The face of His Master's Voice
My Nipper is marked ‘Made by H.Smith. No. 27'. I was told it came ‘from the original mould', but as I cannot even remember where I obtained Nipper back in the late seventies, there is no way of confirming this. It certainly looks like the real Nipper. It is very light and appears to be made of paper mache.
The story of his rise to fame as a coporate symbol is well documented, but little is known of him as the devoted canine which he no doubt was. He was a bull-terrier cross (not a bull terrier, which I once owned and loved), and was born around 1884, probably in Bristol; and owned by scenery painter Mark Henry Barraud.
When Barraud died, Nipper was placed in the care of his first owner's brother Francis Barraud, also an artist - who owned a cylinder player, and who, on occasions, recorded his own voice. Barraud captured in oils the quizzical look on Nipper's face as the dog cocked an ear toward the horn of the cylinder phonograph. Nipper died about 1895, and presuming that the painting was done from life, was most likely painted in 1895 or prior.
Barraud tried to interest Edison's London agent in the work but the M.D. of The Gramophone Company in London, William Barry Owen liked the painting and bought it 21 September 1899 - provided two changes were made: the black enamel horn of the original painting be changed to a more visually attractive brass horn, and the cylinder-player be replaced with a disc player. Emile Berliner's disc records, manufactured by The Gramophone Company of London, had been on the market since 1894. Four year later, the company trademark was the ‘recording angel', stamped on the reverse of the one-sided records. It was a decade after Owen bought the Nipper painting that the ‘dog' trademark was adopted for use in the UK, in February 1909. The following year the words "His Master's Voice" (strictly, with quotations), became The Gramophone Company's trademark, and the HMV label established in the UK.
Nipper and the modified painting was used prior to this on a record supplement sheet, in 1900, and used by the Consolidated Talking Machine Company in an advertisement in the USA, and in 1902 used on the label of discs produced by The Victor Talking Machine Company.
Nipper, that is, the trademark that he represented, was more than just an attractive logo, and was the foundation for political and business intrique. It continued to be used by the Germans during the first world war when they took over the HMV German subsidiary,and Nipper appeared on German Gramophone Co. Records, till 1949. The German's never gave back their commandered company, so HMV formed a nerw company in Germany in 1926 called Electrola, but they couldn't use (their own) Nipper trademark in Germany, but could do so outside Germany. The German Gramophone Company on the other hand could use Nipper on the records sold in Germany, but not overseas - so they developed the ‘Polydor' trademark for export use.
1949 The Gramophone Co, now E.M.I., regained control of their long lost
logo in Germany, but it was not used again until 1953 with Electrola's
LP launch. In the meantime, from 1949, the German Gramophone Co became
the soon to be respected (for its quality of recordings) Deutsche Grammophon
Gesellschaft, retaining also its Polydor label for ‘lighter' music. Finally
- an intereresting anomaly may be appreciated with respect to the painting.
The original showed Nipper listening to ‘his master's voice' recorded on
a cylinder. The altered painting displayed a disc, which was not recordable,
and thus could not have been ‘his master's voice'.