The following is a guest post by Hanna Soltys, Reference Librarian, Prints & Photographs Division.
A good research quest often leads you to unexpected finds and drops you right at the edge of a rabbit hole. While working through the topic of listening (the subject of a previous blog post), two World War I posters caught my eye, and my curiosity demanded to know more.
I had known of book drives to keep soldiers entertained, though had no knowledge of record drives, often known as “slacker record drives.” Here we see one of the posters calling for records, and another showing the need to raise funds to purchase equipment and records:
Posters helped drum up interest and support for collecting and distributing listening materials (records, needles, phonographs) to soldiers. Browsing through historic newspaper articles in Chronicling America provided insight on how individual states and towns advertised local participation. This 1918 article from The Bismarck Tribune discusses an event after a flu outbreak canceled previous plans:
Did these advertisements and town events pay off? The American Red Cross Collection helped me connect some dots to determine how popular and available phonographs were during the Great War.
The Red Cross’s caption for this photo really spelled out the need for records and equipment, seen here at a canteen in Italy.
A research topic discovering a poster with a phonograph quickly led to a deeper understanding (and knowledge) of slacker record drives, thanks to Library of Congress resources. Now that’s quite a harmonious find.
- Read up on Slacker Record Week in the Chronicling America historic newspaper database.
- Revisit Hanna’s previous Picture This blog post about listening habits as illustrated in Prints & Photographs Division images: The Looks of Listening.
- Learn more about The Library War Service during World War I in the Teaching with the Library of Congress blog, then view images of soldiers using books as an alternative form of entertainment.
- Discover how music entertained soldiers in photographs from the American Red Cross Collection.
- See a post from the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center’s Now See Hear! blog that looks at scrap record drives during World War II.
- Peruse an article, accessible through HathiTrust, about record drives in the October 19, 1918 edition of popular periodical Musical America.
Fascinating to read about this Hanna – thanks for the big.
A question – why “slacker” ?
You might also enjoy this great collection of advertisements for the Decca brand of “trench” gramophones https://www.flickr.com/photos/nigelbewley/6310232728/in/photostream
This is a better link to the album (33 images) of adverts for Decca trench model gramophones on my Flickr site. All of the adverts are from the time of the Great War (1914 – 1918). https://www.flickr.com/photos/nigelbewley/albums/72157626666110681
Sarah- Thanks for your note. “Slacker” appears to have been used colloquially to describe items that were idle, not in use, and just sitting around collecting dust. Appreciate the Decca ad link you shared as it’s interesting to see a company manufacture specifically for the trenches.