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Victor Talking Machine Company

Victor Talking Machine Company

Overview
The Victor Talking Machine Company (1901
1901 in music
-Events:*April 18 - Contralto Mariska Horvath marries politician J. Frank Aldrich.*October 27 – First complete performance of Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2*November 25 – Premiėre of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No...

1929
1929 in music
-Events:*January 1 – Pianist and composer Abram Chasins makes his professional debut playing his own piano concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra.*January 11 – Karol Szymanowski's Stabat Mater is premiered....

) was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 corporation
Corporation
A corporation is created under the laws of a state as a separate legal entity that has privileges and liabilities that are distinct from those of its members. There are many different forms of corporations, most of which are used to conduct business. Early corporations were established by charter...

, the leading American producer of phonograph
Phonograph
The phonograph record player, or gramophone is a device introduced in 1877 that has had continued common use for reproducing sound recordings, although when first developed, the phonograph was used to both record and reproduce sounds...

s and phonograph records
Gramophone record
A gramophone record, commonly known as a phonograph record , vinyl record , or colloquially, a record, is an analog sound storage medium consisting of a flat disc with an inscribed, modulated spiral groove...

 and one of the leading phonograph companies in the world at the time. It was headquartered in Camden, New Jersey
Camden, New Jersey
The city of Camden is the county seat of Camden County, New Jersey. It is located across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city had a total population of 77,344...

.

The company was founded by Eldridge R. Johnson
Eldridge R. Johnson
Eldridge Reeves Johnson co-created the Victor Talking Machine Company alongside Emile Berliner, a United States corporation, and built it into the leading American producer of phonographs and phonograph records and one of the leading phonograph companies in the world at the time.In...

, who had previously made phonographs to play Emile Berliner
Emile Berliner
Emile Berliner or Emil Berliner was a German-born American inventor. He is best known for developing the disc record gramophone...

's Berliner Gramophone
Berliner Gramophone
Berliner Gramophone was an early record label, the first company to produce disc "gramophone records" .-History:...

 records. Some sources also claim Berliner as a co-founder; others say Berliner was never connected with the Victor company, though that may have been part of a ruse by Johnson to defeat the Zonophone
Zonophone
Zonophone, early on also rendered as Zon-O-Phone was a record label founded in 1899 in Camden, New Jersey by Frank Seaman. The Zonophone name was not that of the company, but was applied to the records and machines sold by Seaman from 1899-1900 to 1903...

 lawsuits that had put Berliner Gramophone out of business (in the U.S., but not in Canada, the UK, or Germany) and threatened Johnson's phonograph business.
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Encyclopedia
The Victor Talking Machine Company (1901
1901 in music
-Events:*April 18 - Contralto Mariska Horvath marries politician J. Frank Aldrich.*October 27 – First complete performance of Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2*November 25 – Premiėre of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No...

1929
1929 in music
-Events:*January 1 – Pianist and composer Abram Chasins makes his professional debut playing his own piano concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra.*January 11 – Karol Szymanowski's Stabat Mater is premiered....

) was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 corporation
Corporation
A corporation is created under the laws of a state as a separate legal entity that has privileges and liabilities that are distinct from those of its members. There are many different forms of corporations, most of which are used to conduct business. Early corporations were established by charter...

, the leading American producer of phonograph
Phonograph
The phonograph record player, or gramophone is a device introduced in 1877 that has had continued common use for reproducing sound recordings, although when first developed, the phonograph was used to both record and reproduce sounds...

s and phonograph records
Gramophone record
A gramophone record, commonly known as a phonograph record , vinyl record , or colloquially, a record, is an analog sound storage medium consisting of a flat disc with an inscribed, modulated spiral groove...

 and one of the leading phonograph companies in the world at the time. It was headquartered in Camden, New Jersey
Camden, New Jersey
The city of Camden is the county seat of Camden County, New Jersey. It is located across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city had a total population of 77,344...

.

The company was founded by Eldridge R. Johnson
Eldridge R. Johnson
Eldridge Reeves Johnson co-created the Victor Talking Machine Company alongside Emile Berliner, a United States corporation, and built it into the leading American producer of phonographs and phonograph records and one of the leading phonograph companies in the world at the time.In...

