A hundred years ago this month, the November 1917 issue of Talking Machine World offered some advice for phonograph retailers seeking to “reach talking machine buyers of foreign birth.” The magazine noted that dealers in cities with a large foreign element had come to realize the profitable opportunities presented by featuring foreign records. “It has been found that nothing so stimulates the sale of talking machines and records in foreign sections as the fact that foreigners can secure records of their native music offered in their native language.”
One success story was Grinnell Bros. of 243-247 Woodward Avenue, Detroit. (It appears that the streets had been renumbered, since the previous link identifies the company’s building as being at 1515 Woodward Avenue.) That company had great success with advertising in foreign-language newspapers catering to the many immigrants working in Detroit’s auto industry. Examples in German and Polish were shown, in addition to the Russian ad shown here. The magazine noted that the newspapers would be happy to translate the ad copy.
The image shown above appeared elsewhere in the magazine. It is a window display offered by Columbia to highlight the company’s foreign records.