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Pocket Phonograph
Pocket Phonograph
Kingston Whig-Standard, June 14, 1921, p. 11

In 2009 Mike Dicecco gave a presentation and published an article in Antique Phonograph News on the Hip Pocket phonograph and records of the 1960s - https://capsnews.org/apn2009-3.htm. This was, however, not the first appearance of a talking machine with the name "pocket phonograph".

The first use of the phrase in Canadian newspapers is found in the Winnipeg Tribune, March 23, 1912, page 3, apparently referring to an ingenious device with pre-recorded phrases at the touch of a button. Under the heading: Novel Advertisements - Buy the Ne Plus Ultra Pocket Phonograph of Everyday Phrases and Save Mouth Wear:

You merely have to press the right button and this marvelous little instrument will make any one of the commonplace remarks which one is called upon to utter a hundred times a day, such as 'How d'ye do?', 'Nicely, thanks', 'What awful weather, eh?', 'No', 'Yes', 'Ha-ha', 'You're standing on my foot!', 'Go to h--l', etc, etc. A child can work it.

Novel indeed. It sounds like wishful thinking.

Saskatoon Daily Star, September 23, 1921, p. 10: "Ol' Jess Willard, the Pottawatomie cow prodder, announced that he is training for a bout with [Jack] Dempsey. The heavyweight champion has folded his Hotel Belmont tent and left for New Jersey. He took all his luggage with him, his dog, his pocket phonograph."

Two years earlier, the Hand-Phonilo Company, 231 Smith Street, Winnipeg, ran numerous classified ads in newspapers in western Canada, mostly Saskatchewan, seeking western representatives for an "absolutely new novelty; pocket phonograph; it sells on sight and brings applause; rare opportunity for investor; personal investigation desired; samples one dollar." (Saskatoon Daily Star, May 21, 1919, p. 18)

Popular Mechanics, December, 1924

Also, "Less to carry than a pipe and plays all needle records." (Regina Leader-Post, May 10, 1919, p. 33)

Like the hula hoop of 1957, the lava lamp of 1963, the pet rock of 1975, the beanie baby of 1995 ... you get the idea, the pocket phonograph was a short-lived sensation for a couple of years beginning in 1919.

A newspaper in Ontario, the Kingston Whig-Standard, thankfully included a picture of this little marvel so that we can enjoy the new fad in all its glory. The caption read: "When one meets a friend who boasts of the wonderful record he has just bought, all that is necessary is to whip the tiny machine from one's pocket, adjust the record, and give it a tryout." (June 14, 1921, p. 11)

In December, 1924, Popular Mechanics ran an ad for the pocket phonograph from Hand-Phonilo Co., P 123 W. Madison Street, Chicago. The wondrous device is now called a "Phonilo".

Winnipeg Free Press Evening Bulletin, June 17, 1926, p. 21

The Brantford Expositor newspaper had a different take on the pressing issue of a pocket phonograph: "Pocket radios are the latest. But what a nuisance it would be if someone invented a pocket phonograph", apparently unaware that someone already had. (November 24, 1924, p. 4)

One year earlier, in 1923, a pocket phonograph was introduced by a Hungarian engineer whose slogan was "Carry your orchestra in your vest pocket." The Mikiphone usurped the name under the headline World's First Pocket Phonograph. A 1926 ad elaborated: "The Mikiphone is a genuine mechanical masterpiece. All records up to 10 inches in diameter may be played on it as on a large phonograph. ... The Mikiphone, by reason of its small size and round shape, can easily be carried in the pocket." (Edmonton Journal, April 9, 1926, p. 7)

Perhaps an appropriate final take on this subject might be from a 1959 commentary entitled "Morbid Scenes Abound in Opera" published in the Sault Star newspaper from my home town, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, on October 29, 1959, p. 25: "If you have a pocket phonograph, you could always try jumping under a bus in the last few bars of Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana."