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The Victor Talking Machine Company

by B. L. Aldridge
edited by Frederic Bayh

Editorial Notes

These pages outline the major developments of a company which led an industry for almost three decades. To a great extent, they also reflect one man's loyalty and dedication to that company. Through this manuscript, Ben Aldridge has made a significant contribution to posterity. It is impossible to read this material without being awed by the distance this industry has travelled since its beginnings. Our understanding and appreciation of what RCA Victor is today is immeasurably enhanced. The author's deep sense of responsibility and perseverance has more than earned our gratitude and respect.

June 1, 1964



Chapter 1
Page 1
Scott and Edison -Sound is Reproduced
-The Edison Phonograph Company
-The Search for a Formula
Chapter 2
Page 5
Bell and Tainter -The New Process
-The American Graphophone Company
Chapter 3
Page 9
Emile Berliner -The Berliner Process
-The Berliner Gramophone Company of Philadelphia
-The Berliner Patent
Chapter 4
Page 17
Eldridge R. Johnson -The Development of a Motor
-The Johnson Recording Process
-The Patent Situation
-The Troubles Which Led to Victor
-The Victor Trade Mark
-The Company Name
Chapter 5
Page 41
1901-1905 -Organization
-Domestic Distribution
-Columbia Competition
-Red Seal Records
-Record Development
-Instrument Line
-License to Sell
-The Burt Company
-The Zonophone
-The Fire
Chapter 6
Page 61
1906-1911 -The First "Victrola" Talking Machine
-Columbia's Graphonola
-License Plan
-Double-Faced Records
-Sales Pressure
-Educational Activities
-Copyright Laws
-Trustee Stock
-Other Activities
Chapter 7
Page 71
1912-1920 -Victor's Welfare Activities
-License Royalty Plan
-The Flow of Production
-Steel Needles
-Printing Department
-Victor Traveling Staff
-Orders, Shipments, Allocations
-Camden Plant Expansion
-Feature Records and Record Specialties
-"Free Course in Practical Salesmanship"
-World War I
-Distributor Association
-Custom Department
-Columbia Financing
-Distributor Contacts
-Equalized Freight
-Lunch Club
-Cabinet Finishes
Chapter 8
Page 85
1921-1930 -Wood Carving
-Double-Faced Red Seal Records
-Advances Against Record Royalties
-The Debacle of 1924
-The Orthophonic Victrola
-The Electrola
-The Panatrope
-The New Instrument Line
-The First Automatic Record Changer
-Display Rooms
-McCormack-Bori Radio Broadcast
-Johnson Sells Control
-Victor Acquired by RCA


I Chronological Outline of Important Developments
Page 103
II Historical Background of Important Antique Models
Page 106
III Victor's Distributors
Page 107
IV Sales by Class of Product-October 1, 1901 to April, 1930
Page 109
V Corporate Structure
Page 109
VI Dividends on Victor's Common Stock
Page 110
VII Investments in Other Companies
Page 110
VIII Canada
Page 111
IX London
Page 112
X License Royalty
Page 113
XI Record Sales
Page 114
XII Key Personnel
Page 115
XIII Victor's Directors and Officers
Page 116
XIV Eldridge Reeves Johnson - An Autobiography
Page 117


Figure 1 - Edison and his improved tinfoil phonograph: Washington, D.C., April 18, 1878.
Page 3
Figure 2 - The original Bell Graphophone (1881), now in the Smithsonian Institute.
Page 6
Figure 3 - First Talking Machine (Gramophone) Exhibited in 1888.
Page 10
Figure 4 - The Instrument pictured above is very similar to the model which Mr. Whitaker brought to Mr. Johnson in February of 1896.
Page 12
Figure 5 - The birthplace of Victor.
Page 19
Figure 6 - The first talking machine patent granted to Mr. Johnson on March 22, 1898.
Page 21
Figure 7 - The Collins Carriage Shop-birthplace of the Johnson Recording Process.
Page 23
Figure 8 - The Zonophone becomes nationally advertised, 1898.
Page 27
Figure 9 - Eldridge R. Johnson as a young man of 33.
Page 30
Figure 10 - Zonophone advertisement in the November 1900 issue of McClure's Magazine.
Page 32
Figure 11 - Instrument line introduced by Eldridge Johnson in the Fall of 1900.
Page 34
Figure 12 - "His Master's Voice" painted by Francis Barraud in 1899.
Page 36
Figure 13 - Mr. and Mrs. Leon Forrest Douglass.
Page 38
Figure 14 - Early records and brand names.
Page 40
Figure 15 - The original instrument line offered by the Victor Talking Machine Company.
Page 42
Figure 16 - Victor's first factory office located at 114 N. Front Street in Camden, New Jersey.
Page 44
Figure 17 - Advertisement in "The Review of Reviews"-1904.
Page 48
Figure 18 - Advertisement in "The Cosmopolitan"-1903.
Page 50
Figure 19 (p. 52)-Recording for the Acoustic process.
Page 52
Figure 20 - Advertisement in the "Literary Digest"-1915.

Page 54
Figure 21 - On April 24, 1904, a large fire destroyed the first factory building used by Victor.
Page 60
Figure 22 - Evolution of Model VV-XVI, the first Talking Machine with an enclosed horn.
Page 62
Figure 23 - Semi-monthly suspension report issued by the Victor Talking Machine Company-1907.
Page 64
Figure 24 - Advertisement featuring Victor's custom models-1924.
Page 82
Figure 25 - Model 8-30. The public invested approximately $20,000,000 on this one model in slightly less than a year.
Page 90
Figure 26 - The above is a good example of the Company's use of curiosity and suspense in announcing the Orthophonic Victrola.
Page 94

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