The History of the Megaphone

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Also known as a bullhorn or speaking trumpet, the megaphone has been used to amplify the human voice for hundreds of years. At its most basic, an acoustic megaphone is no more than a cone-shaped device that projects the voice outward at a greater volume. Electric megaphones were introduced in the 20th century, and quickly became an essential part of cheerleading and sporting events.

History and Development

  • Credit for developing the theory behind the modern megaphone is often attributed to 17th century German Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher, along with 18th century Swiss mathematician Johann Heinrich Lambert. But simple acoustic megaphones have been in use since at least the sixth century, when they were used to amplify speakers' voices in the amphitheaters of ancient Greece. Henry C. Dalrymple patented the first electric voice amplifier in the mid-20th century, utilizing technology developed decades earlier by Thomas Edison.

Use in Sports

  • Megaphones have historically been useful for any situation in which an individual speaker needs to address a large crowd. Cheering developed as a significant aspect of sporting events in the United States in the 1880s, and the megaphone became an important tool, allowing cheerleaders to be heard by the spectators. The acoustic megaphones of the day have been largely replaced by modern electric and battery-powered megaphones, but they are still commonly used due to their portability and affordability compared with PA systems of similar wattage.

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  • Photo Credit Blend Images/Blend Images/Getty Images
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