The phonograph had a profound impact on the way Americans experienced music. Prior to its invention, the only way to hear music was when it was played or sung live. Music was typically played in group settings, where all were welcome, and even expected, to sing along, and the melody was never played exactly the same way twice. The phonograph allowed people to listen to the songs they wanted to hear, when they wanted to hear them, and if they wanted to, they could even listen to them alone. The advent of recorded music also established a single, standard version of a song. Because early wax cylinders could only hold two to three minutes’ worth of music, recorded songs were much shorter than live performances; in essence, the phonograph is responsible for the three-minute pop song.
This Grand Busy Bee Disc Talking Machine phonograph was distributed by the O’Neill-James Company of Chicago as part of a tied-products marketing ploy during the first decade of the 20th century. The Busy Bee had a rectangular lug on the turntable, so only Busy Bee brand records with a corresponding cut-out could be used on it. Retailers would give the machine away with each $25 cash purchase knowing the customer would likely return to purchase Busy Bee discs in the future.