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Joan Grauman, AAA HistorianAs the organization’s historian, I have been writing historical articles on events that led up to the creation of the AAA and were important for the AAA. This includes some of its influential members, as well as special events throughout the decades, and more.

Preface by Joan Grauman

I have been a collector of “ephemera (written or printed items of short-term usefulness or popularity)” for several decades. Luckily, I focused this goofy obsession of mine on my other obsession: the accordion! I hope you enjoy this trip through memory lane with printed ads, stories and cards that celebrate, or ridicule, our beloved musical instrument.

Joan Grauman, AAA Historian

The Accordion in the Media Spanning the Decades
Part 1: The late 1920s to 1960

by Joan Grauman

Mass media was, and is today, a very important mirror of who we were and who we are as a society. While this form of communicating and promoting thoughts, facts, events and ideas has changed monumentally over the past 100 years, one thing has not changed: mass media clearly reflects our past and our present.

Over the decades, the accordion in the media has been "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly…. and the Good again". Part 1 of this article will focus on "the Good"; Part 2: "the Bad, the Ugly … and the Good again."

Benjamin Franklin, one of our US Founding Fathers, is credited with creating the first printed advertisements in a magazine, "General Magazine", in 1741. By the early 20th century, printed advertisements were in newspapers, periodicals and posters. These ads attracted people to what was being sold by featuring popular and attractive people, scenes and objects. Stories of the glamorous Vaudeville, Hollywood and radio celebrities were also featured in the magazines. Soon the beautiful and intriguing “new” musical instrument, the accordion, was in ads and stories everywhere.

In the 1930s and 40s, many Hollywood stars wanted to be photographed holding accordions. Some even learned to play the instrument. The well-loved star Jimmy Stewart played the accordion and was brought in for a photo shoot in 1938 for the Accordion World Magazine, and he was featured on one of their covers. Jimmy Stewart died in 1987. With the many photos from movies and his promotional shots through the decades, it was a true tribute to his beloved accordion when he chose a photo from this 1938 photo shoot as his all-time favorite. It was the featured photo in the Washington Post Magazine when he passed away.

Some of the other early celebrities who played (or were photographed playing) the accordion were Fred Astaire and his sister Adele, Sophia Loren, Ginger Rogers, Charlie Chaplin, producer Frank Capra, Walter Brennan and James Cagney. Composer Leroy Anderson, famous violinist Jascha Heifetz and pianist and big band leader Duke Ellington were also accordionists!

Hollywood star Donald O'Connor started his acting career at
very young age and found time to also study the accordion.

The accordion was not just featured in Hollywood. It could be found in cigarette ads and even in the hands of Mickey Mouse during the 1930s, 40s and 50s.

At Christmastime, the accordion could be found on countless greeting cards in the hands of Santa Claus, angels and carolers. Here are several early Christmas card samples from the 1940s and 50s.

Stayed tuned for Part 2 to be released next month. HAPPY CHANUKAH,

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