, who had previously made phonographs to play Emile Berliner
Emile Berliner
Emile Berliner or Emil Berliner was a German-born American inventor. He is best known for developing the disc record gramophone...

's Berliner Gramophone
Berliner Gramophone
Berliner Gramophone was an early record label, the first company to produce disc "gramophone records" .-History:...

 records. Some sources also claim Berliner as a co-founder; others say Berliner was never connected with the Victor company, though that may have been part of a ruse by Johnson to defeat the Zonophone
Zonophone
Zonophone, early on also rendered as Zon-O-Phone was a record label founded in 1899 in Camden, New Jersey by Frank Seaman. The Zonophone name was not that of the company, but was applied to the records and machines sold by Seaman from 1899-1900 to 1903...

 lawsuits that had put Berliner Gramophone out of business (in the U.S., but not in Canada, the UK, or Germany) and threatened Johnson's phonograph business. (Zonophone had used patent ruses to defeat Berliner, the inventor of disc records, whose technology Zonophone had copied.) In any event, Victor ultimately acquired the remaining assets of Berliner Gramophone; it also acquired Zonophone after defeating it in court.

Name and logo



There is some controversy as to how the name came about. Fred Barnum gives various possible origins of the "Victor" name; in "'His Master's Voice' In America", he writes, "One story claims that Johnson considered his first improved Gramophone to be both a scientific and business 'victory.' A second account is that Johnson emerged as the 'Victor' from the lengthy and costly patent litigations involving Berliner and Frank Seaman's Zonophone
Zonophone
Zonophone, early on also rendered as Zon-O-Phone was a record label founded in 1899 in Camden, New Jersey by Frank Seaman. The Zonophone name was not that of the company, but was applied to the records and machines sold by Seaman from 1899-1900 to 1903...

. A third story is that Johnson's partner, Leon Douglass
Leon Douglass
Leon Forrest Douglass was an American inventor and co-founder of the Victor Talking Machine Company who registered approximately fifty patents, mostly for film and sound recording techniques.-Life and professional career:...

, derived the word from his wife's name 'Victoria.' Finally, a fourth story is that Johnson took the name from the popular 'Victor' bicycle, which he had admired for its superior engineering. Of these four accounts the first two are the most generally accepted."

Victor had the rights in the United States and Latin America
Latin America
Latin America is a region of the Americas where Romance languages  – particularly Spanish and Portuguese, and variably French – are primarily spoken. Latin America has an area of approximately 21,069,500 km² , almost 3.9% of the Earth's surface or 14.1% of its land surface area...

 to use the famous trademark of the fox terrier Nipper
Nipper
Nipper was a dog that served as the model for a painting titled His Late Master's Voice. This image was the basis for the dog and trumpet logo used by several audio recording and associated brands: His Master's Voice, HMV, RCA, Victor Talking Machine Company, RCA Victor and JVC.- Biography :Nipper...

 listening to a Berliner Gramophone. (See also His Master's Voice.) The original painting was by Francis Barraud in 1893, as a memorial to his deceased brother, a London photographer, who willed him his estate including his DC-powered Edison-Bell cylinder Phonograph with a case of cylinders—some home-recorded—and his dog Nipper. Barraud noticed that whenever he played a cylinder recorded by his brother, the little dog would run to the horn, cock his ear and listen intently. Barraud's original depicts Nipper staring intently into the horn of an Edison-Bell while both sit on polished wooden surface. There is some controversy amongst historians as to whether this surface is the top of a table or the lid of the deceased master's coffin. This dispute originated long after Barraud's death and he made no comment during his life as to what the polished wooden surface is supposed to depict, if it depicts anything other than an artistic device for fixing Nipper and the Phonograph in space.

After several years the painting was still unsold. Since the horn on the Edison-Bell in the painting was black, a friend of Barraud's suggested that he might paint one of the bright brass-belled horns on display in the window at the new Berliner Gramophone shop on Maiden Lane
Maiden Lane
Maiden Lane may refer to:* Maiden Lane , a street in Covent Garden, London* Maiden Lane , a street in Manhattan* Maiden Lane , a street in San Francisco...

