Brunswick Corporate History

Brunswick Records: A Discography of Recordings, 1916-1931, compiled by Ross Laird.

The Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co. was established in Chicago in 1845 as a manufacturer of a wide variety of products including furniture, piano cases, carriages and bowling balls. In an article written in 1925, B.E. Bensinger, then President of the company, recalled the early days as follows:

In 1913 a slump in the piano business caused a shift to the making of phonograph cabinets, which department eventually turned into the making of the complete instrument... [and the company] rapidly assumed a position as one of the leaders in the field... Our getting into the phonograph business and our success in it have been just one long process of looking around for better and better means of marketing...

By May 1916 Brunswick had already developed this part of their business to the point where their cabinet factory in Dubuque, Iowa was working on the production of 16,000 machines for delivery in August. In the same year, Brunswick established an alliance with the Pathé Freres Phonograph Co. of New York, which had been incorporated in the U.S. in January 1912 as a branch of the famous French firm of the same name. Pathé had been recording in New York since mid-1914. The two companies reached an agreement that Brunswick would promote the use of Pathé records with its phonographs and not sell any records under its own name in the U.S., while in return Pathé would not compete with Brunswick in the American talking machine market. The exact length of the agreement is not known, but it was probably for two or three years.

Consequently, in mid-1916 Brunswick began an extensive advertising campaign to promote the new Brunswick-Pathéphone phonograph and these advertisements also referred to Pathé disc records. A notice in Talking Machine World of August 15, 1916 states: “Our first announcement of the new Brunswick-Pathéphone and Pathé disc records has created a stir throughout the trade that probably has no equal. Telegrams and letters came from dealers everywhere. Hundreds applied for the agency of this revolutionary line. Now heavy advance orders are coming daily. And we shall soon be ready to start the initial shipments.... Those who secure this agency at once will be in a strong position to make a flying start when our impressive campaign of advertising starts this Fall throughout the nation. Never have values like these been known before on high-class phonographs. And Brunswick’s leadership as the maker of fine cabinets plus Pathé attachments in records and reproduction—these two great forces being a companion proposition that experts predict will dominate the field. BRUNSWICK PATHÉPHONE AND PATHÉ RECORDS.”

The promised advertising campaign commenced on October 28, 1916 with a two-page spread in the Saturday Evening Post. A full-page advertisement in the November 1916 issue of Talking Machine World followed up on this new publicity by adding:

We knew that this super-phonograph would create a sensation, yet we hardly dared to hope for such an immediate and extensive response. This came from two sources. First from music lovers themselves... they wanted to know more about this master phonograph and where it might be heard and obtained locally. Second, from people and concerns wishing to handle the Brunswick phonograph. From both we realized that our work of years was appreciated and that Brunswick was destined to become a leader. The House of Brunswick is not new in the phonograph world. Its executives and craftsmen are not unfamiliar with phonograph requirements. For years this organization has been manufacturing the finer cabinets for the leading concerns. But the credit for the Brunswick cabinets has gone to others. Now we give our master production our own name, having spent much time and money in perfecting the mechanism...

The Brunswick plays all records. In other words, it is not limited to one make of records, as is the usual practice. Then we went still further. Through an arrangement with Pathé, every Brunswick dealer may now distribute Pathé records, Europe’s favorites. This opens up to all American homes the largest musical library the world has ever known. With the Brunswick we furnish a special Pathé sound box and sapphire ball. Also the needles required for other records, such as the jewel point, steel, etc.

Our national advertising campaign in magazines and newspapers is just starting. We mean to make the Brunswick phonograph a tremendous success.

Subsequent advertisements through 1917 continued to emphasize the partnership with Pathé, and by October of that year The Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co. is listed as having offices in Chicago, and San Francisco, at 29-35 W. 32nd Street, New York, at 7th and Main Sts., Cincinnati, and “with branch houses in the principal cities of the United States, Canada, Mexico and France.” The Canadian distributor is named as Musical Merchandise Sales Co., 80 York Street, Toronto.

Although never mentioned in the American trade press, by this time Brunswick had already produced their own line of disc records. Because of the agreement with Pathé, sales were restricted to Canada. In early 1917 the first batch of 100 vertical (Pathé type) records were released only in the Canadian market, and from then on regular releases of records were advertised in Canada.

While the exact date when Brunswick began producing records as well as phonographs is unknown, there is little doubt that recording must have begun in late 1916 and record production soon after. In other words, within a few months of forming a partnership with Pathé, Brunswick was already at an advanced stage with preparations for recording and manufacturing their own line of records. It is very doubtful that the company would have gone to all this trouble just for the relatively small market available in Canada, so it is quite probable that this was part of a long-term strategy to eventually market records in the U.S. Perhaps Brunswick felt that the deal with Pathé would give them time to get established in the phonograph business before they branched out even further into the less familiar area of record production. Since no Brunswick company files seem to have survived from this period, the full answers to these questions will probably never be known, but the sequence of events described above seem to point in the direction suggested. The earliest recording sessions seem to have taken place in New York, and it is believed that the records were also manufactured in the U.S. and shipped north for distribution in Canada.

