Gramophone Company

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Gramophone Company
FoundedApril 1898; 125 years ago (1898-04)
Defunct31 March 1931; 92 years ago (1931-03-31)
SuccessorElectric and Musical Industries (EMI)
HeadquartersUnited Kingdom

The Gramophone Company Limited (The Gramophone Co. Ltd.), based in the United Kingdom and founded by Emil Berliner, was one of the early recording companies, the parent organisation for the His Master's Voice (HMV) label, and the European affiliate of the American Victor Talking Machine Company. Although the company merged with the Columbia Graphophone Company in 1931 to form Electric and Musical Industries Limited (EMI), its name "The Gramophone Company Limited" continued in the UK into the 1970s.


Early Gramophone label with original "Recording Angel" trademark

The Gramophone Company was founded in April 1898 by William Barry Owen and Edmund Trevor Lloyd Wynne Williams, commissioned by Emil Berliner, in London, England.[1]

Owen was acting as agent for Emile Berliner, inventor of the gramophone record, whilst Williams provided the finances. Most of the company's early discs were made in Hanover, Germany at a plant operated by members of Berliner's family, though it had operations around the world.[2]

In 1898, Fred Gaisberg moved from the U.S. to London to set up the first disc recording studio in Europe; it was situated in Maiden Lane. Among early artists he recorded was Syria Lamont, an Australian soprano whose single "Coming through the Rye" was one of the first ever issued. In December 1900, Owen gained the manufacturing rights for the Lambert Typewriter Company, and the Gramophone Company was for a few years renamed the Gramophone & Typewriter Ltd. This was an attempt to diversify the business model, in response to a series of lawsuits by Edison Bell.[3]


The Berliner Gramophone Company was hit the hardest with a lawsuit that involved a former employee, Frank Seaman. Berliner had hired Seaman, part of The National Gramophone Company, to handle the distribution of record players and disk as an exclusive sales agent. In secret, he started producing a product inferior to the Gramophone, which he called the Zonophone and began solely marketing that instead of the gramophone. Berliner cancelled his contract with The National Gramophone Company, and in turn was sued for breach of contract.[4][5]

In 1900, the U.S. parent of Gramophone lost a patent infringement suit brought on by Columbia Records and Zonophone, and was no longer permitted to produce records in the U.S.

The agreement allowed Columbia to produce disc records themselves in the United States, which they began doing in 1901, with the UK Gramophone Company and others continuing to do so outside of the US. Emile Berliner established Berliner Gramophone in Montreal, where he became Victor's Canadian distributor and held the rights in Canada to the "His Master's Voice" trademark.

Early Gramophone label with HMV trademark

Logo change[edit]

In February 1909, the Gramophone Company introduced new labels featuring the famous trademark known as "His Master's Voice", generally referred to in the UK as HMV, to distinguish them from earlier labels which featured the Recording Angel trademark. The latter had been designed by Theodore Birnbaum, an executive of the Gramophone Company pressing plant in Hanover, Germany. While the general public in the UK came to refer to the records and company as "His Master's Voice" or "HMV" because of the prominence of the phrase on the record labels, The Gramophone Company was never officially known as the HMV or His Master's Voice Company. The painting "His Master's Voice" was made in the 1890s with the dog Nipper listening to an Edison cylinder phonograph. In 1899, Owen bought the painting from Francis Barraud, the artist, and asked him to paint out the Edison machine and substitute a Gramophone, which he did. In 1900, Emile Berliner acquired the US rights to the painting and it became the trademark of the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1901; the UK rights were retained by the Gramophone Company. Victor utilized the Nipper trademark far more aggressively than the Gramophone Company, first using it on their record labels in 1902. Nipper the dog lived from 1884 to 1895 and is honoured in England with a celebrated grave marker.[6]

Recording studios[edit]

In the mid-1920s, company chairman Trevor Osmond Williams approved funding for the company to secure property and build a recording studio, putting F. H. Dart from the company's technical recording department in charge of the project. Number 3 Abbey Road was acquired in 1929 and, after nearly 2 years of extensive renovations, the 3-studio facility that would come to be known as EMI Recording Studios (and eventually Abbey Road Studios) opened on November 12, 1931.[7]

Formation of EMI[edit]

In March 1931, Gramophone merged with the English Columbia Graphophone Company to form Electric and Musical Industries Ltd (EMI). The "Gramophone Company, Ltd." name, however, continued to be used for many decades, especially for copyright notices on records. Gramophone Company of India was formed in 1946. The Gramophone Company Ltd legal entity was renamed EMI Records Ltd. in 1973.

