Overseas Recordings

by Ted Fagan and Bill Moran

Adapted for the EDVR website from Vol. II of The Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings. New York: Greenwood Press, 1986.

“Overseas Recordings” was term was used by those at Victor in reference to recordings made by the Victor Talking Machine Company outside the United States, and we have adopted the same usage. These are not to be confused with recordings made by the Gramophone Company, its predecessors or successors, in Europe and elsewhere which were pressed in Victor plants for sale by Victor to its customers in North and South America. Such recordings were termed “Imported.”

Information on Victor’s recording activities outside the United States in the early period is confused by lack of documentation. We know that Victor marketed Japanese and Chinese recordings before 1905. We know that some of these were made domestically, but many copies of Victor Chinese records which have been examined bear the note “Recorded in China”. We know that in 1902 and 1903, Fred Gaisberg recorded for The Gramophone Company in China and Japan. We know that the Trade Mark “Velley Good Talkee,” with a caricature of a Chinese man taking the place of Nipper before the horn, was filed in China on 22 July, 1904, and was issued. We know that Victor entered into an agreement on 3 August, 1904 with The Gramophone Company listing certain countries where each company should have exclusive rights to patents and trade marks: this agreement gave India and Japan to The Gramophone Company, but China to Victor.

During the year 1905 there was much internal correspondence at Victor which included population studies for many countries of the world, and suggested clarifications and renegotiations of the 1904 contract with The Gramophone Company. We do not have files which show to what extent this agreement was altered, but we do know that at some later date Japan was moved to the Victor list, after which The Gramophone Company transferred certain Japanese matrices to Victor. Hopefully, during the course of further work with the Victor files, a clearer picture of Victor’s “Overseas” efforts can be offered.

Before Victor established foreign factories in Santiago, Buenos Aires, Yokohama, and elsewhere in the late 20’s and 30’s, their overseas recordings were “taken” by recording teams sent out from Camden. They carted stacks of wax recording blanks with them, put up in local hotels where they established temporary studios, and recorded local talent. The waxes were then sent back to Camden for processing and pressing. One such team was sent to Mexico in July, 1905, and we have located parts of the listings for these sessions, as well as for some on-site recordings made in Cuba, probably the same year. The 1905 Mexico City team was given a special suffix for their Matrix numbers, the letters “Y”, “Z” and “W”. Later teams seemed to have letter prefixes, as may be noted from the lists which follow. A list of matrix prefixes used by Victor lists their completion status in EDVR.

Victor’s activities in the Far East are least known to the editors of the Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings. We welcome information about Victor’s Chinese and Japanese recordings of 1900-1910 from those who may own some of the recordings, or has access to documentation of these recordings.