The Victor Talking Machine Company

No discussion of records or record players is complete without bringing up the Victor Talking Machine Company.

The company is well known for its logo, showing a fox terrier looking into a phonograph with the words “His Master’s Voice.” (Some claim that the surface the dog sits on is his master’s coffin, though that’s never been confirmed.)

The company name “Victor” could have come from a number of inspirations. One such story says that the business founder Eldridge R. Johnson chose it for its resemblance to the word “victory”, saying it would a “scientific and business ‘victory.’” Another story says it comes from the battle of the patents over Berliner and Frank Seaman’s Zonophone. These aren’t the only guesses, but are the most widely accepted theories.602px-RedSealTetrazziniBatti

The fox terrier in the logo is named ‘Nipper’. In 1898 the artist Francis Barraud painted his brother’s dog Nipper listening to the horn of a phonograph; the Victor Talking Machine Company started using the image as its logo.

The company released a number of different kinds of phonographs. The earlier versions ran purely on the acoustic method, with zero electricity.

Victor gained its name by recording famous performers. Most performers charged much more than Victor could make up for in record sales – but it paid off later by making the business’s name well known. Victor released the recordings by the most popular music names of the time under the “Red Seal” records, catapulting the Victor name to success.

The Carter Family promotional Victor portrait.

The Carter Family promotional Victor portrait.

Radio found its way into families’ living rooms in the 1920s, and Victor had to adapt to the new music culture and technology. Victor moved to an electrical-based recording system using a microphone and released the new records under the name “Orthophonic Victrolas”.

The Victor Talking Machine Company existed from 1901 to 1929, when it was sold to the Radio Corporation of America, which later became the company RCA Victor. It’s still a very recognizable company from its image of Nipper the dog looking into the phonograph.

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