By 1918 the connection with Pathé was no longer prominently featured in Brunswick advertisements and early in that year Brunswick launched its latest development, the “Ultona” sound box. While still capable of playing Pathé and other vertical-cut records, when the new reproducer was promoted to the trade in March 1918, the emphasis was firmly on how easily it could also be adjusted to play "Edison type" or lateral-cut records as well. The "Ultona" was launched publicly on August 6, 1918 in advertisements, which advised: "At the turn of a hand you adapt The Ultona to any type of record. A child can do it. It is practically automatic." At this time the "General Offices' were still in Chicago.

The first indication in the American trade press that Brunswick was engaged in recording is in an item headed “Elias Breeskin Makes Records” in the September 15, 1919 issue of Talking Machine World. This reads: “Elias Breeskin, the noted violinist, has been engaged to make records for the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co. It is said that the first records came out remarkably well.” The first issued Breeskin records on Brunswick were made several months later, but it appears that some earlier sessions were also held. By this time Brunswick had abandoned the vertical recording process used for its first (Canadian release only) discs.

From mid-1919, all Brunswick recordings were made by the lateral process, but the same matrix series continued in use. In fact, it is apparent that the use of both recording processes overlapped for a significant period, as the lowest known lateral master is followed by later vertical masters. The early Brunswick ledgers have been lost so the exact date when the vertical process was discontinued will probably never be known.

By late 1919 a sufficient quantity of lateral recordings had been stockpiled and the first American Brunswick records were released in January 1920. The Talking Machine World of that month ran a two-page article to mark the occasion. This article provides the first detailed published description of Brunswick’s recording activities:

After several months of expectant waiting the trade has received the first list of the new Brunswick records, which mark the most recent expansion of the Brunswick-Balke­ Collender Co. The announcement of these new records by one of the leading talking machine companies has created great interest in trade circles and the records already in the hands of Brunswick dealers throughout the country have everywhere been received with the greatest enthusiasm. The rise of the Brunswick Co. has been rapid and the opening of the new recording laboratories completes the balance of the organization and affords a fitting supplement to the Brunswick phonograph. Record-pressing plants are now located in Long Island City and northern New York and others are nearing completion in Jersey City and Toronto, Can. As soon as the new plants are ready and the new presses installed the production of Brunswick records will grow by leaps and bounds...

The organization of men who are in charge of the new records is comprised of individuals who have had a wide experience in the talking machine field... It is as manager of the record department that the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co. has secured William A. Brophy who... is peculiarly and particularly equipped to fill this responsible position. Mr. Brophy is a New York man, and prior to his association with the Leeds Phonograph Co. in 1916 was for years prominent in banking circles…

The general of the inner sanctum of the recording rooms is Frank Hofbauer, who is an American scientist whose merit has won him recognition in a highly specialized field. Since 1911 he has had full charge of the recording laboratories... With Thomas A. Edison personally Mr. Hofbauer worked for eight years in phonographic experimentation, and was five more years in the Edison recording laboratory.

Henry Purmont Eames is director of the music department of the Brunswick laboratories and is widely known as one of America’s successful artists. His education as a pianist has been received from such famous teachers as W. S. B. Mathews, W. H. Sherwood, Madame Clara Schumann, widow of Robert Schumann, James Kwast and Ignace Jan Paderewski. Mr. Eames is director of the Cosmopolitan School of Music in Chicago... He has firm faith in the future of the talking machine industry and his plans for the development of the Brunswick record list are most comprehensive.

As general musical director of the recording laboratories the Brunswick Co. has secured Walter B. Rogers, whose training in theoretical and applied music began in the Cincinnati College of Music. He has been director of several famous bands, among them being the New York Seventh Regiment Band. He was for some time cornet soloist with the noted band under the baton of John Philip Sousa. He was with the Victor Talking Machine Co. from 1904 to 1916 as musical director.

Walter Haenschen, who is manager and director of the popular record department, is a pianist of recognized ability, his experience dating from his graduation from Washington University in St. Louis in 1912. Throughout the Middle West he has earned an enviable reputation as an expert in dance music and was in 1916 manager of the talking machine department of Scruggs, Vandervoort and Barney in St. Louis. He has composed several songs, one of which was the sensation of the 1914 Follies, where it was known as “Underneath the Japanese moon... “

The first record shipment has already gone out to the trade and others will appear at regular intervals. Within a few months a considerable record catalog will be built up and will grow rapidly...

P. L. Deutsch, assistant secretary of the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co., as well as assistant general sales manager, while not directly connected with the New York office, is greatly interested in the new records and has done much to bring together the men now united in the new enterprise.

The recording laboratories are now in temporary quarters at 19 E. 21st Street, New York, but in the near future will move into permanent quarters at 16 W. 36th Street as soon as the building there is completed.

It is interesting to note that none of the individuals mentioned in the above article as associated with the recording laboratories have any prior involvements after 1916 [sic]. This suggests that while the new Brunswick records are represented as an entirely new endeavor, that in fact most if not all of those named had been involved with recording activity for Brunswick prior to 1919 and possibly since 1916 or 1917.

