Phonograph Advertising

The success of the Victor Talking Machine Company is often attributed to its aggressive and comprehensive print advertising campaigns. Its trademark, Nipper the dog listening to "His Master’s Voice," was one of the most recognizable of the twentieth century. Nipper, alone, did not account for the success of Victor's marketing. Victor ads commonly promoted the upper line of its talking machines—Victrolas—as fine musical instruments and worthy additions to the most elegant of home living rooms and parlors. Victor recordings, too, helped to boost a buyer's position in society, enabling them to appreciate the world's greatest musical artists, or escape the doldrums of everyday life through exotic and evocative recordings.

Here is a sampling of the lavish advertising that Victor placed in magazines and newspapers, and in its magazine for company employees and record retailers, The Voice of the Victor.

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    A new year, a fresh start—Victor sends out an optimistic message, atop a sea of shellac, to its sales force. "The voice of the Victor", January, 1924:1. (David Giovannoni collection)
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    Billy Murray (fifth from right, shaking hands with child), Henry Burr (seventh from right), and the other members of Victor’s Eight Popular Artists pose in front of a billboard announcing their performance in Appleton, Wisconsin. "The voice of the Victor". January, 1924:14.
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    Bandleader Paul Whiteman poses as Santa Claus at a Madison Square Garden children’s Christmas party. The large Nipper dog at the left assures that no one will forget that Whiteman records for Victor, exclusively. "The voice of the Victor". March 1924:25. (David Giovannoni collection)
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    Victor dealers and their staff are urged to get acquainted with the latest foreign talent and their Victor selections. "The voice of the Victor". April, 1924. (David Giovannoni collection)
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    A wide variety of artists from the world of popular music—musical theater, jazz, and vaudeville—adorn this two-page spread urging Victor dealers to recognize the diversity of Victor’s roster of talent. The ad copy draws attention to the variety of styles among dance orchestras in the Victor stable, prepared to accommodate the regional differences in dancing something as “simple and universal” as the fox trot. ...
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    The Victrola as "a new and valuable agent in surgery." The company's promotion of use of the record player in the operating room claims that, "The attitude of a patient about to be relieved of a distressing and possibly fatal lesion should be one of joyful anticipation, instead of which the subject now enters the theatre, after a tearful farewell to family and friends, ...
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    The great tenor, Enrico Caruso, "greatly impressed by the Victrola" and its reproduction of his art. Victor Records catalog supplement. June, 1908.
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    A record can provide "as many encores as you desire," proclaims this full-page ad from a 1915 issue of "The Talking machine world". The opulent lifestyle may not be achievable, but owning a Victrola certainly is. "Talking machine world". August, 1915.
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    The warmth and simple elegance of the White House music room is enhanced by the graceful lines and beautiful music of the Victrola. "Talking machine world". February, 1914.
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    The beauty and allure of the Hawaiian Islands can be evoked through Victor Records, as implied by a supplement cover from 1916 and through a cartoon that depicts both the fantasies and consternation of a staid couple. Victor Records Hawaiian records catalog. 1916; "Voice of the Victor" supplement. August, 1917.
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    The beauty and allure of the Hawaiian Islands can be evoked through Victor Records, as implied by a supplement cover from 1916 and through a cartoon that depicts both the fantasies and consternation of a staid couple. Victor Records Hawaiian records catalog. 1916; "Voice of the Victor" supplement. August, 1917.
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    The record dealers' journal, "Talking machine world", reported that designers of this Victrola store—the newest of New York City’s five Landay’s—were forbidden to incorporate “gaudiness and show.” Elegance was emphasized, however. This store featured eight record demonstrating rooms done up in white mahogany after Louis XV. It was located at 23 W. 42nd Street. "Talking machine world". February, 1915.
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    The Victor Talking Machine is the perfect accompaniment to any season. Whether a serenade while afloat, enjoying the breeze of the surf while on the veranda, or bobbing for apples during the autumn, the Victor is in place and at the ready. Victor Records catalog supplements. June, July, October, 1906.
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    The Victor Talking Machine is the perfect accompaniment to any season. Whether a serenade while afloat, enjoying the breeze of the surf while on the veranda, or bobbing for apples during the autumn, the Victor is in place and at the ready. Victor Records catalog supplements. June, July, October, 1906.
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    The Victor Talking Machine is the perfect accompaniment to any season. Whether a serenade while afloat, enjoying the breeze of the surf while on the veranda, or bobbing for apples during the autumn, the Victor is in place and at the ready. Victor Records catalog supplements. June, July, October, 1906.
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    Demonstrating either hubris, or self-mockery at their seeming omnipresence, Nipper and the Victor are depicted as astronomical phenomena. "The voice of the Victor". July, 1918.
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    Victor assures potential customers that the essence of Victor quality can be found undimmed in even the smallest and least expensive of its Victrola line. "Saturday evening post". April 13, 1912.
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    Despite the presence of its recording stars, this ad reminds the customer that it is the Victor Talking Machine on which you can enjoy both opera and popular hits. Victor's Red Seal series opera artists are positioned on the top half of the page. "Saturday evening post". April, 15, 1911.
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    Victor encourages its customers to purchase not only Victrolas and Victor recordings, but also, to ensure "unequaled Victor tone," Victor needles to play discs. This advertisement equates Victor machines to grand musical instruments. As though customers were budding musicians, the ad states that practice will yield wondrous sounds from the Victor. "Saturday evening post". June 10, 1911.
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    Victor emphasizes the artistry of Ignace Jan Paderewski's recordings in this advertisement by enlisting a drawing of the pianist by Pre-Raphaelite artist, Edward Burne-Jones. "Saturday evening post". December 2, 1911
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    With Caruso in the most prominent position, this ad shows us what can happen when the Victrola doors are opened. “Sweetness,” “purity,” and music that “gently floats” seem to be central to the message—even with three military-style bands in the lineup. "Saturday evening post". March 16, 1911.