Headphones grew out of the need to free up a person’s hands when operating a telephone. By the 1890s the first device that is unmistakably a headphone was made by a British company called Electrophone. It was not until 1910 that Nathaniel Baldwin of Utah invented a prototype telephone headset due to his inability to hear sermons during Sunday service. His innovations were the basis of “sound-powered” telephones or phones that required no electricity, which were used during World War II.
Previously, headphones were used only by the US navy, telephone and radio operators, and individuals in similar industries. Using them for entertainment purpose was not a possibility until 1958, when John C. Koss, an audiophile and jazz musician from Milwaukee, produced the first stereo headphones.
Take a look through these 24 fascinating vintage ads of old-school headphones from the 1950s to 1980s: