The megaphone is one of the most recognizable icons of cheerleading. It is literally used to lead cheers!
But, how did the megaphone come to be?
In its strictest definition, we've had the megaphone with us all along. Invented in caveman-times, and still fairly popular today, the first conical, portable voice amplification device ever discovered is just cupping your hands around your mouth and yelling.
The megaphone we know today was invented and named by Thomas Edison, although at first he called it a telephonoscope. It wasn't until newspapers made fun of him that he changed it to the slightly less silly name we're stuck with now.
Considering olden-day megaphones were called “speaking trumpets,” really any name was an improvement.
While today, Thomas Edison is considered a genius who invented half of everything, back in his time people loved to hate on him. The guy perfected the megaphone to help the hearing impaired and the press portrayed it as a way to creep on your neighbors.
Even the light bulb had its critics. “Women look uglier in electric light!”
A lot of Thomas Edison's inventions were directed toward helping the hearing impaired. Probably unrelated, Edison was himself hearing impaired. He actually had a chance to fix his hearing through surgery, but he turned it down. People annoyed him, and he didn't want to hear them any better than he already had to, he famously said (a little too loudly).
Despite the haters, Edison became a revered historical figure, and the megaphone became an emblem of zing and pep. When was the last time you heard something uninteresting said from a megaphone? Exactly. Never. That is because, like his other 1,092 patented inventions, Thomas Edison's spirit haunts the megaphone to this day.
The ghost of Edison demands that nothing boring shall pass through a megaphone. It's either fanning the flames of passion or saving people from a literal fire; there is no in between. Next Halloween, give this a try: convince your squad to try to say something boring with a megaphone. Watch as no one can get even halfway through an alphabetized list of laundry folding techniques before Thomas Edison's ghost makes his presence known...
It is also due to his ghost's hard work that all electric megaphones use direct current and not alternating current, as one final act of spite towards his arch rival, Nicola Tesla. The telephone had better sales than the mega-better megaphone, and is not immune to the curse of Edison. If you use a megaphone through a telephone receiver, you will annoy the person on the other end. Why? The only reason could be the ghost of Thomas Edison.
But...how did the megaphone come to be associated with cheerleading?
It all started with Dominick Bell, also known as Quiet Dom. He was the cheer captain of his high school squad in 1890. He had more zing and pep than a hyperactive Labrador retriever has when its owner gets home...but he couldn't talk above a whisper.
To get his team's attention, he incorporated back flips and front flips, before such feats were used as a part of cheerleading. His team was constantly impressed with his physical abilities, but when it came to chants and cheers, no one could hear him at all! Everyone knows cheerleaders need to be be loud and proud. He tried everything he could to increase his volume level – whistles, bells, and cymbals. These all gave him an extra boost of sonic energy, but didn't help in any situation that called for legible words.
One day Dom was out in the streets with his aunt and heard a great booming thunder strike of a voice advertising a new type of hair cream.
He was shocked to learn that a young girl of no older than 7 years old was shouting from the street corner, using some type of voice projecting cone. Intrigued by the strange conical device, he inquired to the girl and learned of where she might acquire this conical wonder. Two months later he received her shipment of one “mega-phone” from the local haberdashery. Thus, Dominick Bell became the first cheerleader to incorporate the voice magnifying piece of equipment into his routine.
A few decades later, the famous gangster would use the same nickname, “Quiet Dom,” as a homage to the cheerleader that brought the megaphone into cheerleading.
What if Quiet Dom had never been so quiet? Maybe there would have never been the cheerleading megaphone...