"From the very beginning of the story of recorded sound, the name of Columbia has been omnipresent, a major character in the drama; for drama is what it is". So introduces Rust [R] in his extensive chapter on Columbia, the label, the name ‘graphophone', and the Columbia Phonograph Company and later companies using the ‘Columbia' label. The drama is centered on the bitter corporate battles around the right to manufacture and market the ‘gramophone record' as we know it, specifically the ten and later twelve inch 78 rpm record which became so popular from the 1900s through to the mid-1950s - over half a century. At the core of recorded music development were the inventors, theengineers, the coprorate entrepreneurs - and the lawyers, for many disputes were resolved in court. To add to the confusion is thwe releases of the Columbia laabel in both the USA and the UK, and other countries such as Australia.
It would be superfluous
to document here the development of ‘Columbia' when its history has been
so competently researched by the likes of Rust, and Sutton. I will add,
or rather include, just a few notes for my own purpsoes.
Corporate history: The Columbia Phonograph Company was established in Washington, DC, USA, in 1888, as an agency of the North American Phonograph Co., to market Edison Phonographs and Bell-Tainter Graphophones. It became a subsidiary of the North American Phonograph Company the following year. The initial product was the cylinder record, Columbia issueing their first cylinder catalog in 1891. The North American Phonograph Co., was liquidated in 1894, but the subsidiary Columbia Phonograph Company remained intact, obtained ‘territorial rights' to marketing, and joined up with the American Graphophone Company to form the Columbia Phonograph Company, General. Two years later, 1896, the trademark ‘Columbia' was used, as applied to its playing machines. In 1897, marketing of Columbia Graphophones and cylinders were licensed to the London Phonograph Co. In 1898 Columbia made their first wax vertical cut disc records, but sold them only in the UK. In 1901 the first Columbia disc records were issued in the USA on 7 inch and 10 inch discs, under the label ‘Climax'. The name was changed to ‘Columbia Disc Record' in September 1902. I wonder why! The Columbia Grand Opera Series was released in 1903. All discs up to this time were single-sided. In 1904 the first double-sided discs were introduced but were quickly withdrawn due to a ptent infringement. A branch of the company was opened in Sydney in 1905 - not sure if manufacturing was included. In 1906 Columbia Phonograph Company, General merged with the American Graphopone Company and reorganised as the Columbia Graphophone Co. The ‘Velvet-Tone' discs, of thin plastic with a paper core, were released this year. Cylinders ceased to be manufactured in 1912. In 1913, the London company standardissed it name to that of the USA company. In 1913, the Columbia-Rena opera discs were released ‘at a popular price'; these remained till 1915 when the ‘Rena' name was dropped. In 1913 the ‘Phoenix' klabel was introduced, and the ‘Rega;' label in January 1914. In 1923, UK Columbia was purchased by an English syndicate. It appears to have retained its name.
In 1924, Columbia
Graphone Co, was incorporated as Columbia Garphone Co., Inc., and released
its ‘Masterworks' series. Now for more intrigue. In 1925, the American
Columbia companies went bankrupt but were rescued by moiney raised by Sir
Louis Sterling and thus became British owened. The UK office under Sterling
also took over interests in Germany and Holland, and thus the Prlophone
label passed into Columbia's control. In 1927, Columbia Phonograph Corp
Inc, formed the Columbia Broadcasting System - CBS, (but remained a separate
coporation in its own right it was taken over by CBS in 1932). Further
growth ocurred with the takeover of other companies and labels, including
Okeh, Pathe. In 1931, in the UK, Columbia merged with The Gramophone Company
to form Electrical and Musical Industries - EMI. (Remember that The
Gramophone Company had the HMV label, so now Nipper works for Columbia.)
This remained independent of the American CBS company - it was not a subsidiary,
so CBS did not have access to HMV and Nipper. In 1939 CBS purchased
the Brunswick Radio Coporation, formerly Brunwick-Balke-Collender Co.,
so now had the Brunsiwck label under control until pahsed out in 1940.
In 1948, the (USA) Columbia Phonograph Company (not CBS) launched ‘the
world's fitsty successful long playing record'.
This appears to be the second Columbia label;
The catalog number3371 identifies it as a USA
release from 1906.