. The London branch was managed by an American, William Barry Owen. Barraud paid a visit to the branch with a photograph of the painting and asked to borrow a horn. Owen gave Barraud a Berliner Gramophone and asked that he paint it into the picture and then he would purchase the painting. The original painting shows the contours of the Edison-Bell Phonograph beneath the paint of the Gramophone when viewed in the correct light.

The "His Master's Voice" logo as rendered in immense circular leaded-glass panels remains in the 1915 factory building tower, now converted to apartments.

Acoustical recording era


Before 1925, recording was done by the same purely mechanical, non-electronic "acoustical" method used since the invention of the phonograph
Phonograph
The phonograph record player, or gramophone is a device introduced in 1877 that has had continued common use for reproducing sound recordings, although when first developed, the phonograph was used to both record and reproduce sounds...

 nearly fifty years earlier. No microphone was involved and there was no means of amplification. The recording machine was essentially an exposed-horn acoustical record player functioning in reverse. One or more funnel-like metal horns was used to concentrate the energy of the airborne sound waves onto a recording diaphragm, which was a thin glass disc about two inches in diameter held in place by rubber gaskets at its perimeter. The sound-vibrated center of the diaphragm was linked to a cutting stylus that was guided across the surface of a very thick wax disc, engraving a sound-modulated groove into its surface. The wax was too soft to be played back even once without seriously damaging it, although test recordings were sometimes made and sacrificed by playing them back immediately. The wax master disc was sent to a processing plant where it was electroplated to create a negative metal "stamper" used to mold or "press
Record press
A record press is a machine for manufacturing vinyl records. It is essentially a hydraulic press with a closing force of 100 tons and is fitted with moulds. Labels and a vinyl pattie are placed in the mould cavity while the moulds are being steam-heated with an ideal steam pressure of 140-170psi...

" durable replicas of the recording from heated "biscuits" of a shellac-based compound. Although sound quality was gradually improved by a series of small refinements, the process was inherently insensitive. It could only record sources of sound that were very close to the recording horn or very loud—preferably both—and even then the high-frequency overtones and sibilants necessary for clear, detailed sound reproduction were too feeble to register above the background noise. Resonances in the recording horns and associated components resulted in a characteristic "horn sound" that immediately identifies an "acoustical" recording to an experienced modern listener and seemed inseparable from "phonograph music" to contemporary listeners.

From the start, Victor pioneered manufacturing processes and soon rose to preeminence by recording famous performers. In 1901 Victor made a three-track puzzle record (single-sided A-821) and in 1903, a three-step mother-stamper process to produce more stampers and records than previously possible. After increasing the quality of disc records and phonographs, Johnson began an ambitious project to have the most prestigious singers and musicians of the day record for Victor Records, with exclusive agreements where possible. Often these artists demanded fees which the company could not hope to make up from sale of their records. Johnson shrewdly knew that he would get his money's worth in the long run in promotion of the Victor brand name. These new "celebrity" recordings bore red labels, and were marketed as "Red Seal"
RCA Red Seal Records
RCA Red Seal Records is a classical music label and is now part of Sony Masterworks.The Red Seal label was begun in 1902 by the Gramophone Company in the United Kingdom and was quickly picked up by its United States affiliate, the Victor Talking Machine Company, and its president, Eldridge R. Johnson...

 records. For many years these recordings were single-sided; only in 1923 did Victor begin making double-sided "Red Seal" records. Many advertisements were printed mentioning by name the greatest names of music in the era, with the statement that they recorded only for Victor Records. As Johnson intended, much of the public assumed from this that Victor Records must be superior to cylinder records.

Popular vaudeville performer Cal Stewart
Cal Stewart
Cal Stewart was a pioneer in vaudeville and early sound recordings. He is best remembered for his comic monologues in which he played "Uncle Josh" Weathersby, a resident of a mythical New England farming town called "Punkin Center."Born in Charlotte County, Virginia in 1856, Stewart spent his...

's "Uncle Josh" comic monologues were enormously successful for Victor.


