US Gramophone Company

Berliner Gramophone

Carroll Gantz
Berliner, Emil
Berliner Gramophone

An improved version of the Gramophone, a talking machine invented by Emil Berliner (1851-1929) in 1888, and made since 1894 using a patented hard rubber disc, was introduced by Berliner's US Gramophone Company. In 1901, Berliner formed the Victor Talking Machine Company with Camden, NJ inventor Eldridge R. Johnson who improved the disc quality of what was now called a phonograph "record" system. Berliner's system was hand-cranked and lacked a constant pitch, sounding (to Johnson) like a "partly-educated parrot with a sore throat and a cold." Johnson added a spring-driven motor. The new system revolutionized the phonograph industry, because the "records" were compact for storage and durable enough to avoid normal damage during usage, and the sound quality was much improved. Thomas A. Edison (1847-1931), of course, had invented the original phonograph in 1877, using a wax cylinder on his first model M of 1888. His Model A of 1898 still used a steel cylinder covered with tinfoil, and by the Model F of 1911, his was the last company still using the now-outdated cylinder system. The new 1901 Victor product used an image of a dog, "Nipper" listening to "his master's voice" on a phonograph. The image was from an 1898 painting by English artist Francis Barraud, sold in 1899 to Berliner's Gramophone Company Ltd. in London, and patented in 1900. American rights were sold to the Victor Talking Machine Company. The company was purchased by RCA in 1929, and they acquired rights to the trademark which was used extensively until 1968. But because of its popular appeal, RCA, now Thomson Electronics, re-introduced it in 1990, adding a smaller canine companion, "Chipper", representing the company's semiconductor-based future in electronics.

100 Years of Design consists of excerpts from a book by Carroll M. Gantz, FIDSA, entitled, Design Chronicles: Significant Mass-produced Designs of the 20th Century, published August 2005 by Schiffer Publications, Ltd.
Copyright Information: 
I own or have obtained the rights to the image(s) included with this article and grant industrialdesignhistory.com the right to post it(them) on its website and make use of it(them) in print media with proper attribution.