In an article titled “Brunswick Building Completed,” The Talking Machine World of May 15, 1920 reports that:

Early in May the Brunswick recording laboratories moved into their permanent New York home at 16-18 E. 36th Street where they occupy the top floors of a newly constructed thirteen-story building. The new quarters are handsomely finished and arranged with a view to securing the maximum of comfort and convenience. On the twelfth floor are the main offices which are furnished in mahogany and white. Here William A. Brophy, general manager of the record division, has his offices. On the same floor there is also a committee room which is designed to meet the needs of meetings of all kinds as well as for the demonstration of new records now and then.

The top floor is occupied by two recording rooms completely equipped with modem devices for recording. Behind these is the machine shop where the matrices are given a few final touches in the hands of experienced workers under the guidance of Frank Hofbauer. A special room has been set aside for the use of artists and will be furnished with easy chairs and a plentiful supply of books and magazines. Next to the recording rooms are the offices of Walter Haenschen, in charge of the popular and dance record division, and Walter Rogers, general musical director. The final touch to the completion of the laboratories is a balcony which adjoins the large recording room and affords a good view of the skyscrapers of the city and of the river. Mr. Haenschen already has plans for the summer months when he will bring out some irresistible dance numbers and possibly give a porch party or two...

The October 15, 1921 issue of Talking Machine World recorded a special occasion, which shows that Brunswick was becoming serious about producing records for the ethnic market:

At a recent meeting and banquet given by the phonograph division of the New York offices of the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co., the first records of the Brunswick foreign catalog were introduced to Brunswick dealers of metropolitan New York. This meeting was held at the Hotel Pennsylvania under the direction of E.A. Strauss, [sales] manager of the New York branch, who acted as toastmaster for the occasion, introducing the artists and speakers present The first Brunswick foreign records are ten selections by Cantor Kwartin, and this introductory list was prepared through the efforts of Chester Abelowitz, New York district sales representative of the Brunswick Co., who did sterling work in securing this noted Cantor for the Brunswick library. Cantor Kwartin, who will make records exclusively for the Brunswick Co., was introduced to Brunswick dealers by Mr. Strauss and was given an enthusiastic reception. Other artists present on this occasion were Theodore Kittay, an exclusive Brunswick artist, Simon Paskel, Sam Silberbusch and Mischa Wachtel, all of whom favored the diners with several selections.

William A. Brophy, head of the Brunswick recording department, was introduced and discussed interestingly the work of the recording laboratories in the making of these new foreign records, stating that these records were some of the best ever reproduced by the Brunswick organization. T.W. Dwyer, treasurer of the Brunswick Co., made a short address on the Brunswick financing plan for the benefit of the dealers present, after which Mr. Abelowitz closed the meeting with a few friendly remarks on the new foreign catalog, in which he stated that these first records by Cantor Kwartin are being received most enthusiastically by dealers and record buyers throughout the country.

Although the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co. had been selling phonographs since 1916 it was not until November 1, 1920 that Victor decided to bring a suit against Brunswick which asserted that the tone-arm and sound conveyor used in the Brunswick phonographs infringed claims 2 and 42 of Letters Patent No. 814,786 and claims 7 and 11 of Letters Patent No. 814,848, both granted to the Victor Talking Machine Co. on March 13, 1906. The Talking Machine World of April 1922 reported the first judgment in this case under the heading "Dismissal in Victor vs. Brunswick Tone-Arm Suit." However, Victor appealed this decision and the appeal was heard in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on February 6, 1923. The appeal was also dismissed on the grounds that although the Victor patents were still valid they were not infringed by the design of Brunswick’s Ultona tone-arm. Victor was no more successful with other legal actions taken against Brunswick during 1922, and the final judgment against Victor was handed down by District Court "D" in Delaware on May 7, 1923. Subsequent legal moves continuing up until 1927 were merely attempts to have previous decisions reviewed or overturned. None of these moves were successful.

The February 1923 issue of Talking Machine World announced that "effective February 1, the phonograph division of the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co., Chicago, discontinued monthly releases of records and instituted daily releases. This move was made with the view in mind of enabling Brunswick customers to get a record the day it is released instead of waiting until the monthly releases were ready for distribution... For commercial purposes the Brunswick Co. will continue to designate certain groups as 'March records,' 'April records,' etc.; but the monthly releases of Brunswick are entirely abolished insofar as the public is concerned. The value and importance of this merchandising move is obviously apparent. In order to co-operate with the sales force the advertising department of the Brunswick Co. has co-ordinated Brunswick record advertising in such a manner that there will be a release of a new record practically every day..."

