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The Victor Talking Machine Company


Sometime during February of 1896, Belford Royal brought a man named Whitaker to see Mr. Johnson. At that time, Mr. Johnson was operating a small machine shop in Camden where he did fine work in metal. He made and repaired machine tools, home appliances, models for inventors, and so forth. Mr. Royal, a workman in Mr. Johnson's shop, spent part of his time drumming up business.

Mr. Whitaker was apparently the "venerable old gentleman" referred to by Mr. Gaisberg in The Music Goes Round as having developed a crude spring motor designed to operate sewing machines. The Berliner Gramophone Company of Philadelphia had given him an opportunity to develop a spring motor for their hand-powered Gramophone, and he had come to Mr. Johnson for help in redesigning it.

Mr. Johnson wasn't very keen about the assignment because he thought the motor should be completely redesigned. However, in the end he complied only to have the motor rejected. He then made a further effort to interest Mr. Whitaker in putting up some capital to design an entirely new motor as a joint undertaking. Mr. Whitaker was not interested and, after trying to have his idea worked out elsewhere, finally gave up the venture.

In speaking many years later of his first experience with the Gramophone, Mr. Johnson said:

I became interested in it as I had never been interested before in anything. It was exactly what I was looking for. It was a great opportunity and it came to me as it can never come to any other man in the talking machine business again. Other opportunities may come to other people but that was the great opportunity and I was ready for it-thanks to a chain of favorable circumstances, one link of which, if missing, would have changed the account totally.

To get the full impact of what happened next, the development of the industry up to this point, and the extent of the public's interest should be considered. Available information is limited, but apparently the situation was about as follows.

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