The Victor recordings by Enrico Caruso between 1904–1920 were particularly successful, with those recorded until mid-1916 usually conducted by Walter B. Rogers and the remainder conducted by Josef Pasternack
Josef Pasternack
Josef Alexander Pasternack was a well-known conductor and composer in the first half of the 20th century.-Biography:...

 and Rosario Bourdon
Rosario Bourdon
Joseph Charles Rosario Bourdon D.Mus. was a French Canadian cellist, violinist, conductor, arranger and composer. He was a child prodigy skilled with many musical instruments...

. They were often used by retailers to demonstrate Victor phonographs; Caruso's rich powerful low tenor voice highlighted the best range of audio fidelity of the early audio technology while being minimally affected by its defects. Even people who otherwise never listened to opera
Opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

 often owned a record or two of the great voice of Caruso. Caruso and Victor Records did much to boost each other's commercial popularity. He made his final recordings in September 1920, only three months before his final appearances at the Metropolitan Opera
Metropolitan Opera
The Metropolitan Opera is an opera company, located in New York City. Originally founded in 1880, the company gave its first performance on October 22, 1883. The company is operated by the non-profit Metropolitan Opera Association, with Peter Gelb as general manager...

.

Victor recorded numerous classical musicians, including Jascha Heifetz
Jascha Heifetz
Jascha Heifetz was a violinist, born in Vilnius, then Russian Empire, now Lithuania. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest violinists of all time.- Early life :...

, Fritz Kreisler
Fritz Kreisler
Friedrich "Fritz" Kreisler was an Austrian-born violinist and composer. One of the most famous violin masters of his or any other day, he was known for his sweet tone and expressive phrasing. Like many great violinists of his generation, he produced a characteristic sound which was immediately...

, Victor Herbert
Victor Herbert
Victor August Herbert was an Irish-born, German-raised American composer, cellist and conductor. Although Herbert enjoyed important careers as a cello soloist and conductor, he is best known for composing many successful operettas that premiered on Broadway from the 1890s to World War I...

, and Sergei Rachmaninoff
Sergei Rachmaninoff
Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. Rachmaninoff is widely considered one of the finest pianists of his day and, as a composer, one of the last great representatives of Romanticism in Russian classical music...

 in a series of recordings at its Camden, New Jersey studios. Rachmaninoff, in particular, became one of the first composer-performers to record extensively; he first made several recordings for Thomas Edison
Thomas Edison
Thomas Alva Edison was an American inventor and businessman. He developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. In addition, he created the world’s first industrial...

 in 1919, then became an exclusive Victor artist from 1920 to 1942.
Orchestras were at a disadvantage in acoustical recordings, due to the limited frequency and dynamic range of the recording equipment. Musicians had to gather as closely as possible around the recording horn. Percussion instruments, in particular, were used sparingly since many of them could not be heard on the recordings. However, Victor made numerous recordings with bandmaster Arthur Pryor
Arthur Pryor
Arthur Willard Pryor was a trombone virtuoso, bandleader, and soloist with the Sousa Band. In later life, he was an American Democratic Party politician from New Jersey, who served on the Monmouth County, New Jersey Board of Chosen Freeholders during the 1930s.Pryor was born on the second floor of...

 conducting his own "Pryor's Orchestra" in 1904-06, and Victor staff conductor Walter B. Rogers directing Victor's own "house" orchestras, the Victor Orchestra (for popular works) beginning in 1904 and the Victor Concert Orchestra (for more "classical" literature) beginning in 1907. (A very few 1903-04 14-inch issues are credited to the "Victor Symphony Orchestra"; these may have been conducted by either Pryor or Rogers.) The concert orchestra of Victor Herbert
Victor Herbert
Victor August Herbert was an Irish-born, German-raised American composer, cellist and conductor. Although Herbert enjoyed important careers as a cello soloist and conductor, he is best known for composing many successful operettas that premiered on Broadway from the 1890s to World War I...

 made several recordings for the company in 1903; these early discs may not have been conducted by Herbert himself, but Victor signed Herbert and his orchestra to a long-term contract in 1911, engaging them to record symphonic and theatre music under Herbert's direction (most of the labels credit "Victor Herbert's Orchestra/Personally directed by Victor Herbert"). Victor also imported early orchestral recordings made by its European affiliates, notably performances by the La Scala Orchestra under Carlo Sabajno
Carlo Sabajno
Carlo Sabajno was an Italian conductor. From 1904 to 1932 he was the Gramophone Company's chief conductor and artistic director in Italy...

 and the New Symphony Orchestra of London under Landon Ronald
Landon Ronald
Sir Landon Ronald was an English conductor, composer, pianist, singing teacher and administrator...