In July 1923 the Talking Machine World announced the construction of a new Brunswick record plant when it reported that:

An immense plant at Muskegon [Mich.] now nearing completion will afford much-needed facilities for the manufacture of Brunswick records. All is in readiness for the formal opening of the big new addition to the Brunswick plant, which is scheduled to take place late this month. This new addition covers 100,000 square feet and was erected especially to take care of the constantly increasing Brunswick record business. The new plant will have an additional capacity, which when developed will enable Brunswick to put out 200,000 records per day from this new unit alone. When this amount of records is added to the present Brunswick capacity, it can readily be seen that the total output will enable Brunswick to take care of the immense amount of business already booked for the Fall season as well as the large volume of new business which is being secured throughout the entire country by the opening of new accounts by the distribution branches…

In September 1923 Talking Machine World reported on further expansion plans:

One of the most important developments of the month has been the announcement to the effect that plans are being made by the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co. for the establishment of a permanent record pressing plant in [Los Angeles] to take care of the steadily increasing demand for Brunswick records throughout the Pacific Coast districts. A.J. Kendrick, general sales manager of the Brunswick Co., accompanied by S.K. Darby, W.G. Haenschen, director of popular music, and other members of the main laboratory staff in Chicago, were in this city recently making records of local orchestras and artists, including Lyman’s Cocoanut Grove Orchestra.

From here the party, which is equipped with a complete recording outfit, moved to San Francisco and later planned to go to Seattle and Portland for the purpose of making records of local organizations in those cities. It is said to be the first time that such a recording expedition has been undertaken in this country and has enabled the Brunswick Co. to make numerous records that otherwise could not have been obtained because of the inability of the artists for one reason or another to go to the Chicago headquarters.

Another angle of the move is that the company will be able to offer to its dealers on the Pacific Coast the numbers that are particularly strong hits in that section of the country. The records made by the expedition will be pressed in Chicago, but, after the pressing plant in [Los Angeles] is completed, all the work will be handled here. In discussing the move Mr. Kendrick stated: “We have found that Los Angeles and the Pacific Coast have originated a large part of the fine and popular musical numbers which are much sought after for recording purposes and feel that the time is rapidly approaching when it will be found more economical to make our own records here than to defray the expenses of orchestras and artists in bringing them East for recording purposes..."

Despite the impression given by the Los Angeles based writer of the above article that Brunswick’s recording and pressing activities were based at head office in Chicago, A. J. Kendrick is correctly quoted as saying that the usual practice had been to bring "them East for recording purposes." The recording expedition described above was not only a very early example of the use of portable equipment within the United States, but was also the precursor of many other "road recordings" (as they became known) which were to become a form of recording which would contribute very prominently to the Brunswick catalogs in later years.

On April 15, 1924 Talking Machine World reported that "the recording laboratories of the Brunswick-Balke Collender Co., which have heretofore been located at 16 W. 36th Street, New York, are now established on the top floor of the new Brunswick building at 799 Seventh Avenue. The laboratories were formally dedicated upon the recent visit to New York of Percy L. Deutsch, secretary of the company, who is delighted with the splendid facilities afforded the recording organization in its new home. It will be several weeks before all of the mechanical equipment is moved from 36th Street to the building at Seventh Avenue, but in the meantime, William A. Brophy, director of the recording laboratories, is dividing his time between the two places. Mr. Deutsch made an informal talk at the dedication ceremonies, and among the members of the Brunswick organization present were W. A. Brophy; Gus. Haenschen, director of popular recordings in the Brunswick laboratory; W. Sinkler Darby, technical director; Harry A. Beach, manager of the Eastern Phonograph Division; Edward A. Strauss, of the executive division; and Percy A. Ware, sales promotion manager of the Eastern Phonograph Division..."

By contract dated November 29, 1924 the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co. acquired the Vocalion label from the Aeolian Co. and the December 1924 issue of Talking Machine World reported on this event:

The Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co., Chicago, announced, on December 1, the purchase of the Vocalion record division of the Aeolian Co., New York. This important deal was closed by P. L. Deutsch, vice-president of the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co. and the guiding spirit in the company’s phenomenal progress the past six years. The new arrangement goes into effect January 2, and in his announcement Mr. Deutsch said: "The Brunswick Co. has, for a long time, felt that a large market exists for a high quality record such as the Vocalion, outside of, or additional to, the channels through which Brunswick records are now being sold... We wish to express, in a definite way, the high regard we have for this fine record, and for the distinguished company which has brought it to its present state of perfection... In taking over the recording and manufacturing of the Vocalion record and its firm name we will be guided by the same excellent principles which have been used in the past by the Aeolian Co. We will continue the same policies of distribution through jobbers, amplified by the best merchandising and advertising facilities at the command of the Brunswick Co. A separate selling organization, to carry out the Vocalion merchandising plans, will be maintained in order to do justice to this excellent record..."

In a related development, the January 1925 edition of Talking Machine World reported that:

Edward R. Strauss, one of the veterans of the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co. executive organization and well known throughout the talking machine trade, has been appointed general manager of the company’s Vocalion record division... and under Mr. Strauss’ direction an agressive [sic] sales and merchandising campaign has been inaugurated. The offices of the Vocalion record division will be located at the Eastern Brunswick headquarters, 799 Seventh Avenue, New York, and Mr. Strauss has been devoting the greater part of his time the past few weeks to the supervision and handling of the many details incidental to the establishment of the new division which is under his management. Vocalion records will be merchandised as heretofore through jobbers, and C.R. McKinnon who formerly traveled for the Aeolian Co.’s Vocalion record division, has been appointed to a similar position in the Vocalion record division of the Brunswick Co.