Acoustic recordings[edit]

From the 1890s to mid-1925, recordings were made without any electrical equipment, relying instead upon the energy inherent in the sound waves generated by the performers, to activate the recording apparatus.[1]

Matrix number Catalog number Year recorded Year reviewed Composer Work Artist(s) Notes
05672; Cc 344-1 D 576 1921 Bach Prelude & Fugue No. 3 in C-Sharp Major, BWV 848 Scharrer, Irene [2] [3]
3-0826 cc1935 III; 3-0827 cc1936 II; 3-0828 cc1937 II D 683,4 1922-10-05 1923 Bach Brandenburg Concerto no. 3, BWV 1048, G major Goossens, Eugène; Royal Albert Hall Orchestra [4]
2-07920 A15560; 2-07918 A15561; 2-01922 A15562 DB 587; DB 588 1915 Bach Concerto for two violins, BWV 1043, D minor Zimbalist, Efrem (violin), Kreisler, Fritz, 1875-1962 (violin), String Quartet (orchestra) [5]
Cc 1299-1. Cc 2909-1. Cc 2910-4. Cc 2911-4. Cc 2912-4. Cc 2913-3. Cc 2914-4 D 947-950 1923-06-18 Beethoven Quartet No. 1 in F major, Op. 18, No. 1 Catterall Quartet
Cc 3119; Cc 3120; Cc 4545; Cc 4546; Cc 4547; Cc4548 D 997-999 1924-05-06 Beethoven Quartet No. 2 in F major, Op. 18, No. 1 Catterall Quartet
Cc4550, Cc4614 through Cc4617, and Cc4690 through Cc4692 HMV D 953 through D 956 1924-06 Beethoven Quartet No. 8 in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2 ("Rasumovsky") Virtuoso String Quartet:

Marjorie Hayward, violin I Edwin Virgo, violin II Raymond Jeremy, viola Cedric Sharpe. cello

