Berliner Gramophone Company | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Berliner Gramophone Company

Berliner Gramophone Company. First record company in Canada and the manufacturer of 'Gram-O-Phone' records and talking machines.

Berliner Gramophone Company

Berliner Gramophone Company. First record company in Canada and the manufacturer of 'Gram-O-Phone' records and talking machines. It was established in Montreal by Emile Berliner (b Hanover, Germany, 20 May 1851, d Washington, DC, 3 Aug 1929), the inventor of the gramophone and co-founder (in Germany, 1898, with his brother Joseph) of Deutsche Grammophon. Berliner took out a Canadian patent on his invention 24 Feb 1897 and in the Bell Telephone factory on Aqueduc St established manufacturing facilities. He also set up a retail store on Ste-Catherine St. Production of seven-inch records, made from masters recorded by Berliner's European and US companies and bearing the inscription 'E. Berliner, Montreal,' began 2 Jan 1900. In 1901, 10-inch single-sided discs called Concert Grands were introduced, followed in 1903 by the 12-inch Deluxe Records, and finally in 1908 by double-sided records.

The Berliner Gramophone Co of Canada was chartered 8 Apr 1904 and was reorganized as the Berliner Gramophone Co in 1909. A recording studio was opened on Peel St, and in 1906 a factory was built at the corner of St-Antoine and Lenoir, to be supplemented in 1921 by a plant at St-Antoine and Lacasse. The company's subsidiary, His Master's Voice, was operating distribution outlets in six Canadian cities in 1924. Emile Berliner remained president of Berliner Gramophone until 1924. His son Herbert (Samuel) (b Cambridge, Mass, 13 Sep 1882, naturalized Canadian, d Montreal 9 Aug 1966) was the company's vice-president and general manager until he resigned in 1921 to devote his time to another company, Compo, which he had founded in 1918. He was succeeded at the Berliner Gramophone Co by his brother Edgar (b Washington 25 Jul 1885, naturalized Canadian, d Beverly Hills, Cal, 20 Jul 1955), previously the company's secretary-treasurer. It was Edgar who in 1924 relinquished the controlling interest in Berliner to the Victor Talking Machine Co of Camden, NJ, a company whose records and equipment Berliner had distributed in Canada since 1901. The Berliner Gramophone Co was renamed the Victor Talking Machine Co of Canada (after 1929, RCA Victor, see BMG), and Edgar was its president until 1930.

In its 20 years of production, the Berliner company pressed and distributed several record series, mostly of non-Canadian origin, including those bearing the Berliner labels. Artists included the Canadian expatriate Harry McClaskey (Henry Burr). The Berliner x label appeared on recordings of Pauline Donalda, Berliner xx on those by Joseph Saucier. Of musicological interest are 12 ancient tribal songs recorded by the Iroquois chief Ho-nu-ses for Emile Berliner in 1904. Some Victor lines offered other Canadian performers (Mark Hambourg, the Hart House String Quartet), as did the HMV 21600 series, introduced in 1916. HMV's 263000 series, begun in 1918, was devoted to French-Canadian performers. Both HMV series were recorded in Montreal and continued after the Victor takeover. The 21600 line offered recordings of, among others, the tenors Paul Dufault and Henri Prieur, the violinist Albert Chamberland, the fiddler J.B. Roy, the cellists J.-B. Dubois and Raoul Duquette, the Hawaiian guitarist Ben Hokea, the conductor Henri Miro (who was music director 1916-21 of the BGC), the trios of Willie Eckstein and Harry Thomas, and the Canadian Grenadier Guards Band. The 263000 line presented, among others, the soprano Camille Bernard, the tenors Charles Dalberty, José Delaquerrière, Paul Dufault, Ludovic Huot, Émile Larochelle, and Roméo Mousseau, the baritones Hector Pellerin, Charles Marchand (and his Bytown Troubadours), and Jean Riddez, the fiddler Joseph Allard, the harmonica player Henri Lacroix, the monologuist Elzéar Hamel, and the vocal groups Quatuor canadien and Quatuor franco-américain. Most of the recordings released by Berliner are listed in Roll Back the Years.

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