Emerson Records was an American record label active in the United States between 1916 to 1928.
Emerson was founded by Victor H. Emerson, an employee of Columbia Records from the 1890s. In 1916 he began his namesake company, producing 7-inch gramophone record that sold for 25 cents each and 5½-inch discs that sold for 10 cents each. Early fare included popular tunes, dance numbers and patriotic marches, mostly recorded by small groups of unnamed musicians hired in New York City credited as the "Emerson Orchestra" or sometimes grandly, "The Emerson Symphony Orchestra", but some classical records were made by violinist David Hochstein (his only recordings), pianist Arthur Friedheim, and the orchestra of New York's Rialto Theatre under its celebrated director Hugo Riesenfeld. In January 1918 Emerson added a line of 9-inch records that sold for 75 cents. After World War I, Emerson began an ambitious expansion of the business, and in 1919 it finally introduced a line of common industry standard 10-inch discs for 85 cents and increased to one dollar the following year.
The year 1919 saw the debut of a series of 12-inch Emerson discs, mostly of Classical music, retailing for US$1.25. At the same time, more popular "big name" artists were hired to record for the label including Wilbur Sweatman, Eddie Cantor, the Six Brown Brothers, and the Louisiana Five. Somewhat later, the label also recorded Lizzie Miles, Eubie Blake, Fletcher Henderson, and the Original Memphis Five.
Other noteworthy artists who recorded for Emerson included John W. Myers, Henry Burr and The Peerless Quartet, Billy Golden, Collins & Harlan, Sally Hamlin, Dan Quinn, Sam Ash, Vernon Dalhart, Van & Schenk, Ada Jones, and Homer Rodeheaver.
In May 1920, Emerson opened a second recording studio in Los Angeles, California. Emerson's expansions over-extended the company finances and forced it into receivership in 1921. In May 1922 investors Benjamin Abrams and Rudolph Kararek purchased the Emerson Company for US$50,000 and raised an additional US$200,000 of capital to revive the business. Emerson records were then sold for 50 cents each. In 1924 the investors sold Emerson to the Scranton Button Company of Scranton, Pennsylvania. About this time, electric microphones replaced mechanical recording techniques, and Emerson switched to the new method of sound recording in 1926. Scranton Button Co. halted production of new records by its Emerson subsidiary in 1928, but the company retained the name and later applied it to a line of radios. (After about 1924 or 1925, Emerson was no longer a popular label; they seldom recorded any artists of note, mostly standard performers who were jobbing around New York, which explains why the later "Electrosonic Emerson" records are so scarce.)
The company also issued so-called "race records" marketed to the African American demographic. These included the 78 "He Wasn't Born in Araby, But He's a Sheikin' Fool" b/w "Heart Breakin' Joe" (1924), recorded by Ethel Finnie.
- "Emerson Race Records". The Chicago Defender. 10 May 1924. Retrieved 2009-01-03.
- Gibbs, Craig Martin (2013). Black Recording Artists, 1877-1926: An Annotated Discography. McFarland & Company. pp. 181 / 205 / 222. ISBN 978-0-7864-7238-3.