. Victor expanded its American orchestral recording program by making recordings of the Boston Symphony Orchestra
Boston Symphony Orchestra
The Boston Symphony Orchestra is an orchestra based in Boston, Massachusetts. It is one of the five American orchestras commonly referred to as the "Big Five". Founded in 1881, the BSO plays most of its concerts at Boston's Symphony Hall and in the summer performs at the Tanglewood Music Center...

 conducted by Karl Muck
Karl Muck
Karl Muck was a German-born conductor of classical music. He based his activities principally in Europe and mostly in opera. His American career comprised two stints at the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He endured a public outcry in 1917 that questioned whether his loyalties lay with Germany or the...

 and the Philadelphia Orchestra
Philadelphia Orchestra
The Philadelphia Orchestra is a symphony orchestra based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the United States. One of the "Big Five" American orchestras, it was founded in 1900...

 conducted by Leopold Stokowski
Leopold Stokowski
Leopold Anthony Stokowski was a British-born, naturalised American orchestral conductor, well known for his free-hand performing style that spurned the traditional baton and for obtaining a characteristically sumptuous sound from many of the great orchestras he conducted.In America, Stokowski...

 in 1917; Victor's relationship with Stokowski and Philadelphia remained firm for decades. In 1920–21, Arturo Toscanini
Arturo Toscanini
Arturo Toscanini was an Italian conductor. One of the most acclaimed musicians of the late 19th and 20th century, he was renowned for his intensity, his perfectionism, his ear for orchestral detail and sonority, and his photographic memory...

 made his first recordings, conducting the La Scala
La Scala
La Scala , is a world renowned opera house in Milan, Italy. The theatre was inaugurated on 3 August 1778 and was originally known as the New Royal-Ducal Theatre at La Scala...

 Orchestra, which was then on an American tour. Victor went on to record the New York Philharmonic Orchestra with Willem Mengelberg
Willem Mengelberg
Joseph Willem Mengelberg was a Dutch conductor, famous for his performances of Mahler and Strauss with the Concertgebouw Orchestra.- Biography :...

 and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra with Rudolph Ganz
Rudolph Ganz
Rudolph Ganz was a Swiss pianist, conductor and composer. He claimed direct descent from Charlemagne.-Biography:...

 from 1922, and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra under Alfred Hertz
Alfred Hertz
Alfred Hertz , a German conductor born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. As a child, he contracted infantile paralysis and walked with a cane after that....

 from 1925; Hertz's earliest discs, made at Victor's new Oakland
Oakland, California
Oakland is a major West Coast port city on San Francisco Bay in the U.S. state of California. It is the eighth-largest city in the state with a 2010 population of 390,724...

 studios (opened in 1924), were the company's last acoustical orchestral sessions.

The origins of country music
Country music
Country music is a popular American musical style that began in the rural Southern United States in the 1920s. It takes its roots from Western cowboy and folk music...

 as we know it today can be traced to two seminal influences and a remarkable coincidence. Jimmie Rodgers
Jimmie Rodgers (country singer)
James Charles Rodgers , known as Jimmie Rodgers, was an American country singer in the early 20th century known most widely for his rhythmic yodeling...

 and the Carter Family
Carter Family
The Carter Family was a traditional American folk music group that recorded between 1927 and 1956. Their music had a profound impact on bluegrass, country, Southern Gospel, pop and rock musicians as well as on the U.S. folk revival of the 1960s. They were the first vocal group to become country...

 are considered the founders of country music and their songs were first captured at an historic recording session in Bristol
Bristol, Tennessee
Bristol is a city in Sullivan County, Tennessee, United States. The population was 26,702 at the 2010 census. It is the twin city of Bristol, Virginia, which lies directly across the state line between Tennessee and Virginia. The boundaries of both cities run parallel to each other along State...

