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National Jukebox ready to play (No nickel needed!)

Imagine your computer as a new Gramophone purchased for family and friends to enjoy in your home parlor. Audition popular recorded selections of the beginning of the 20th century years—band music, novelty tunes, humorous monologues, hits from the season’s new musical theater productions, the latest dance rhythms, and opera arias.

The Library of Congress just announced its National Jukebox project, making historical sound recordings available to the public free of charge. The Jukebox currently includes

more than 10,000 recordings made by the Victor Talking Machine Company between 1901 and 1925. Jukebox content will be increased regularly, with additional Victor recordings and acoustically recorded titles made by other Sony-owned U.S. labels, including Columbia, OKeh, and others.

A slideshow on the site describes the laborious process needed to make Jukebox a reality.

Users can discover and select audio using the following strategies:

  • Browse all Recordings: by such fields as category,vocal,  language, place, target audience, label, date range, composer, performer, author, lyricist, genre,
  • Artists: Find recordings by music greats such as opera Singer Enrico Caruso, Broadway legend Al Jolson, whistling virtuoso Charles Kellogg, composer and band leader John Philip Sousa, and thousands of other artists on the National Jukebox.
  • Genres: every National Jukebox recording is described by one or more genre terms, with subgenres fitting into larger categories: classical music, popular music, ethnic characteristics, religious, spoken word.
  • Jukebox Day By Day: See what was recorded on any given day of the year. Check your birthday, an anniversary, or any other month and day of interest.
  • Playlists of Recordings: Jukebox features playlists compiled by Library of Congress curators, project partners, and guest experts. All playlists consist of audio selections available on the website. The public is encouraged to send playlist suggestions for consideration. Best public submissions may make it to the Jukebox playlist page.
  • Victrola Book of the Opera: The 1919 edition of the Victrola Book of the Opera describes more than 110 operas, and is reproduced here as an interactive digital facsimile. It includes plot synopses and lists of recordings the Victor Talking Machine Company offered in 1919. In addition to reading the original text, you can listen to nearly every recording listed in the book and even compare different interpretations of the most popular arias of the period.
  • Advanced Search: Combine a variety of fields and filters in a robust collection search

Currently playing on the homepage:

Featured Playlist: Early Tin Pan Alley Listen

Featured Artist: Enrico Caruso Listen to Enrico Caruso sing

Featured Genre: Ethnic music: Listen

And here’s a taste of the Victrola Book of the Opera

Imagine the potential for these materials in student media projects.  Imagine incorporating these pieces into lessons in music, history, art, English and so much more! Let your Gatsby readers listen to the Jazz Age.

Remember that the Jukebox recordings also include spoken word.  Though the Speeches subgenre is not yet large (at 35 items), it currently offers speeches performed by William Jennings Bryan, and Presidents William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Warren G. Harding.

Share this wonderful resource with classroom teachers today!

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Kathy Bowman says

    Are the recordings playing for you? They won’t play for me. I don’t know if it’s the Jukebox site or my district filter.

  2. Dan Gross says

    At first I thought this was great. Another source of audio for students to remix & use for synchronization projects. Unfortunately, the USLOC does not allow ANY downloading, only streaming, and misappropriates what appears to be copyright law. Recordings fixed & published before 1923 should now be public domain. A good document I use is here:

    However, click on any recording prior to 1923, and there is a “rights and access” tab. They state that everything is protected under copyright law, and only appears on the LOC website courtesy usually Sony.

    So this resource that has a ton of hard work in to it – not quite as great as I would have hoped.

    We STRONGLY believe in 1) obtaining license (permission) to use the media we are using, 2) attribute the media properly (give credit) to those whose works we are building upon. However, the constant restriction of rights is very frustrating, confuses those who are trying to do what is right and just encourages many of our students & staff to throw up their hands and say “who cares.”

    Its too bad – this could have been a great resource. I hope they fix it.

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