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The Victor Talking Machine Company

Appendix I
Chronological Outline of Important Developments

1894 In October of 1894, E. R. Johnson became sole owner of the Scull Machine Shop at 108 N. Front Street, Camden. He regarded this as the beginning of the Victor Talking Machine Company.
1896 During February of 1896, E. R. Johnson saw his first Gramophone. It was hand powered. He developed a spring motor and sound box for it, and made 100 for the Berliner Gramophone Co. of Philadelphia before October 15, 1896. The horns and cabinets were vendor supplied. Orders for more followed, but the quantity was not known. The shop employed 2 to 16 men. Production was probably small since Berliner was the only customer. Berliner gave the National Gramophone Co. (Frank Seaman) an exclusive sales contract for all of the United States except for the District of Columbia (10/10/96).

During 1896, Mr. Johnson invented and demonstrated the practicability of a new recording process (Electrotyped masters from wax discs).


Wm. Barry Owen, Sales Manager for the National Gramophone Co. (Berliner’s Sales Agent), went to London to sell foreign rights to Berliner’s patent. He was not successful at the start, but finally persuaded E. Trevor Williams to join him in a £15,000 undertaking to sell the Gramophone which Mr. Johnson was making for Berliner.

Production continued on this Gramophone for Berliner. Berliner sold Seaman. Seaman also sold London.

Little activity in record development. No record manufacturing.
1898 E. R. Johnson went to London in June. Arranged to sell London direct (motor parts and sound boxes only).

Wm. J. Nafey spent from January 1898 to September 1898 developing the recording process to the point of manufacture. He made about 25 matrixes late 1898. Electrotyped matrixes were made by Franklin Electrotype Co. of Philadelphia. Sample records were pressed by Duranoid Mfg. Co. of Newark, New Jersey. No records were sold.

There was a full page Zonophone (an infringement of the Gramophone by Frank Seaman) adver­tisement in Munsey’s for October, 1898.

1899 Sold instruments to Berliner Gramophone Co. of Philadelphia. An independent company was started in Canada under Berliner’s patent. Camden did not sell Canada at the start. Sold motor parts and sound boxes to London.

With Mr. Calvin Child’s assistance, Mr. Johnson started to re-do the Berliner catalog during the Fall of 1898.

About 25 matrixes in 1898—200 during 1899.

(2/11/99) Mr. Royal, now of London, was prepared to set up the Gramophone Co. to use the Johnson recording process.

During 1899, Mr. Johnson made about $40,000.

1900 February — E. R. Johnson moved from 108 to 120 N. Front St., Camden. The Gramophone Co. of London started to use the dog trade mark.
April — Berliner held that Seaman had forfeited his sales contract of   10/10/96.
May 5th — Seaman accepted consent decree acknowledging American Gramophone Co.’s patent.
June — Berliner stopped selling to Seaman. They stopped doing business entirely.
June 25th — Seaman got an injunction preventing Berliner from selling to anyone else.
July — E. R. Johnson stopped shipping to Berliner.
August — Leon F. Douglass joined Mr. Johnson.
September — E. R. Johnson started up for himself as The Consolidated Talking Machine Co.  using the dog trade mark. Soon changed to Eldridge R. Johnson.
Metal plant in Camden. The office was in the Stephen Girard Bldg. in Philadelphia.
Records were pressed by Duranoid, and the first sale was made under the Johnson  process.
December — Started to use the trade mark “Victor.” (p. 103)

Seaman’s injunction dismissed July 6, 1901 until July 23, 1902.

From October, 1900 to October, 1901, F. R. Johnson made about $180,000 (about $52, 000 during August and September of 1901).

Victor Talking Machine Co. was incorporated 10/3/01 (organized 10/5/01). Paid $40,000 to Frank Seaman (out-of-court settlement).

Agreed to sell the Gramophone Co. up to 50% of Victor’s plant capacity (They never used more than 40%).

1902 Started to press records in own plant in Camden (23 Market Street). License plan adopted for instruments.
1903 Victor bought control of the Universal Talking Machine Mfg. Co., Inc. (Zonophone) for $135,000. Taper arm and goose neck introduced during Fall of 1903.

Factory was seriously damaged by fire 4/24/04 ($45,500 loss).

Purchased Victor Dist. & Export Co. (NYC).

Office moved to Commonwealth Trust Bldg., 12th & Chestnut Sts., Philadelphia.

1905 Office moved from Philadelphia to old Bldg. #3.

Purchased St. Louis Talking Machine Company.

Purchased The Talking Machine Co., Chicago.

First factory building rebuilt after fire.

1906 Enclosed horn machine introduced.

Leon Douglass retired. Louis Geissler arrived.

License System revised.

Victor bought 8,000 shares of common from Berliner (Consolidated Talking Machine Co. of America) for $800,000.

Fifth story added to first four-story factory building.

Buildings #6 and #7 occupied—Matrix and Shipping Departments moved from Philadelphia.


Offices moved to Bldg. #15 from Bldg. #3.

Recording Lab, moved to Bldg. #15 from Philadelphia.

Matrix Plant moved to Bldg. #15 from Bldg. #7.

First Cabinet Factory purchased.

Lumber yard set up at present location buildings #11 and #24.

1908 First record exchange.

Double-faced, Black Label records introduced.

Equipment added to Power Plant.

1909 Supreme Court sustained Berliner patent (534,543).

Patents, good will, matrixes, etc., written down from $2,079,528.80 to $2.00. “Old Power Plant” completed. Also #17-A.