, Tennessee
Tennessee
Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. It has a population of 6,346,105, making it the nation's 17th-largest state by population, and covers , making it the 36th-largest by total land area...

 on August 1, 1927, where Ralph Peer
Ralph Peer
Ralph Sylvester Peer was an American talent scout, recording engineer and record producer in the field of music in the 1920s and 1930s...

 was the talent scout and sound recordist for Victor Records.

During the 1920s Victor also released "race records" (that is, records recorded by and marketed to African American
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

s). These records were scattered in Victor's regular popular music series until July, 1928 when they started the 38000 series.

Emile Berliner emigrated to Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1900, probably to escape the legal chaos created by his erstwhile "sales manager," Frank Seaman, in the United States, since he still owned his Canadian patents for his lateral disc records. He set up the Berliner Gram-O-Phone Company to merchandise his machines and disc records. The company was eventually controlled by Emile's son, Herbert Berliner. Note that Herbert established his own, essentially competing, record company, the Compo Company
Compo Company
Compo Company Ltd. was Canada's first independent record company.The Compo Company was founded in 1918 in Lachine, Quebec by Herbert Berliner, an executive of Berliner Gramophone of Canada and the oldest son of disc record inventor Emile Berliner....

, also in Montreal. In fact, in 1919 the Compo Company pressed records credited only to "Famous Tenor," which used Victor sides cut by John McCormack; these were quickly withdrawn, to be replaced by the same titles cut by Ernest Hare doing a creditable McCormack impression.

Herbert Berliner left Berliner Gramophone of Canada in 1921 and developed Compo into a full-fledged record company.

A few years later, Victor acquired its Canadian counterpart, Berliner Gramophone of Canada, in 1924. Interestingly enough, when Victor introduced electric records in 1925, the Canadian firm immediately announced "the new V.E. Process" records; this was probably because the Compo Company had begun issuing electric recordings, promoted as such, in late January 1925. As a result, a special record, "You and I" by Jack Shilkret, promoting "the new V.E. Process" was issued; this was Victor 19571, with the Canadian promo version pairing acoustic (as issued in the U.S.) and electric (apparently recorded in Montreal) versions of 19571-A.

Electrical recording era



The advent of radio as a home entertainment medium in the early 1920s presented Victor and the entire record industry with new challenges. Not only was music becoming available over the air free of charge, but a live broadcast made using a high-quality microphone and heard over a high-quality receiver provided clearer, more "natural" sound than a contemporary phonograph record. In 1925, Victor switched from the old acoustical or mechanical method of recording to the new microphone
Microphone
A microphone is an acoustic-to-electric transducer or sensor that converts sound into an electrical signal. In 1877, Emile Berliner invented the first microphone used as a telephone voice transmitter...

-based electrical system developed by Western Electric
Western Electric
Western Electric Company was an American electrical engineering company, the manufacturing arm of AT&T from 1881 to 1995. It was the scene of a number of technological innovations and also some seminal developments in industrial management...

. Victor called their version of the improved fidelity recording process "Orthophonic", and sold a line of new designs of phonographs to play these improved records, called "Orthophonic Victrolas
Victor Orthophonic Victrola
The Victor Orthophonic Victrola first demonstrated publicly in 1925, was the first consumer phonograph designed specifically to play "electrically" recorded disks. The combination was recognized instantly as a major step forward in sound reproduction....

". The large top-of-the-line "Credenza" models of Orthophonic Victrolas had a 1.8 m (6 foot) long horn coiled inside the cabinet, and are often considered the high point of the development of the commercial wind-up phonograph, offering audio fidelity seldom matched by most home electric phonographs until some 30 years later. Victor electric recordings began being issued in spring 1925. However, in order to manufacture a sufficient supply of the electric recordings to satisfy anticipated demand and to allow dealers to liquidate their stock of acoustic recordings, Victor and its rival, Columbia, agreed to keep secret from the public, until the end of 1925, the fact that the recordings using this new process offered a vast improvement over the older acoustical recordings. With a large advertising campaign, Victor introduced its Orthophonic records on "Victor Day", November 2, 1925.
Victor's first commercial electrical recording was made at the company's Camden, New Jersey studios on February 26, 1925. A group of eight popular Victor artists, Billy Murray
Billy Murray (singer)
William Thomas "Billy" Murray was one of the most popular singers in the United States in the early decades of the 20th century...

