TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Nipper, the RCA Dog

Nipper, the RCA Dog

TELECOM Digest Editor (
Sun, 12 Nov 2006 01:01:04 -0500 (EST)

In case you missed or had forgotten about Nipper -- we talked about
him in Volume 24 Issues 319 and 320 History of Nipper, RCA Dog --
I am reprinting three delightful accounts of his history. You may
choose among them to decide the most accurate version.


Subject: RCA Victor Nipper Statues Adorn Town
Date: 11 Jul 2005 19:21:04 -0700

The Victor phonograph company, which became part of RCA, created a
logo "His Master's Voice" showing a dog, with his ear lifted,
listening to a phonograph. This logo became very famous, AFAIK
remains in use to this day on whoever owns RCA-Victor compact disks
label (BMG?)

(The modernized RCA logo is owned by Thomson consumer electronics of

Anyway, the founder of Victor, Eldridge Johnson, was from Moorestown
NJ. To celebrate its heritage, many residents have set up statues of
Nipper throughout the town this summer.

RCA made quite a bit of telephone equipment. Some of it appeared to
look exactly like Western Electric products. TV crews wore headsets
similar to that of Bell System operators. Others were built for the
military and contained security features. RCA also made computers but
didn't do well in that and sold that business to Sperry Univac.

In the postwar years, RCA gained more and more income from defense and
industrial products (ie televsion cameras and transmitters) and less
from consumer goods (record players). Eventually all consumer lines
were dropped and later TV lines were dropped. Defense systems were a
big business.

The huge RCA-Victor plant complex was located in Camden NJ.
RCA-Victor was sold to GE which it turn split it up and sold off to
various parties. Lockheed Martin took over some defense electronics
and still runs some plants in the Moorestown area. However, virtually
all of the original Camden complex has been torn down. One building
is now a fancy apartment house (and has the Nipper logo in stained
glass on the roof). One other bldg is in use as a school district
office building. Camden as a city has seen much better days.


From: Dave Garland <>
Subject: Re: RCA Victor Nipper Statues Adorn Town
Date: Wed, 13 Jul 2005 01:47:23 -0500
Organization: Wizard Information

It was a dark and stormy night when wrote:

> The Victor phonograph company, which became part of RCA, created a
> logo "His Master's Voice" showing a dog, with his ear lifted,
> listening to a phonograph. This logo became very famous, AFAIK
> remains in use to this day on whoever owns RCA-Victor compact disks
> label (BMG?)

Actually, the logo came from an 1898 painting by Francis Barraud first
titled "Dog looking at and listening to a phonograph" and later
retitled "His Master's Voice". Mr Barraud tried to sell the painting
to the Edison Bell Company, the leading manufacturer of phonographs,
but they weren't interested. However, the Gramophone Company was
interested, providing that he painted out the Edison phonograph and
inserted a picture of their model instead. They bought the revised
painting and the copyright in 1899. A few years later, they merged
with another company to become the Victor Talking Machine Company, and
eventually that company was bought by RCA.

The dog's name was Nipper, because he bit. Nipper died in 1895, a few
years before the painting.


From: Alan Burkitt-Gray, London SE3, UK" <>
Subject: Re: RCA Victor Nipper Statues Adorn Town
Date: Wed, 13 Jul 2005 10:38:14 +0000 wrote: "The Victor phonograph company, which
became part of RCA, created a logo "His Master's Voice" showing a dog,
with his ear lifted, listening to a phonograph."

Watch it, Lisa Hancock, get your hands off our dog!!!

Nipper was a British dog. painted by a British artist, and first used
by a British company -- the Gramophone Company, which later became
part of EMI. The logo was then exported around the world.

Full story from ...

Nipper the dog was born in Bristol, England in 1884 and so named
because of his tendency to nip the backs of visitors' legs. When his
first master Mark Barraud died destitute in Bristol in 1887, Nipper
was taken to Liverpool in Lancashire, England by Mark's younger
brother Francis, a painter.

In Liverpool Nipper discovered the Phonograph, a cylinder recording
and playing machine and Francis Barraud "often noticed how puzzled he
was to make out where the voice came from". This scene must have been
indelibly printed in Barraud's brain, for it was three years after
Nipper died that he committed it to canvas.

Nipper died in September 1895, having returned from Liverpool to live
with Mark Barraud's widow in Kingston-upon-Thames in Surrey,
England. Though not a thoroughbred, Nipper had plenty of bull terrier
in him; he never hesitated to take on another dog in a fight, loved
chasing rats and had a fondness for the pheasants in Richmond Park!

In 1898 Barraud completed the painting and registered it on 11
February 1899 as "Dog looking at and listening to a Phonograph".