The March 11, 1925 edition of Variety carried an item which stated: “Vocalion red record, since being taken over by the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co. has been selling rather well. According to Vocalion dealers, the record is well liked, and indications are that the label will be retained so as to be distinct from the Brunswick. The outlook at first was that the Vocalion title would be eliminated or merged into the Brunswick. Recordings on both brands are being kept distinct and apart. Although the same technical laboratory staff is supervising the recordings for both, different bands or vocalists ‘can’ the same selections for both labels. Another exceptionally decent thing, and so acknowledged by the recording artists, is that Brunswick, if it does use the same ‘master’ for both brands, will pay the recording artists the full amount for each, albeit the services are in reality only performed once.”

In June 1925 Talking Machine World further reported that:

Edward R. Strauss, general sales manager of the Vocalion record division of the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co., New York, announced recently a revision in the price of Vocalion records, whereby the price of all seventy-five cent records was reduced to fifty cents, effective immediately. Vocalion records formerly listing at $1.00 and $2.00 were reduced to a list price of seventy-five cents. The very popular Colin O’More Vocalion records are included in the new fifty-cent repertoire, and it is expected that there will be a tremendous demand for the entire Vocalion library and particularly for the records made by this famous tenor.

In October 1925 Brunswick began a sales campaign to promote both the newly released recordings made by the electrical recording process and the Brunswick Panatrope which had been developed to reproduce the new process records. An item in Talking Machine World states:

The Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co., Chicago, has prepared a most intensive, elaborate and practible plan for merchandising its new line of instruments, and the details of this plan were set forth to the members of the Brunswick organization in a very interesting letter forwarded recently to branch managers, district managers and salesmen by A. J. Kendrick, general sales manager of the Brunswick phonograph division and widely known throughout the industry. In part, Mr. Kendrick said:

"In the presentation, advertising and sales of the new line, we are dropping the word phonograph except as applied to those phonographs which we will, for the time being, continue to merchandise, or, until we have decided to entirely discontinue production and selling of phonographs. It is not unlikely, however, that we may decide, so far as portables and lower-priced instruments are concerned, to continue to produce such types...

"In the development, presentation and sale of the Panatrope and the Panatrope-Radiola, we are convinced that the trend of the times, both in scientific development as well as public demand and tendency, is entirely toward electrical application and progress. What we are presenting opens a new field of scientific development which will make for a very marked growth in our business.

"This is the first time, in the writer’s experience in the phonograph business, that any manufacturer has really been justified in asking $400, $500, $600 or more for an instrument, so far as the quality of the reproduction is concerned, as compared to what the purchaser might secure for $150 or $200. The difference in price has always been determined largely by cabinet value. This alone will be no longer [be] true, as has already been attested by those to whom we have been privileged to demonstrate the Panatrope. The Panatrope is a most amazing development as you will soon ascertain, and places us now in a position to interest that great part of the music trade who are most interested in raising, without difficulty, the average retail sale...

"Our advertising and sales endeavor will be based entirely upon a campaign to demonstrate the Panatrope before as many people as possible. This in itself will stir up an amazing number of prospects because the demonstration is so tremendously impressive..."

The April 15, 1926 issue of Talking Machine World included an item headed "Jack Kapp Heads Race Record Brunswick Division" which reads:

The announcement of the creation of a race record division by the Brunswick-Balke­ Collender Co. early in March was met with enthusiasm throughout the country by dealers... The new department will be headed by Jack Kapp, one of the best known and popular record sales executives in the industry, who will devote to the sale of the new recordings the results of his experience... Mr. Kapp needs no introduction to the talking machine trade, as he has a host of friends and acquaintances in the industry, gathered in his eleven years’ connection with the Columbia Phonograph Co. Starting while still in his teens, he became associated with the Chicago branch office of the Columbia Co. and rose to the head of its record sales department. While acting in this capacity, his activities covered a considerable portion of the Middle West, working closely with Columbia dealers in the matter of record sales and maintaining touch with recording talent. He assumed his duties with the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co. on March 10, and within the next few weeks important announcements are expected regarding the new race department...

In May 1926 Talking Machine World reported: “The Brunswick Co. has just announced to the trade its plan for the promotion of race records. This is a field in which the Brunswick Co. has not entered into very extensively before this. However, it now has a very comprehensive promotional program outlined for the distribution of Vocalion records..."

The following month, the same trade publication announced the "First Releases of Vocalion Race Records on Market" and added:

The race record division of the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co... has released the first of a new series of race records... Although the first release took place only a short time ago, the immediate response of the trade indicates very definitely that there will soon be a tremendous demand throughout the country for the new records, according to Brunswick officials.