, Frank Banta, Henry Burr
Henry Burr
Henry Burr was a Canadian singer of popular songs from the early 20th century, an early radio performer and producer...

, Albert Campbell, Frank Croxton, John Meyer, Monroe Silver, and Rudy Wiedoeft gathered to record "A Miniature Concert". Several takes were recorded by the old acoustic process, then additional takes were recorded electrically for test purposes. The electric recordings turned out well, and Victor issued the results that summer as the two sides of 12-inch 78 rpm record Victor 35753.

However, the first recorded commercial electrical recording was not the first issued commercial electric recording, and Gelatt notes for the first issued commercial electric recording that, "chronological pride of place goes to Victor 19626", with both sides being selections from the (University of Pennsylvania's) Mask and Wig Club's production Joan of Arkansas conducted by Nathaniel Shilkret
Nathaniel Shilkret
Nathaniel Shilkret was an American composer, conductor, clarinetist, pianist, business executive, and music director born in New York City, New York to an Austrian immigrant family.-Early career:...

. The A-side was recorded on March 16, 1925 and the B-side on March 20, 1925.

Victor quickly recorded the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Stokowski in a series of electrical recordings, initially at its Camden, New Jersey studios and then in Philadelphia's Academy of Music. Among Stokowski's first electrical recordings were performances of Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns
Camille Saint-Saëns
Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns was a French Late-Romantic composer, organist, conductor, and pianist. He is known especially for The Carnival of the Animals, Danse macabre, Samson and Delilah, Piano Concerto No. 2, Cello Concerto No. 1, Havanaise, Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, and his Symphony...

 and Marche Slave by Peter Tchaikovsky. Frederick Stock
Frederick Stock
Frederick Stock was a German conductor and composer.-Biography:...

 and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is an American orchestra based in Chicago, Illinois. It is one of the five American orchestras commonly referred to as the "Big Five". Founded in 1891, the Symphony makes its home at Orchestra Hall in Chicago and plays a summer season at the Ravinia Festival...

 made a series of recordings for Victor, beginning in 1925, first in Victor's Chicago studios and then in Orchestra Hall. The San Francisco Symphony Orchestra conducted by Alfred Hertz
Alfred Hertz
Alfred Hertz , a German conductor born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. As a child, he contracted infantile paralysis and walked with a cane after that....

 made a few acoustical recordings early in 1925, then switched to electrical recordings in Oakland, California, which continued until 1930. Within a few years, Serge Koussevitsky began a long series of recordings with the Boston Symphony Orchestra
Boston Symphony Orchestra
The Boston Symphony Orchestra is an orchestra based in Boston, Massachusetts. It is one of the five American orchestras commonly referred to as the "Big Five". Founded in 1881, the BSO plays most of its concerts at Boston's Symphony Hall and in the summer performs at the Tanglewood Music Center...

 in Boston's Symphony Hall. Toscanini made his first Victor electrical recordings with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 1929.

In 1926, Johnson sold his controlling (but not holding) interest in Victor to the banking firm of Seligman & Spyer, who in 1929 sold to the Radio Corporation of America, which then became known as the Radio-Victor Division of the Radio Corporation of America later RCA Victor. (See RCA
RCA
RCA Corporation, founded as the Radio Corporation of America, was an American electronics company in existence from 1919 to 1986. The RCA trademark is currently owned by the French conglomerate Technicolor SA through RCA Trademark Management S.A., a company owned by Technicolor...

 and RCA Records
RCA Records
RCA Records is one of the flagship labels of Sony Music Entertainment. The RCA initials stand for Radio Corporation of America , which was the parent corporation from 1929 to 1985 and a partner from 1985 to 1986.RCA's Canadian unit is Sony's oldest label...

 for later history of the Victor brand name.
)

Victor (Japan)


The Victor Company of Japan (JVC
JVC
, usually referred to as JVC, is a Japanese international consumer and professional electronics corporation based in Yokohama, Japan which was founded in 1927...

), founded in 1927, severed its ties to RCA Victor at the start of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, and is still one of the oldest and most successful Japanese record labels as well as an electronics giant. It also retains the Victor name and "His Master's Voice" trademark in commercial operations in Japan.