1910 Fiscal year changed to calendar year (The company’s statement for 1910 covered 15 months). License system revised.

Three floors added to #15. Recording Lab, and Matrix plant moved to two top floors. Second street section #18 completed.


Copyright applied to records.

Mrs. [Frances] Clark’s school activity started.

Common stock increased from $2,000,000 to $5,000,000. Important employees permitted to buy company stock on favorable basis.

1912 New higher dividend policy inaugurated. Active building program started.

“Zonophone” liquidated.

Berliner Patent 534,543 expired during February, 1912.

Buildings #6 & #7 enlarged. Printing Dept. which had been at 117 Federal and the Locke Bldg. (corner Delaware and Cooper—present Bldg. #3) moved to Bldg. #6. Continued until about 1933. Equipment added to Power Plant. Five floors added to #4. Building #17-B completed.                                                                          (p. 104)


Beneficial Association sponsored.

Group Insurance started April 15th.

Pension Plan started May 15th.

“License Royalty” plan introduced August 1st.

Front Street section #18 completed. Six floor grinding plant completed.

1914 War. Wharf property completed with large storage space for coal enabling company to buy year’s supply. Best advantage water delivery.

Record material Mfg. Bldg. completed.


Preferred stock called at $140.

“License Royalty” plan sustained by Circuit Court.

#1 completed. Also #17-C.


#2 and #5 completed. Also #17-D and Dry Kiln completed.

Lumber yard moved from Delaware Ave. and Cooper to State Street and River Road.


Supreme Court ruled against the License Royalty plan. Victor immediately switched to conventional plan of sales. Marked all list prices “Not binding on the Trade.”

Bldg. #53 (warehouse) completed—used to make war material.

War work: aircraft, shell parts and assemblies, rifle stocks and parts, detonator cases, and other war material.

All subsidiary companies sold.


Production curtailed; first to 70%, then 40% of 1917.

Mr. Geissler resigned. War ended November, 1918.

1919 Special luxury tax of 5% beyond the current 3% excise tax applied to talking machine mfg. Normal production not reached until October. Company had $200,000,000 in back orders.

Company paid nearly $4,000,000 in excise taxes.

Purchased half interest in Gramophone Co. Ltd., London.

1921 Pan American Recording Co. established in Argentina.

Double-faced, Red Seal records introduced.

Buildings #8 and #10 completed. 20 acres purchased in Oakland, Calif. Building completed.

1924 Over-production due to advent of mass-produced good-quality radio receivers and failure to improve Talking Machine performance.

Purchased controlling interest of the Berliner Gramophone Co. of Montreal. Name changed to Victor Talking Machine Co. of Canada, Ltd.

1925 Liquidation of old line. Serious financial loss. Introduction of Orthophonic Victrola, Electrola, Radio-Phonograph Combinations and Automatic Record Changers.
1926 Loss of previous year fully covered. Export volume 80% larger than any previous year. Control of company purchased by a banking syndicate (completed 1/6/27).

N.Y. Talking Machine Co. and Chicago Talking Machine Co. purchased.

1927 Purchased additional interest in Canada. Also Southwestern Victor Distr. Co., Dallas: Calif. Victor Distr. Co., San Francisco: Northwest Victor Distr. Co., Seattle; and Victor Talking Machine Co. of  Japan. Ltd.

Control of Victor passed to Speyer & Co. and J & W Seligman of New York on January 6, 1927.

1928 Purchased remaining balance of Canada. Also sold 32% interest in Victor Talking Machine Co. of Japan, Ltd. Purchased Baltimore Victor Distr. Co. (Baltimore, Washington, Richmond). Also Victor Talking Machine Co. of Brazil, and Victor Talking Machine Co. of Chile.
1929 RCA (previously served 60% by GE—40% by Westinghouse) acquired control of Victor 3/15/29.  Starting 4/25/29, Victor’s sales activities continued as the Victor Division of the Radio-Victor Corp. operating parallel to the “Radiola Division” with separate product lines. Both divisions purchased from the Audio Vision Appliance Co., the name tinder which General Electric and Westinghouse had reorganized the Victor plant. (p. 105)
1930 1930 On January 1, 1930, the RCA Victor Company took over the Radio-Victor Co.. Inc., the Audio Vision Appliance Co., and the remaining assets of the Victor Talking Machine Co. The separate commercial departments described above, were consolidated during the first half of 1931 with a single, combined list of distributors (completed 4/2/31). The R-7 was the first RCA Victor model announced (2/13/31). RCA Victor Co., Inc. was absorbed by RCA Mfg. Co. on January 1. 1935. The RCA Mfg. Co. was absorbed on January 1, 1942 by the RCA Victor Division.


Bldg. No.
Date Completed

Victor’s Shipping Dept.
Office Bldg.
(Old #3)
Record Pressing—Office—Metal Mfg.
(Old #4)
Power Plant—Records—Metal Mfg.
Warehouse, printing dept. garage-Front and Linden
Old Shipping Dept.—Warehouse- Front and Linden
Old Shipping Dept.—Warehouse- Front and Linden
(Old #8)
Cabinet Factory
Metal Mfg.
New Record Bldg. (wharf)
Office Bldg—Recording Lab. & matrix plant
Victor’s Cabinet Factory
Victor’s Cabinet Factory
Victor’s Cabinet Factory
Victor’s Cabinet Factory
1910 & 1913
Metal Mfg.

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