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Remembering the Victrola and "His Master's Voice"

Bob Cox • May 17, 2020 at 12:00 PM

In early 1899, Francis Barraud applied for copyright of an original painting of “Victor, His Master's Voice,” using a descriptive working title, known as “A Dog Looking at and Listening to a Phonograph.”

However, he was unable to sell the work to any cylinder phonograph company. However, William Barry Owen, the American founder of the Gramophone Company in England, offered to purchase the painting under the condition that Barraud modify it to show one of their disc machines.

Barraud complied and the image was first used on the company's catalogue from December 1899. As the trademark gained in popularity, several additional copies were subsequently commissioned from the artist for various corporate purposes. Ad copy:

“We want you to know this wonderful musical instrument as we know it; to hear it and realize as we do the height of perfectionism has reached in recent years; to enjoy with us and the thousands upon thousands of Victor owners, the world's best music, played as you have never heard it before.

“You can judge how perfect an instrument the Victor is, from the fact that the greatest opera singers – those who command the highest salaries — Caruso, Clve, Eames, Farrar, Gadski, Homer, Melba, Plancon, Schumann-Heink, Scotti, Sembrich, Tetrazzini and others, make records for the Victor and only for the Victor.

“In addition to the world's most famous operatic stars, Pryor's Band, Harry Lauder, Branche Rink, Josie Sadler, May Irwin, Haydn Wuartet, Harry Macdonough, Fisk Jubilee Singers and a host of other noted artists and organizations make records exclusively for the Victor.

“You can still further judge the perfection of the Victor from the fact that President Taft, besides making records for the Victor, has a Victor himself. And so have other prominent men, the wealthiest families America and other sovereigns — with all the money at their command they can secure no musical instrument that gives them so much pleasure as the Victor.

“But you can't imagine how loud, clear and true-to-life the Victor brings to you the voices of the greatest singers, the the music of the most celebrated bands and famous instrumentalists and all other kinds of entertainment.

“We can't possible describe the perfection of these things to you; mere words can't do justice to the Victor – and even if we could tell you, it would only be natural for you to think it was exaggeration.

“There's only one way you can come to a full realization of the Victor and that is to hear it.

“We want you to hear the Victor. It is a duty you owe yourself and family – they shouldn't be deprived of the music and fun that help to make a happy home.

“So write us today and we'll send you complete catalogues of the Victor and of the more than 3,000 Victor Records. And we'll tell you the name and address of the Victor dealer right in your neighborhood. Who will gladly play for you – without obligation and Victor music you want to hear. And if you want to buy, he will arrange easy terms to suit.

“To get best results, use only Victor Needles on Victor Records. Look for the Victor trademark, “His Master's Voice,” on the horn and cabinet on every of every Victor Records. Not a Victor without the trademark.

Reach Bob Cox at [email protected] or go to www.bcyesteryear.com.

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