In issuing the race records the Brunswick company stated that the main purpose of its plan is to give the colored people records made by artists of their own race which are absolutely above reproach insofar as the theme and manner of presentation are concerned... Featured in the first release are King Oliver and His Dixie Syncopators, who play nightly at the Plantation Cafe in Chicago. This leader is widely known as an exponent of "jazz" in the fullest sense of the word. His records, "Snag It" and "Too Bad," are recorded by the Vocalion electrical process, which brings out all the intricacies and stirring possibilities of extreme syncopation that this band is so capable of producing. Another of the records to be featured is "Panama Limited Blues" and "Tia Juana Man" by Ada Brown. The Cotton Plantation Quartet [sic] has made two records off similar negro spirituals, "I’m Gonna Shout All Over God’s Heaven" and "Golden Slippers." This organization is well known in its particular field. Another artist featured in the initial recordings is Teddy Peters, who sings "Georgia Man" and "What a Man," to an accompaniment of a piano, banjo, clarinet and cornets. Records by the Umbrian Glee Club, Jelly Roll Morton, Irene Scruggs, Edmonia Henderson and Rosa Henderson are soon to be released.

Jack Kapp, who heads the Vocalion race record division, is combing the country to secure the services of prominent colored artists and no effort will be spared to give the race the type of music that is most appealing...

The December 15, 1926 edition of Talking Machine World carried a prominent article headed "Important European-American Deals Have Been Consummated by the Brunswick Co." which gives the following details:

Two important negotiations have been consummated by the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co. which will give their product wide European distribution and at the same time bring to the Brunswick trade here one of the most comprehensive foreign language record libraries in Europe. It was disclosed in New York, last week, by P. L. Deutsch, vice-president of the Brunswick Co. and general manager of its music-radio division who recently returned from abroad where he represented the company in final conclusions with the Deutsche Grammophon Co., at Berlin and the British Brunswick, Ltd., at London. He was accompanied to New York by B. Borschardt, the Deutsche Grammophon managing director who conferred with the Brunswick Co. officials in New York.

The Deutsche Grammophon Co. is located in Berlin and is the producer of records under the trade name of “His Master’s Voice” [but actually released on the Grammophon label] for sale in Germany, and Polydor in... other countries, the company having been formed in 1919 by a group of financiers and business men there to succeed to the business of a predecessor company. Famous European artists and symphony orchestras are under contract to the “His Master’s Voice” catalog in Germany, while under the Polydor label a varied repertoire of the music of many nations is maintained, to all of which the Brunswick Co. in America will have access and at the same time the exclusive dance repertoire, as well as the balance of its catalog will be offered to the German public.

The sale of Brunswick records in Germany and other countries through the new connection may be foreseen to be along aggressive, but sound and conservative lines and in view of the fact that business, in general, of the German republic is of such a healthy tone, there is no question that there will be a lively demand there for the Brunswick product.

Mr. Deutsch said further that as part of the deal the electrical recording and reproducing rights of the General Electric Co. will become available to the Deutsche Grammophon Co. through the German General Electric Co. so that its new recordings from now on will be made by the “Light Ray” method and may be expected to exhibit the same advance in technique that electrical recording has produced in the United States.

A further important factor in this agreement is the manufacturing and selling of the Brunswick Panotrope and Brunswick phonographs in Germany and Austria by the Deutsche Grammophon Co.

The large and complete catalogs of the Deutsche Grammophon Co... is expected to form a valuable addition to the Brunswick record line throughout America. Mr. Deutsch said that the first matrices from the Berlin connection will arrive shortly and that the trade service... will be established as rapidly as possible.

The British Brunswick, Ltd., a newly formed company, in which the Brunswick-Balke­Collender Co. has a substantial interest together with that of British capital, will record and manufacture in England electric records and Brunswick Panatropes through an arrangement with the Thompson Houston Co. for the exclusive use of the electrical recording and reproducing rights which they control with the General Electric Co. At the same time there will an interchange of matrices between the British Brunswick, Ltd., and the Brunswick­ Balke-Collender Co. as well as between the British Brunswick, Ltd., and the Deutsche Grammophon Co. and in the broadened field of activity there will be an aggressive sales policy.

The first results of these agreements were wider distribution of American Brunswick masters in Britain (through the newly formed British Brunswick, Ltd.) and Europe (on the newly formed German Brunswick label). The anticipated release of European and British recordings in America did not begin until October 1927 when six sets of complete symphonies were issued as Brunswick albums 1-6.

In January 1928 the appointment of William F. Wirges was announced as Director of the New York recording laboratories.

The March 21, 1928 edition of Variety announced that: "Jack Kapp is the newly appointed head of the Vocalion record division of Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co. in charge of sales and recordings. Kapp’s promotion follows a concrete survey of the country’s musical tastes, particularly in the Southern and Midwestern demands for 'hill-billy' and 'race' records. These two departments have been chiefly developed by Kapp and have contributed to Vocalion’s financial success. Unlike the Brunswick system of distribution, Kapp has installed a jobbing outlet system for the Vocalion product... It was Kapp who taught the mountaineer music dealers to capitalize the hill-billy folks' penchant for purchasing from six to 15 copies of the same record. The mountain people don’t come down into the valley towns for months at a time, and their chief amusement is the constant repetition of their favorite record, wearing one out and playing a new one."

