About my ‘addiction’
I suppose that, given my love of things musical and mechanical, it was inevitable that I would have an interest in mechanical music. In actual fact I’ve been interested in all manner of automated and wind-up instruments since I was a youngster. Mechanical organs, player pianos, barrel organs, music boxes and gramophones all have their own unique way of capturing the imagination and the elegant engineering from the Victorian and Edwardian craftsmen never fails to impress me - almost as much as the wonderful music that these devices produce. Add to this the Art Deco style of the late 1920’s and 30’s and I was hooked!
As a teenager I had a small collection of 78rpm records which had been found at various jumble sales and I was able to play them on a Fidelity HF-45 four speed (remember them?) record player which I shared with my older brothers and sister. Most of my 78’s were classical music or theatre organ recordings and they were pretty much played-to-death over the next few years. All of those original records were left behind when I left home and eventually ‘cleared out’ by my parents.
Although my interest in such things never waned, any thoughts of forming a collection were put aside in order to concentrate on work, relationships and adult life etc. It wasn’t until 2006 when a friend was getting rid of some 78’s that I got the urge to take them and, realising that I had nothing to play them on, bought my first wind up gramophone. Since that time the collection (of both machines and records) has grown and I now try to spend at least a couple of hours every week just enjoying the vintage sounds of dance bands, orchestras, singers and novelty acts played on my growing collection.
About Nipper - The HMV dog
Nipper was born in Bristol, England, in 1884 and died in September 1895. It has been variously claimed that he was either a Jack Russell Terrier, a Fox Terrier, or a Bull Terrier cross. He was apparently named Nipper because of his habit of biting the backs of visitors' legs and he originally lived with his owner, Mark Henry Barraud, in the Prince's Theatre, Bristol where Barraud was a scenery designer. When Barraud died in 1887 his brothers Philip and Francis took care of the dog until Nipper himself died in 1895 and was buried in Clarence Street, Kingston-upon-Thames, in a small park surrounded by magnolia trees. As time progressed the area was built upon and a branch of the Lloyds-TSB bank now occupies the site. On the wall of the bank, just inside the entrance, a brass plaque commemorates the terrier that lies beneath the building and on 10th March 2010 a small road near to the dog's resting place was named Nipper Alley in commemoration of this resident.
In 1898, three years after Nipper’s death, Francis Barraud, artist and Nipper's last owner, painted a picture of the dog listening intently to a wind-up Edison-Bell cylinder phonograph. On February 11th 1899 he filed an application for copyright of his painting “Dog Looking At and Listening to a Phonograph” and, thinking that the Edison-Bell Company of New Jersey might find it useful, attempted to present it to company director James E. Hough who promptly dismissed it saying “Dogs don’t listen to phonographs.” Undeterred, on May 31st 1899 Barraud visited the Maiden Lane offices of ‘The Gramophone Company’ with the intention of borrowing a new brass horn to replace the original black horn in the painting. Manager William Barry Owen suggested that if he were to replace the whole machine with a Berliner disc gramophone, the Company would purchase the painting and so this modified version of the image successfully became the registered trademark of HMV and Victor records, HMV music stores, and RCA. The trademark itself was registered by Berliner on July 10th 1900.
The slogan “His Master’s Voice”, along with the painting, was sold to The Gramophone Company for 100 pounds sterling. Francis Barraud said : “It is difficult to say how the idea came to me beyond that fact that it suddenly occurred to me that to have my dog listening to the phonograph, with an intelligent and rather puzzled expression, and call it “His Master’s Voice” would make an excellent subject. We had a phonograph and I often noticed how puzzled he was to make out where the voice came from. It certainly was the happiest thought I ever had.” (Source - Wikipedia)
Francis Barraud's original painting of Nipper looking into an Edison Bell cylinder phonograph.