

Wax cylinders through compact discs:

Until Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877, only those who attended a concert could hear musical performances. Edison, looking for a way to record telephone messages, invented a machine that used sound vibrations to form grooves in a foil-wrapped cylinder. When the user switched to playback mode, the needle moved up and down in the grooves as the cylinder rotated, causing a diaphragm to vibrate and create sound waves. Gradually the industry changed how it reproduced music, replacing this acoustical method with electrical, magnetic, and, later, optical devices.

Handcrank Phonograph Record Player

Hand Crank Phonograph Record Player. Recording and Playback History Exhibit

Edison Wax Cylinder PhonographEdison Wax Cylinder Phonograph

Cylinder Phonograph

Edison Phonograph Co.
circa 1890

During the 1880s, Edison and others worked to improve the quality of sound and make the phonograph easier to use. Wax cylinders, invented by Alexander Bell, Chichester Bell, and Charles Sumner Tainter, lasted longer and provided better sound than foil-covered cylinders. Electrical motors operated at a more consistent speed than the original crank-operated cylinders.

Following their demonstration at the Chicago Exposition in 1893, phonographs became increasingly popular for playing recordings of music and drama.

Wax Cylinders

Wax Cylinder Recordings


Standard Talking Machine Co.
Chicago, Illinois 
Patented 1900

In 1877, Emil Berliner invented the turntable for playing flat pre-recorded discs. His graphophone generated sound via side-to-side movements along a spiral groove in the disc. Unlike the Edison machines, it could not record. Because discs were cheaper to produce, plus easier to use and store than cylinders, consumers switched to turntable machines for playing music. By World War I, the cylinder phonograph had disappeared from the market.


Standard Talking Machine Graphophone

Thorens Phonograph

Thorens Excelda Portable Phonograph

Excelda Portable Phonograph

circa 1935

Called a cameraphone on account of its shape, this portable phonograph has a crank-operated turn-table that plays 78 rpm records.

4-Speed Portable Record Player

Masterwork (Columbia Records)

Frustrated that playing a recorded symphony required numerous interruptions to change 78 rpm records, Dr. Peter Goldmark invented long-playing (33 1/3 rpm) records in 1945. Making these records work required a change in materials to stronger vinyl, new diamond needles, and a lighter tone arm. RCA introduced its own new format, smaller 45 rpm records, two years later. By the 1950s, all record companies were offering popular records in the 45 rpm format and classical and movie soundtracks in the 33 1/3 rpm format. To play all these formats, phonograph makers adopted Goldmark's switchable stylus and variable speed turntables with new solid state (transistor) technology. This phonograph could be purchased for $19.95 in 1965 (equivalent to about $136.00 today).

Masterwork Portable Record Player

Masterwork Portable Record Player

Webster Wire Recorder

Webster Wire Recorder

Wire Recorder

Webster-Chicago Co.
Circa 1945

In 1898, Danish inventor Valdemar Poulsen created a telephone recorder that used the variable current produced by the telephone transmitter to create a matching pattern of local magnetization in a steel wire. Because wire recorders were compact, were reliable under all kinds of weather conditions, and could record for a long time on reusable wire, the military purchased them for use in World War II. After the war, Webster continued to produce them for the consumer market until 1956, when tape machines supplanted wire recorders.

Portable Reel-to-Reel Tape Recorder


Germany developed high-quality tape recorders during World War II. After studying captured German models, Ampex introduced reel-to-reel tape recorders with magnetic film applied to thin plastic tape. Singer Bing Crosby not only invested in the company but, in October 1947, was the first to use pre-recorded tapes to replace live radio broadcasts. Because they were easy to edit, tape recordings soon dominated in professional recording studios. Consumers also liked them because they could put their favorite songs together on one tape.

Valient Portable Reel-to-Reel Tape Recorder

Valiant Portable Reel-to-Reel Tape Recorder

Realistic 8-Track Tape PlayerRealistic 8-Track Tape Player

8-Track Tape Deck

Realistic (by Radio Shack)

Ampex introduced stereophonic tape recorders in 1955. The 8-track tape, introduced in 1964, contained four pairs of stereo tracks. The first two played the equivalent of one LP. The tape then began a second circuit, playing on tracks 3 and 4. The 8-track also introduced consumers to tapes enclosed in a plastic cartridge, which eliminated threading tape onto a reel. The listener could not skip tracks (fast forward) or rewind. Because the tapes were long-playing and easy to use, consumers found 8-track tape players particularly suited to automobiles after Ford included them as an option in 1966.