During 1928 Brunswick added radios to its range of products (the Brunswick-Radiola which had been available since 1924 incorporated a radio manufactured by the Radio Corp. of America).

On January 9, 1929 Variety reported changes in the administration of Brunswick Laboratories:

Ushered into a new post as General Manager of the Brunswick Recording Laboratories, Louis Katzman was tendered a surprise party January 2 in the executive offices under the hostship of Frank S. Horning. The latter, high-geared executive who succeeded William A. Brophy in charge of Brunswick, will devote his talents to the merchandising channels and also go after sound film recordings. Katzman’s appointment as head of the Brunswick Labs is a departure in phonograph recording circles, since he is a pioneer recording artist and one of Brunswick’s main stellars with his Anglo-Persians and other recording combinations...

Jimmy O’Keefe continues as first assistant to Katzman and will not switch over to DeSylva, Brown and Henderson [music publishers], as rumored. Raymond Foster, William F. Wirges, Jack Kapp and Louis Sebok continue as laboratory executives. Bob Haring joined this week on the arranging end... Frank S. Horning, as an emergency measure, took control of the laboratory end this past year although primarily he is a merchandising expert. Horning, now back in an executive sales post, is creating contacts with the picture producers for the new synchronizing department of Brunswick.

In April 1929 Talking Machine World ran an item stating that Robert Haring was

'recently appointed director of the Brunswick Recording Laboratories in New York City... to supervise the musical arrangements in connection with recording and to work closely with Louis Katzman in matters of record production."

The first recording expedition that Brunswick had sent outside the Western Hemisphere took place in November 1929 when sessions were arranged in Canton, China and Manila in the Philippines. The masters were shipped back to the United States and the records manufactured in Brunswick’s U.S. pressing plants and re-exported to China and the Philippines for sale.

On April 9, 1930 Brunswick-Balke-Collender sold its radio and phonograph interests to Warner Brothers Pictures, Inc., who established the Brunswick Radio Corporation as a new corporate entity. The June 1930 edition of Talking Machine World noted that as a result of the change of ownership “Brunswick Co. [is] planning to move its offices from its present location at 623 So. Wabash Ave., in Chicago, to new quarters at 120 W. 42nd Street, New York City, during the first week in June.” The new location was the 14th and 15th floors of the Wurlitzer Building.

In June 1930 an agreement was signed between Brunswick-Balke-Collender and Brunswick Radio Corp. allowing the latter to sublease certain Muskegon properties.

Jack Kapp was moved up from heading the Vocalion record division to head of all Brunswick Recording Laboratories on August 4, 1930 at a starting salary of $346.15 per week (which was later reduced to $297.54 per week).

On November 13, 1930 Brunswick Radio Corp. introduced the new “budget priced” Melotone label which was sold at 50 cents.

On March 1, 1931 Victor Young was hired on a one-year contract as Musical Director at a salary of $230.77 per week. His contract expired on February 29, 1932.

About March 1931 Brunswick Radio Corp signed a contract with the Sears Roebuck Co. to supply that company with records on its Supertone label in a S2000 series. Most of the assignations in this series were prepared in March and May of 1931, with the last few of the 264 releases having file cards dated December 24, 1931. Some (if not all) releases were pressed in quantities of 500.

On September 9, 1931 Brunswick Radio Corp. signed an agreement to supply Polk Records with a minimum order of 100 records for the price of 17 cents per record F.O.B. Atlanta or Dallas.

The previous expedition to China and the Philippines which took place late in 1929 must have been a successful venture as in February 1931 another recording expedition was sent to Manila. The same team then also visited Hong Kong (and from there went to Amoy in China) to record material for various Chinese language series. All masters were shipped back to the United States and the records manufactured in Brunswick’s U.S. pressing plants and re-exported for sale. Stocks were held in the U.S.

The handover of Brunswick Radio Corporation to the American Record Company’s new corporate entity Brunswick Record Corporation took place on December 12, 1931. The official agreement is dated December 3, 1931 and is described as an “Agreement between Brunswick Radio Corporation, a Delaware corporation (hereafter referred to as ‘Brunswick’), and Brunswick Record Corporation, a New York corporation whose place of business is 1776 Broadway (hereafter referred to as Record Co.), transferring record inventories, licenses and leases, in accordance with” [the agreement as shown in an edited form below]:

Article I: Materials and supplies.

A. Brunswick sells to Record Co. all raw materials and supplies. Materials price—$190,954.94 F.O.B. $37,.500 to be paid on execution date, remainder in like installments in 3, 6 and 9 months.

Article II: Commercial phonograph records.

A. Delivered on consignment. Records not sold within 1 year ‘from date hereof’ shall be returned by Record Co. at the expense of Brunswick unless a purchase price is agreed on in the meantime.

B. All such commercial phonograph records shall be delivered to the Record Co. at Scranton, Pennsylvania.

C. The Record Co. shall pay to Brunswick the following for records sold by the Record Co.—28 cents for Brunswick, 28 cents for Vocalion, 13 1/2 cents for Melotone, Superior and Polk, 16 1/2 cents for Melotone in Canada, 19 cents for Chinese and Phillipine recordings to be paid monthly.

