Brunswick Branches and Affiliates Outside the United States
Brunswick Records: A Discography of Recordings, 1916-1931, compiled by Ross Laird.
The Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company had been long established in Canada by the time the parent company began to manufacture phonographs. According to a report in the September 1916 issue of the Canadian Music Trades Journal, Brunswick was already manufacturing phonographs in Canada at a factory on Hanna Avenue, Toronto.
By August 1917 Brunswick phonographs were being advertised as available through The Musical Merchandise Sales Co. of 80 York St., Toronto. This company seems to have been a wholly owned subsidiary of Brunswick as the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co. of Canada had been listed at the same address since 1914. The manager at that time was Samuel K. Cox. An important feature of these phonograph advertisements is that some display a special box reading: “Remember This!! You will have your own Brunswick records to sell with the machines. A variety of 300 records are now ready to choose from.”
This notice is the earliest known published reference to the availability of the first Brunswick records which were distributed only in Canada. The reference to “300 records” seems to be a case of sales “hype” as only the first batch of 100 Brunswick records were available at this time.
The October 1917 issue of the same journal reports that the “Musical Merchandise Sales Co., sole Canadian distributors of Brunswick phonographs, have opened up quarters in the Excelsior Life Building, Toronto. They will carry samples of the complete line of Brunswick phonographs. Mr. Peet, who has been connected with Brunswick in the United States, joins the staff of Musical Merchandise Sales Co. to look after the interests of Brunswick and visiting dealers who can expect the line at the address given. The company now announce the new Brunswick records, of which a catalogue of some five hundred numbers is available. These are of the ‘hill-and-dale’ type, and the list is being added to each month.”
While it is correct that from then on new releases were added to the initial batch of 100 issues which were first made available earlier in 1917, the total number of Brunswick records in the catalog is still being overstated. These vertical Brunswick records continued to be released only in Canada until mid-1919.
By late 1919 the vertical-cut Brunswicks had been discontinued. Some left-over stocks appear to have overprinted with a Brilliant label and presumably sold off cheaply. From 1920, the new lateral Brunswick records made in Canada had the same couplings and catalog numbers as the equivalent issues in the U.S.
An interesting feature of the 1917-1919 Canadian Brunswicks was that the basic 5000 series catalog numbers were in many cases changed by the addition of various prefixes so that only the last three digits continued the numerical sequence. This was done because the one series included discs that sold for different prices. When the Canadian Brunswick records were first released, all issues used the same catalog series, but the actual selling price ranged from 75 cents to $1.25 (with classical items being regarded as prestige releases justifying a higher price). This system was evidently found to be confusing, as by January 1918 the first prefixed issues were advertised. By this date the basic price for records with 5000 series numbers had risen to 90 cents, but several issues had the first digit replaced by 12 (e.g., 12147) to indicate the price was $1.25, and others had the first digit replaced by 20 (e.g., 20162) to indicate the price was $2.00. Later variations include the first digit being replaced by 15 (for $1.50 records), and the first digit being replaced by 25 (for $2.75 records). Prices were later increased for some of these categories, but the “prefix” remained the same. All such issues occur in the normal numerical sequence and the last three digits continue to indicate the actual number. This is certainly one of the more unusual catalog series of the period.
In 1919 the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co. of Canada changed its address to 69 Bay Street, Toronto. By 1922 it was listed as at 78 Bay Street, and the manager was Alfred H. Barbeau. In 1923 the address is listed as 226 Bay Street, and by 1926 the address is given as 358 Bay Street and the manager is William B. Puckett. It is unknown why Brunswick moved offices in the same street so frequently. Bay Street was the centre of the financial district in Toronto, so possibly the cost of renting an office in this area was a factor.
From 1926 the address remains constant until at least 1930, but the General Manager in 1929 was John F. Bain, and in 1930 Alfred A. Barbeau seems to have returned to this position (assuming this is actually Alfred H. Barbeau who was manager from 1922 to 1925).
