Kiddie Record Players
Synopsis of Toy
Since girls began swooning over Frank Sinatra in the 1940’s, music has been an important part of kids’ lives. Also, records and record players began to shrink in size and become cheaper around this time, making it inevitable that smart manufacturers would start to make record players designed especially for children. The result was the kiddie record player, a colorful and easy-to-operate version of stereo equipment that became an important item in many a kid’s bedroom.
The roots of the kiddie record player lie in Thomas Edison’s invention of the phonograph. It was the first machine to reproduce recorded sound, which it recorded on a rotating sheet of tinfoil. It was soon improved upon by other inventors and became popular with the general public when Emil Berliner invented flat circular discs to be used on the phonograph. These new, easier-to-handle marvels were called “records” and soon became the standard storage device for recorded music. By the 1950’s, new technological advances like stereo sound and long playing records allowed people everywhere to enjoy music all the time in the comfort of their own homes.
The record player revolution hit children in the 1950’s when records and record players shrank to a compact, kid-friendly size. One of the big innovations to hit the recorded music world was the 45-rpm single, which allowed the reproduction of two songs, one per side, on a miniature seven-inch record. They were perfect for rock and roll songs and retellings of fairy tales, both of which had immense appeal for kids. Toy and department stores took note of this and began to sell portable record players to children. Other kid-related record devices included the Magnetic Disc Recorder, which allowed kids to record their own 45-rpm records. There was also the Broadcast Outfit, which added a microphone, a portable speaker and microphone to the record player for aspiring disc jockeys.
As rock music began to produce superstars like Elvis Presley and the Beatles, smart music-related companies began producing tie-in portable record players decorated with their images. Of course, these were immensely popular with teenagers. Meanwhile, younger kids got their parents to buy them their own portable record players decorated with characters like Mickey Mouse.
But it was the Fisher-Price Toy Company made the definitive kiddie record players. Their colorful, easy-to-handle record players came to prominence during the 1970’s as the perfect medium for fairy-tale records and bubblegum-pop singles. Fisher-Price also made Music Box Record Players, wind-up devices for pre-schoolers that played special notched discs to create music-box version of kiddie songs.
Compact discs and cassettes began to replace records as the musical recordings of choice among consumers during the late 1980’s, and this led to kiddie record players being phased out. Just the same, kiddie record players continue to live on as kitsch items for people who grew up with them. They continue to be popular items at garage sales, flea markets, and online auctions, especially if they are of the Fisher-Price variety. Whether used by kids to play records or by adults as a decorative item, these little musical marvels will continue to occupy a special place in the hearts of many people for years to come.