The Victrola



In September 1906, Johnson and his engineers designed a new line of phonographs with the turntable and amplifying horn tucked away inside a wooden cabinet. This was not done for reasons of audio fidelity, but for visual aesthetics. The intention was to produce a phonograph that looked less like a piece of machinery and more like a piece of furniture. These internal horn machines, trademarked with the name Victrola, were first marketed to the public in August of that year and were an immediate hit. Soon an extensive line of Victrolas was marketed, ranging from small tabletop models selling for $15, through many sizes and designs of cabinets intended to go with the decor of middle-class homes in the $100 to $250 range, up to $600 Chippendale and Queen Anne-style cabinets of fine wood with gold trim designed to look at home in elegant mansions. Victrolas became by far the most popular brand of home phonograph, and sold in great numbers until the end of the 1920s. RCA Victor continued to market phonographs with the "Victrola" name until the early 1970s.

The Victrola brand was used at least until 1987 on the RCA Dimensia
RCA Dimensia
Dimensia was RCA's brand name for their high-end models of television systems and their produced from 1984 to 1989, with variations continuing into the early 1990s, superseded by the ProScan model line. After RCA was acquired by General Electric in 1986, GE sold the RCA consumer electronics line...

 brand television sets.

The Victor archives


Victor kept meticulous written records of all of its recordings. The files cover the period 1903 to 1958 (so this discussion is pertinent to RCA Victor as well as The Victor Talking Machine). These written records are among the most extensive and important sources of available primary discographic information in the world. There were three main categories of files: A daily log of recordings for each day; a file maintained for each important Victor artist; and a 4"x6" index card file kept in catalog number order. As of 2010, the Victor archives were owned by SONY and kept in New York City.

There are about 15,000 daily log pages, each titled "Recording Book," that are numbered chronologically. Each recording was assigned a "matrix number" to identify the recording. When issued, the recording had a "catalog number," almost always different from the matrix number, on the record label. For most recordings the information given in the daily log included the following:
  • recording date
  • matrix number
  • title
  • artist
  • instrumentation (e.g., "2 violins-piano," with only the important artists or important Victor house musicians named, e.g., "violin-L. Raderman-piano-N. Shilkret")
  • author(s) (lyricist(s) and composer(s))
  • publisher
  • take number (e.g., B 27413-3 for the third attempt at recording matrix B 27413)
  • disposition ("D" for destroy, "H" for hold, "M" for master), which was written in by hand after the entry was made
  • a date which may have been the date disposition was made


For many recordings the following additional information was written:
  • catalog number, which was written by hand after the entry was made
  • city in which the recording was made


Some pages have letter suffixes; e.g., page 5417A follows page 5417. Frequently, but not always, the pages with letter suffixes were used for recordings made other than in the New York area; e.g., page 5417A lists recordings made in Chicago. Pages with letter suffixes are sometimes slightly out of chronological order.

As of 2010, the pages available at the SONY's Victor Archives go only up to April 22, 1935. Victor's original pages after this date were apparently discarded at some point. However, Victor had ties with EMI in England, and at Hayes, England EMI has more recent pages. These pages were sent at the time they were first written, and they do not have the annotations made afterwards.

Most, but not all, daily log information for recordings made for synchronization with motion pictures were kept separately, and the separate synchronization recording information is missing from the SONY Victor archives.

The files by artist were also maintained chronologically and had information similar to that in the daily log sheets, and also some technical information such as information about the horns used for acoustical recordings. E.g., there is an approximately 350-page file labeled "International Novelty Orchestra--Export." The word "Export" indicated that only the recordings made for export to Central and South America were included in the file.

The 4"x6" index cards are on blue stock, and, thus, are usually referred to as "the blue cards" or some variant of this. The blue card file consists of approximately a quarter of a million cards arranged in catalog number order. The blue cards contain much of the same information as the daily log and also additional information, such as the date a master was tested. In some cases, record sales are indicated on the back side of the card.

Victor also issued catalogs, usually annually, with supplements issued during the year, that were carefully prepared and also provide useful information.

The Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings (EDVR) is a continuation of a project of Ted Fagan and William Moran to make a complete discography of all Victor recordings. The Victor archive files are a major source of information for this project.

External links