HO2732af 1917-07 Beethoven Trio, piano, strings, op.1. no.2 (presto) Hambourg, Mark, 1879-1960 (piano), Hayward, Marjorie, 1885-1953 (violin), Warwick-Evans, C (cello) [7]
3-07975 cc3392 I; 3-07976 cc3398 II; 3-07977 cc3399 II; 3-07978 cc3400 III; 3-07979 cc3401 II; 3-07980 cc3406 II; 3-07981 cc3407 II; 3-07982 cc3408 III; 3-07983 cc3413 II; 3-07984 cc3414 II D 767; D768; D769; D770; D771 1923-09 Beethoven Violin Concerto op 61, D major Menges, Isolde (violin), Royal Albert Hall Orchestra (orchestra); Ronald, Sir Landon [8]
05694 cc1182 I; 05695 cc1183 I; 05696 cc1184 III; 05697 cc1185 IV; 05698 cc1186 II; 05699 cc1187 I; 05700 cc1188 II; 05701 cc1189 IV; 05702 cc1190 III; 05703 cc1191 II D 625; D 626; D 627; D 628; D 629 1922-04 Beethoven Piano Concerto 5, op 73, E flat major Lamond, Frederic (piano), Royal Albert Hall Orchestra (orchestra); Goossens, Eugène [9]
3-0798 cc1812 IV; 3-0799 cc1813 III; 3-0800 cc1814 IV; 3-0801 cc1815 I; 3-0802 cc1948 II; 3-0803 cc1949 I; 3-0804 cc2017 I; 3-0805 cc1950 II D 665; D 666; D 667; D 668 1922-09-12 Beethoven Symphony no. 5, op 67, C minor Royal Albert Hall Orchestra; Ronald, Sir Landon [10]
4-0511 cc3655 III; 4-0512 cc3696 IV; 4-0513 cc3704 I; 4-0514 cc3705 II; 4-0515 cc3706 III; 4-0516 cc3707 III; 4-0517 cc3708; 4-0518 cc3735; 4-0519 cc3736 I; 4-0520 cc3737; 4-0521 cc3738 III; 4-0522 cc3813 II; 4-0528 cc3814 II; 4-0524 cc3815 III; 4-0525 cc3816 II; 4-0526 cc3817 IV D 842; D 843; D 844; D 845; D 846; D 847; D 848; D 849 1923-10 Beethoven Symphony no. 9, op 125, D minor Symphony Orchestra; Coates, Albert [11]
HO 2231 af 05629 1916-10 Chopin Nocturne in C minor Op 48 No 1 abridged Scharrer, Irene [12]
Bb 536-1; E 255 1921-10 Chopin Prelude in F sharp minor Op 28 No 8 Scharrer, Irene [13]
4-2781 HO_2862_ab E 78 1914-06 Mozart Zauberflöte: O Isis Radford, Robert [14]
HO 4536-2 af [p D 543 1920-09 Scarlatti Sonata in G majorL387 (Kk14) Scharrer, Irene [15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Gramophone Company Limited | Science Museum Group Collection". Retrieved 9 May 2022.
  2. ^ Rye, Howard (2002). Kernfeld, Barry (ed.). The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. Vol. 2 (2nd ed.). New York: Grove's Dictionaries. p. 80. ISBN 1-56159-284-6.
  3. ^ Read, Oliver; Welch, Walter L. (1976). From Tinfoil to Stereo (2 ed.). Indianapolis, Indiana: Howard W. Sams & Co. p. 143. ISBN 0-672-21206-4.
  4. ^ "The Origins of The Gramophone Company". | Victor Victrola® | Victor Talking Machine Co.® | VMI. Retrieved 12 May 2022.
  5. ^ Jones, Geoffrey (1985). "The Gramophone Company: An Anglo-American Multinational, 1898-1931". The Business History Review. 59 (1): 76–100. doi:10.2307/3114856. ISSN 0007-6805. JSTOR 3114856. S2CID 145497525.
  6. ^ "The Gramophone | Articles and Essays | Emile Berliner and the Birth of the Recording Industry | Digital Collections | Library of Congress". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Retrieved 23 May 2022.
  7. ^ Massey, Howard (2015). The Great British Recording Studios. Lanham, Maryland, US: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-4584-2197-5.
  • Death of Gramophone Pioneer: Uxbridge & W. Drayton Gazette December 13, 1946
  • John R. Bennett: A catalogue of vocal recordings from the English catalogues of the Gramophone Company 1898–1899, the Gramophone Company Limited 1899 - 1900, the Gramophone & Typewriter Company Limited 1901–1907 and the Gramophone Company Limited 1907 – 1925. England,Oakwood Press, 1956. Available at Westport, Conn.,USA, Greenwood Press, 1978. ISBN 0-313-20237-0)
  • Alan Kelly: His master's voice – La voce del padrone|the Italian catalogue; a complete numerical catalogue of Italian gramophone recordings made from 1898 to 1929 in Italy and elsewhere by the Gramophone Company Ltd.. New York; NY [et al.], Greenwood Press, 1988. ISBN 0-313-26498-8
  • Alan Kelly: His master's voice, the French catalogue; a complete numerical catalogue of French gramophone recordings made from 1898 to 1929 in France and elsewhere by the Gramophone Company Ltd. New York; NY [et al.], Greenwood Press, 1990. ISBN 0-313-27333-2
  • Alan Kelly: His master's voice, the German catalogue; a complete numerical catalogue of German gramophone recordings made from 1898 to 1929 in Germany, Austria, and elsewhere by The Gramophone Company Ltd. New York; NY [et al.], Greenwood Press, 1994. ISBN 0-313-29220-5
  • Alan Kelly; Jacques Klöters: His master's voice, the Dutch catalogue; a complete numerical catalogue of Dutch and Belgian gramophone recordings made from 1900 to 1929 in Holland, Belgium, and elsewhere by the Gramophone Company Ltd. Westport, Conn. [et al.], Greenwood Press, 1997. ISBN 0-313-29883-1
  • The voice, the magazine of the Gramophone Co., Ltd., Hayes, Middlesex, 1.1917 - 35.1954

External links[edit]