Barraud then decided to rename the painting "His Master's Voice" and
tried to exhibit it at the Royal Academy, but was turned down. He had
no more luck trying to offer it for reproduction in magazines. "No one
would know what the dog was doing" was given as the reason!

Next on Barraud's list was The Edison Bell Company, leading
manufacturer of the cylinder phonograph, but again without
success. "Dogs don't listen to phonographs," the company said.

Barraud was given the advise to repaint the horn from black to gold,
as this might better his opportunity for a sale. With this in mind, in
the summer of 1899 he visited 31 Maiden Lane, home of the newly formed
Gramophone Company, with a photograph of his painting and a request to
borrow a brass horn.

As Barraud later wrote in an article for The Strand magazine: "The
manager, Mr Barry Owen asked me if the picture was for sale and if I
could introduce a machine of their own make, a Gramophone, instead of
the one in the picture. I replied that the picture was for sale and
that I could make the alteration if they would let me have an
instrument to paint from."

On 15 September 1899, The Gramophone Company sent Barraud a letter
making him a formal offer for the picture, which he immediately
accepted. He was paid 50 pounds for the painting and a further 50
pounds for the full copyright. The deal was finally confirmed on 4
October 1899 when a representative from The Gramophone Company saw the
amended painting for the first time.

This painting made its first public appearance on The Gramophone
Company's advertising literature in January 1900, and later on some
novelty promotional items. However, "His Master's Voice" did not
feature on the Company's British letter headings until 1907. The
painting and title were finally registered as a trademark in 1910.

It was also in 1900 that a seemingly innocuous request led to the
eventual disappearance of "His Master's Voice" as a label
trademark. Emile Berliner (1851 - 1928), U.S. inventor of the
gramophone, born in Germany, asked Barry Owen to assign him the
copyright of "His Master's Voice" for America. Owen agreed, as he did
in 1904 to a similar request from Japan. Some eighty years later, when
the arrival of the Compact Disc prompted record companies to start
manufacturing centrally for the world, EMI paid the price of losing
its rights in these two vital territories -- and EMI Classics was
created as a successor to "His Master's Voice".

Meanwhile Francis Barraud spent much of the rest of his working life
painting 24 replicas of his original, as commissioned by The
Gramophone Company. Following his death in 1924 other artists carried
on the tradition until the end of the decade.

During its long active life, the "His Master's Voice" label has
enjoyed a unique reputation with both the music business and the
public. Over the years a healthy market has developed in collecting
the vast array of items produced in its image. A Collectors' Guide,
originally published in 1984, has been now updated for publication in

Though only used by EMI today as the marketing identity for HMV Shops
in the UK and Europe, the "His Master's Voice" trademark is still
instantly recognised and sits proudly and firmly in the Top 10 of
"Famous Brands of the 20th Century".

Nipper Facts:

Did you know that ...

The "His Master's Voice" painting is now displayed at EMI Music's
Gloucester Place headquarters and when viewed in the right light, the
original phonograph can still be seen underneath the second layer of

When asked if EMI could place a commemorative plaque on the wall of
Nipper's house in Bristol, the owner's reply was "Yes, if you buy the

Nipper the dog was buried in Kingston upon Thames, in an area that is
now the rear car park of Lloyds Bank in Clarence Street. As one enters
the bank there is a plaque on the wall stating this.

The British naval officer and antarctic explorer Captain Robert Falcon
Scott (1868 - 1912) re-created the famous picture during his
exploration to the South Pole (1910 - 1912), capturing one of the
huskies looking at the HMV gramophone presented to him by The
Gramophone Company.

There have been false rumours that the original painting had Nipper
sitting on a coffin listening to a recording of his dead master's

In 1980 HMV Shops found a Nipper lookalike called Toby for in-store
personal appearances but Toby didn't find friends everywhere and in
1984 he was banned from entering Crufts.

By 1900, 5,000 printed copies of the painting had been produced and
sold to dealers for 2s6d (12.5p) each.

The first souvenirs featuring the Dog & Trumpet were a "handsome
paperweight -- an exact reproduction in bronze with onyx mount of our
well-known picture His Master's Voice" (2s6d/12.5p) and "a handsome
mahogany stand with fittings all nickelled, for cigars, cigarettes and
match and well as a frosted crystal ash disc. The whole is surmounted
with well finished group, representing the well-known subject His
Master's Voice." (10s/50p).

In 1900 the German Branch of The Gramophone Company produced a
mutoscope film of a Nipper lookalike. The drum of this film remains in
the EMI Music Archives.

Alan Burkitt-Gray
Editor, Global Telecoms Business

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