Music HistoryOngoing History of New Music

Ongoing History Daily: Who invented headphones, part 1

In the age of portable music devices, how many music fans use headphones?  Close to 100%, I’d think.  But have you ever wondered who invented them? 

It was a very colourful dude named Nathaniel Baldwin, a guy from Utah who (although he only had one wife) spent much of his life defending the rights of people to practice polygamy.  A little more than a hundred years ago, he was annoyed that he couldn’t hear the sermons in his Mormon church, so he devised a set of headphones that were essentially over-the-ear hearing aids. 

But then in 1910, the US Navy ordered 100 pairs for use at sea.  That led to the establishment of the Baldwin Radio Company, which supplied hearing and telephone gear to the armed forces through World War II.  But Baldys (as they were called) were never meant for music. 

Who figured that out?  That’s next time.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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One thought on “Ongoing History Daily: Who invented headphones, part 1

  • I’m curious about your comment that Rush broke up. Neil died. There was no break up. Very similar to Gord’s passing with The Hip. Both are irreplaceable. I could only imagine The Hip getting together for a benefit or celebration show.


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