Canadian Brunswick records released between 1920 and 1931 are all in the same catalog series as were available in the U.S. However, there were a few issues made specifically for the Canadian market. These included two Newfoundland songs on Brunswick 2176, French-Canadian songs by Charles Marchand on Brunswick 3388 through 3393, a further block of French Canadian vocals on Brunswick 3416 through 3424, the Canadian national anthem on Brunswick 3776, and a block of couplings on Brunswick 4963 thru 4967 which duplicated issues in the Brunswick 7000 “race” series (which was not distributed in Canada). There were a few other similar releases in various Brunswick series, but after the demise of the vertical Brunswicks of 1917-1919 which were sold only in Canada, there were no further catalog series which were uniquely Canadian (only odd releases in catalog series which were normally available in both the U.S. and Canada). The French Canadian 52000 series may have been an exception.
When the Brunswick label was acquired by the American Record Corporation in the U.S. the rights to the label in Canada passed to the Compo Company (A.R.C.’s local affiliate) who continued to press Brunswick records using the same couplings and catalog numbers as the U.S. issues (as was already the case) and also pressed the Melotone label.
From the early 1920s a distribution outlet under the name La Compaña Brunswick-Balke-Collender was located in Mexico City at La de Capuchinas, 25. No further details are known.
From the early 1920s a distribution outlet under the name La Compaña Brunswick-Balke-Collender was located in Havana at 102 O’Reilly St. No further details are known.
A branch of Brunswick was established in Argentina in the early 1920s as La Compaña Brunswick-Balke-Collender and located at Viamonte, 758, Buenos Aires. By the late 1920s the name was Compaña Brunswick Sudamericana S.A., and this entity pressed U.S. Brunswick couplings with the same catalog numbers (except that the titles were in Spanish), and local recordings in series unique to Argentina. With the takeover of Brunswick by Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc., the local company was reformed as Brunswick Radio of Argentina Inc. Subsequent developments are unknown.
A Brazilian subsidiary was established in 1927 as Companhia Brunswick de Brasil. No further details are known.
The Chappell Piano Co., Ltd., of 50 New Bond St., London became sole concessionaires for Brunswick records in November 1923. Masters were imported from the U.S. and selected releases from the U.S. catalogs were pressed in Britain (probably by Pathé Freres Pathéphone Ltd.) and marketed by Cliftophone Ltd. of 40 Bermondsey Square, London. All couplings were initially the same as the equivalent U.S. issues and used the same catalog numbers. At first the records were labelled Brunswick-Cliftophone Records, but after the first year or so the labels were credited simply as Brunswick (but with Cliftophone Ltd. credited very prominently as distributor).
British Brunswick Ltd., of George St., Hanover Square, London, W.1 was registered on September 20, 1926 as a privately owned company, and W. Sinkler Darby was appointed Managing Director. A few months earlier (in February 1926) the Thomson-Houston Company, Ltd., had been licensed to make and sell the Panatrope in Britain. Subsequently, British Brunswick, Ltd., took over this contract.
By 1926 a few Brunswick issues began to be coupled differently from the equivalent U.S. release (and a very few issues even used masters which appeared on Vocalion in the U.S.), but the vast majority of issues were the same as the U.S. couplings until late 1927 when apparently a decision was made that the British issues would no longer jump catalog numbers not chosen for release in Britain but would run consecutively. The effect of this decision was that very quickly the British issues (although still numbered in the same 3000 series as the U.S. releases) began to bear totally different numbers from the equivalent U.S. issues. Some issues which had been skipped earlier appeared later on a British Brunswick issue with a much higher number than the original U.S. issue (e.g., Clarence Williams’ U.S. Brunswick 3580 which was released as British Brunswick 3667).
As not all U.S. Brunswicks were released in Britain, the British Brunswick numbers gradually lagged far behind the U.S. catalog (and when 3999 was reached it was actually equivalent to U.S. Brunswick 4330). After Brunswick 3999 was allocated, British Brunswick introduced a short-lived 5000 series (the highest known being 5051 which was equivalent to U.S. Brunswick 4414). A similar situation existed with regard to other Brunswick series.
In addition, by July 1927 British Brunswick also released locally recorded material in a 100 series which also included a few masters drawn from Deutsche Grammophon.
When British Brunswick, Ltd., was floated as a public company in November 1927, its offices were relocated to 15-19 Cavendish Place, London. W. Sinkler Darby continued as a Director.
On April 5, 1928 British Brunswick, Ltd., and Duophone and Unbreakable Record Co., Ltd., fonned an alliance. The most significant result of this was that several new Duophone series were initiated: a D4000 series which used mostly masters recorded in the U.S. by Brunswick-BalkeCollender specially for release in Britain; and a D500 series which almost exclusively used masters recorded in Britain.