D. None of such records to be sold outside the United States or Canada.

E. No rights to Supertone or Polk trademarks [were covered by the agreement, as such rights were not owned by Brunswick].

Article III: Record recording licenses.

A. Masters loaned to the Record Co. Brunswick grants to the Record Co. the right to press and sell..

Article IV: Trade marks and trade names.

A. Brunswick grants to the Record Co., the license to use the trademark or trade name ‘Brunswick’ in connection with commercial phonograph records only, and for the United States of America and Canada only, for such period that the Record Co. shall manufacture, or cause to be manufactured by a subsidiary or parent company, and market commercial phonograph records which sell for the retail price of at least the schedule of prices set forth in schedule ‘E’ hereof [which allowed for price decreases if other major labels in the industry lowered the prices on most of their products], and bearing the trademark ‘Brunswick,’ and subject to the further condition that the Record Co. shall (1) print and distribute a yearly catalogue of all Brunswick recordings, (2) issue and distribute supplements to such catalogue for monthly releases of the then current year, (3) fulfill all orders from buyers or dealers from such catalogues unless financial bad, [etc.]

B. Brunswick licenses to the Record Co. to use the names Melotone and Vocalion...

C. All rights and licenses for trade marks and trade names in this article provided shall revert to Brunswick in the event that in any one year period from the date of this agreement the Record Co. fails to press and sell in the United States and Canada a minimum of 250,000 commercial phonograph records annually bearing the Brunswick trade mark and either pressed from recordings or their derivatives loaned to the Record Co. as in the agreement provided for or from master matrices hereafter made by the Record Co. or its subsidiary or parent company, and distributed and sold under the Brunswick trade mark.

Article V: Masters of recorded commercial phonograph records.

A. Brunswick agrees to loan the Record Co. all master matrices...

C. The Record Co. shall pay to Brunswick the sum of 5 cents on 75 cent records or 65 cent (Canadian) records, 2 1/2 cents on Melotone [on records pressed from masters made prior to the effective date of the agreement]...

Article XII

A. This agreement... shall become effective as of the 12th day of December 1931.

This arrangement effectively ended the continuous commercial activity of the Brunswick label as covered in these volumes. The Brunswick label had, by the agreement summarized above, become the property of A.R.C. (the American Record Corporation) subject to the terms and conditions of the agreement. All previously existing Brunswick master series were discontinued at the end of 1931 or, in a few cases, within the next year or so. However, many of the existing Brunswick catalog series were continued by A.R.C. and masters made prior to the agreement were released in these series in subsequent years as provided for in the agreement. Brunswick releases continued to use labels showing the corporate entity as Brunswick Radio Corporation up until mid-1932 despite the change of ownership. Perhaps stocks of existing label blanks were being used up.

The change of ownership was first announced to the trade in the January 1932 issue of Phonograph Monthly Review, which said: “The Brunswick Radio Corp. has turned over to the new Brunswick Record Corp. the manufacturing and sales rights to Brunswick, Vocalion and Melotone records for the United States, Canada and certain foreign countries.”

A few later developments relating to Brunswick-Balke-Collender (or subsequent entities) can be summarized here as follows:

On September 1, 1933 Brunswick Radio Corp., “for $1 and other good and valuable consideration,” sold certain lots in Muskegon back to Brunswick-Balke-Collender.

In a contract dated August 16, 1934 Brunswick Radio Corp. of 321 W. 44th Street, New York City, sold its offices and factories at 619 W. 54th Street, 799 Seventh Avenue and 666 Lake Shore Drive to Decca, “as is,” for $60,000.

In an agreement dated September 25, 1935 Brunswick Radio Corp. granted Decca an exclusive five-year license to use the Brunswick trademark in the Americas—outside of the United States and Canada.

In an agreement dated May 2, 1941 Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc., sold Brunswick Radio Corp. to Decca Records for $350,000. According to Article VIII of the agreement: “With reference to the agreement dated December 3, 1931 made between Brunswick Radio Corporation and Brunswick Record Corporation, Warner represents to Decca that in the month of January 1941 Brunswick examined certain records kept by Brunswick at its office in Bridgeport, Connecticut, known as 'Monthly Journal Vouchers,' for the period from December 1, 1939 to and including December 31, 1940 and from said Monthly Journal Vouchers ascertained that Brunswick Record Corporation pressed and sold during same period not more than 150,000 phonograph records bearing the Brunswick trademark.” The number of Brunswick records being sold meant that Brunswick Record Corp. was in breach of the agreement of December 3, 1931 and consequently rights to Brunswick reverted to Brunswick Radio Corp. who licensed the trademark to Decca in the 1941 agreement.

Brunswick masters released on Decca’s Brunswick label are covered in Michel Ruppli’s The Decca Labels: A Discography (published by Greenwood Press). The A.R.C. Brunswick label is, as of this writing, not yet fully documented, but properly belongs in an A.R.C. discography, which hopefully will appear at some future time.


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Brunswick Records: A Discography of Recordings, 1916-1931  (4 vols). Compiled by Ross Laird. Reprinted by permission.