Walkman Portable Tape Player

after 1981

In 1962, the Phillips Company developed the cassette tape, with narrower magnetic tape wound on two small wheels inside a plastic casing. Over time, manufacturers improved the quality of the sound and began making casette tape decks for home stereo systems. 
With the development of transistors and then integrated circuits, manufacturers were able to make smaller players. Sony was the first to market a personal cassette player equipped with headphones instead of a speaker. The Soundabout was introduced in 1979, but was soon renamed the Walkman. In the first 10 years of production, Sony sold 50 million Walkman players. Sales of pre-recorded cassettes jumped from 32.5% of recorded music sales in 1981 to 76% by 1986.

Sony Walkman Portable Tape Player

Sony Walkman Cassette Tape Player

Portable CD Player

Sony Discman Compact Disc player

Portable Compact Disc Player

mid- to late 1980s

In the 1930s, engineers developed pulse-coded modulation to record sound digitally. Thousands of times per second, the voltage of the electrical current from a icrophone is measured and assign
ed a number that can be coded as a series of zeros and ones. The more frequent the measurement, and the smaller the differences between the levels, the more accurate the sound recording. For today's CDs, the music is sampled 41,100 times per second and assigned one of 65,536 possible values.

The advent of integrated circuits in 1959 greatly increased processing power and made pulse-coded modulation recordings commercially feasible. The Phillips Company developed the compact disc, which recorded the binary code on a reflective disc. Smooth areas reflect the light from a laser (ones) while tiny pits do not (zeros). Introduced in 1982, compact discs and players soon took over the market. By 1991, most record companies stopped producing vinyl records.

Toy Juke Box


In 1889, Leon Glass and William Arnold attached a coin-operated device to an Edison cylinder phonograph equipped with earphones. Listening to one pre-recorded cylinder cost a nickel.  
In 1927, the Automated Musical Instrument Company introduced the first true jukebox, which had an automatic changer that allowed the consumer to select from many records. During the Great Depression, many people could not afford concert tickets or phonographs, but they could afford to play a favorite song on a jukebox. As a result, by the 1940s, three-fourths of all records produced in the United States went into jukeboxes. After World War II, teens turned to jukeboxes at their favorite hangouts for their favorite swing and later early rock tunes.

This wind-up toy jukebox plays music when a penny is placed in the slot.

Toy Juke Box



A sampling of televisions from the museum collection.

Console smallCrosley Portable smallZenith smallMotorola small

Console Television

General Electric Model HM-225

General Electric operated a television station that broadcast the first programs received at home. The company included this early model television in an exhibit of their products at the 1939 New York World's Fair.

GE Console Television


"Easy Vision" Television

Late 1940s to early 1950s

Hoffman Easy Vision Television


Portable Television

Crosley Company

The Crosley Company, which produced low-cost radios, began making televisions in 1948. They designed this set to resemble a suitcase to emphasize its portability.

Crosley Portable Television



Circa 1953

Zenith Television


Portable Television


Motorola Portable Television


Sounds Like a Broken Record

An idiom is an expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent elements, such as "ears are burning," the meaning of which has nothing to do with fire. We hope you enjoy these auditory expressions.

  • When someone "sounds like a broken record," they keep repeating the same thing. It's interesting that in reality a scratched vinyl record will skip, but a broken record won't play at all.
  • When information goes "In one ear and out the other," it is quickly forgotten.
  • To be "all ears" is to be eager to hear something.
  • To "bend someone's ear" is to talk to someone uninterruptedly until they are bored listening.
  • When people talk about you and you are not present, your "ears must be burning."
  • When people don't understand, or ignore, your words, your message "falls on deaf ears."
  • To "have one's ear to the ground" is to be attentive to one's surroundings.
  • "Make a silk purse out of a sow's ear" is to make the best out of a difficult situation.
  • To "play it by ear" is to improvise.
  • "The walls have ears" implies a lack of privacy when conversing.
  • "Music to my ears" implies I've received some unexpected good news.
  • "Clear as a bell" implies that the message is fully understood.
  • "Friends, Romans, Countrymen: Lend me your ears!" is a William Shakespeare quote from Julius Caesar. Mark Antony is requesting that people pay attention to his words.