What had begun as an alliance between the two companies soon resulted in a takeover of British Brunswick, Ltd. by Duophone and a new board of directors replaced the previous one. Very quickly the new management was in crisis, and Duophone only avoided being wound up in January 1929 by selling its New Malden pressing plant to the recently fonned Decca Record Co., Ltd. This enabled it to pay off its creditors.
In June 1929 a receiver was appointed for the Duophone and Unbreakable Record Co., and on October 5, 1929 the company went into liquidation as a result of a petition by the Bmnswick-BalkeCollender Co. as creditors.
From October 1929 until October 1930 there was no Brunswick label in Britain. In late 1930 the newly formed Brunswick Radio Corp., established a British subsidiary as Warner Brunswick, Ltd., and a new Brunswick series began at 1000.
Following an agreement with the Brunswick-Balke-Collcnder Co. in December 1926 BrunswickSchallplatten began to be produced in Germany by the Deutsche Grammophon, A. G., HannoverBerlin and Vienna.
A catalog series was begun at A100 for 10” records and A5000 for 12” records. In most cases the German releases used the same couplings as the U.S. issues, but with a unique catalog number. Some German Brunswick issues during 1927 drew on masters issued in the U.S. on Vocalion. After A499 the 10” series resumed at A7500.
From mid-1927 German Brunswick began to use non-vocal masters specially recorded in the U.S. for the German market. These were recorded as additional takes at the same sessions which produced the recordings made for the domestic U.S. market. In a few cases German language vocals were substituted. After 1929 relatively few non-vocal masters were made for the German market (presumably as a cost-cutting exercise in the deteriorating economic conditions).
German Brunswick also used a few masters recorded in Berlin by Deutsche Grammophon, and some blocks of catalog numbers were used for recordings made for export to various European markets (especially to Scandinavia). These export recordings were all recorded in Berlin.
By 1931 the German Brunswick catalog series had reached the A9000s and most issues were still drawn from U.S. Brunswick sources. After the takeover of the Brunswick name by the American Record Corporation, the German label continued on using A.R.C. masters.
In 1923 a French branch was established as the Compagnie Brunswick Fran raise. Initially, it is believed that the activities of this branch were confined to pressing Brunswick records using masters recorded elsewhere. But by 1931 French Brunswick was releasing their own recordings in a Brunswick A500000 series. No further details are known.
In the late 1920s a Brunswick branch was established in Italy. The Italian Brunswick 4000 catalog series docs not duplicate the U.S. catalog. No further details are known.
U.S. pressings of Brunswick records were imported into Australia and distributed by D. Davis and Co., Ltd., from 1921. The same company established a pressing plant at 30-34 Hutchinson St., Darlinghurst, Sydney in July. 1924. This was the first factory for the manufacture of disc records established in Australia.
The factory was run under an agreement with Brunswick-Balke-Collender in the U.S. who owned a share of the business. All masters were supplied from the U.S., and Brunswick never had a recording studio in Australia. Most releases were the same coupling as the equivalent U.S. issue and used the same catalog number. However, a small percentage of Australian prcssings differ from the U.S. pressing by being recoupled, but there were no Brunswick catalog series unique to Australia. Some issues added an “X” suffix to the catalog number to indicate it was not the original coupling, but not all cross-couplings were so indicated.
On May 1, 1930 a new corporate entity, Brunswick (Australia) Ltd., was registered which took over from D. Davis and Co. all rights to manufacture Brunswick records, phonographs and radios under the Brunswick trademark.
In February 1931 the Panachord subsidiary label was launched in Australia. Panachord was the equivalent to the Melotone label in the U.S. except that some material originally issued on Brunswick appeared on Panachord (often under a pseudonym).
Around the same time Brunswick also produced the Embassy label for sale by Coles chain stores.
In September 1931 D. Davis and Co. took action in the Equity Court for the compulsory winding up of Brunswick (Australia) Ltd. On October 10, 1931 the Court granted the injunction. As a result the Brunswick label ceased to exist in Australia at this point.
Further Background Information
For additional details regarding the discographical listings in these volumes please return to the User’s Guide.
Brunswick Records: A Discography of Recordings, 1916-1931 (4 vols). Compiled by Ross Laird. Reprinted by permission.