R010 c3 COLUMBIA PHONOGRAPH CO.
New York, London.
Grand Prize Paris 1900. Grand Prize St.Louis 11904.
3371. UNCLE QUIT WORK, TOO (Jean Havez).
Sung by Bob Roberts, baritone solo with Orchestra
[Single sided only. Reverse of record is plain, with
no embossing, and had a label attached which
reads as follows - bold and intalics as is:
THIS RECORD is manufactured by the American
Graphopone Company under certain patents and
licensed or sold through its sole sales agent, the
Columbia Phonograph Company General, subject t
o conditions and restrictions as to the persons to
and the prices at which it may be resold by any
person into whose hands it comes. Copies or
duplicates must not bemade from it.
THE PRICE OF THIS RECORD throughout the
United States is SIXTY CENTS. No sale is authorized
and no license is grannted to use this record when
sold below that price. Any violation of any of such
conditions or restrictions maakes the seller or user l
iable as an infringer of said patent. AMERICAN
|A few notes on the above records (from Rust [R]): L223 - matrix 4059 indicates released in the USA in 1909. This seems to be at odds with the detail that the Columbia Phonograph Company, General lasted from 1894 to 1906. L118 - matrix 41955 indicates released in USA in 1915. L011 - matrix 65365 indicates released in England in 1916. R011 - matrix 26508 indicates that it was released in England in 1908; ffirst double-sided discs were released in 1904. Note also that the Columbia Phonograph Company, General lasted from 1894 to 1906.|
The Rena trademark
was used between 1913 and 1915. This helps to identify the date of
the above records.
Note the ‘Grafonola' trademark. A gramophone by this name was released on 14 September 1915. It could be presumed that the discs shown above were released with the Grafonola name included so as to promote the hardware.
The above ‘Sample Record' is very interesting, and one I have not seen listed by the many authors and enthusiasts to whom I have refered. Ted Lewis was a popular band leader famous for his theatrics and inability to play his instrument, the clarinet. As for the red Columbia L193, it could well have been manufactured in France but there is no indication of such.
See general write-up for the development of Columbia in England.
J0022 sc4 COLUMBIA Columbia Graphophone Co. Ltd. Made in England
Swing Music Series. (No.117). DB.2671 (CO41829) JOHNSON RAG (Hall - Kleinkauf - Lawrence).
Jimmy Dorsey and his orginal "Dorseyland" Jazz Band. Vocalist: Claire (Shanty) Hogan
Swing Music Series. (No.118). DB.2671 (CO41845) SOUTH RAMPART STREET PARADE (Bauduc - Haggart) Ibid [no vocal]
J0292 sc4+ COLUMBIA
Columbia Graphone Co.Ltd., Made in England.
J642 sc3+ COLUMBIA
Made in Great Britain (Green Label)
L12-034 THE ENGLISH MUSIC SOCIETY. Recorded by Columbia Graphophone Co. Ltd. London.
These special releases contain an image of the artist, with their name in large letters.
L12-030 THE SCHOOL OF ENGLISH CHURCH MUSIC. Columbia Graphophone Co. Ltd. London.
Columbia has been
represented with their own subsidiary in Sydney since 1905.
The DNZ prefix was released in 1956 and 1957. The extensive DO prefix was first released June 1930 and conytinued all the way through to 1958. (Miller provides catalog nukber against year released). Other prefixes includes DOX (12 inch), LOX (12 inch), ROX (12 inch) and PR. There were also two childrens labels on 6 inch and 8 inch records.
Australian recordings: Jack Miller [J] lists nineteen jazz selectiions.
Records in collection (labels illustrated):
V226 c3+ COLUMBIA
Columbia Graphophone (Aust) Pty Ltd., Sydney. Released 1928.
J0397 sc4 COLUMBIA
Made in Australia
G004 sc4+ COLUMBIA
Columbia Graphophone (Aust) Pty Ltd. Made in Australia.
L170 c3+ COLUMBIA
Columbia Graphophone (Aust) Ltd., Sydney.
V078 sc3 COLUMBIA
Made in Australia for Columbia Graphophone (Aust) Pty Ltd., Sydney.
Australian jazz recordings
See Regal Zonophone
for a number of Graeme Bell recordings. These were recorded by Columbia
CHINA or JAPAN?