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Canadian Historical Sound Recordings


A Chronology of the Sound Recording Industry, 1878-1924

The names of Canadian companies, and the names of foreign companies beginning distribution or manufacture in Canada, are written in bold type.

Year Company Description
1878 Edison Speaking Phonograph Co. Five stock holders, including Gardiner G. Hubbard (the father-in-law of Alexander Graham Bell), bought Edison's tinfoil phonograph patent for $10,000 & guarantee of 20% of future profits. It leased out demonstration rights for promotional purposes.
1885 Volta Graphophone Co. Established by Bell & his associates to demonstrate and promote the graphophone.
1886 American Graphophone Co. Established by Bell & Tainter to manufacture and sell graphophones in the United States and Canada under licence from the Volta Graphophone Co.
1887 Edison Phonograph Co. Edison bought back the assets of the Edison Speaking Phonograph Co. and reorganized as the Edison Phonograph Co.
1888 North American Phonograph Co. Established by Jesse Lippincott to set up a sales network of local companies to lease phonographs & gramophones as dictation machines. Lippincott invested $200,000 in the American Graphophone Company and agreed to purchase 5,000 machines per year, in return for sales rights to the graphophone (except in Virginia, Delaware, and the District of Columbia). He also bought control of Edison patents for $500,000, and exclusive sales rights of the phonograph in the United States from Ezrah T. Gilliand (who had previously been granted the contract by Edison) for $250,000, leaving Edison with the manufacturing rights.

Edison Phonograph Works Established to manufacture and develop the phonograph while patents and sales rights were held by North American Phonograph Co.
1889 Columbia Phonograph Co. A group of men, licenced by the American Graphophone Company to sell graphophones in Washington, D.C., established the Columbia Phonograph Company. Also licenced by the North American Phonograph Company to sell phonographs in the same area.
1893 United States Gramophone Co. Established by Emile Berliner to attract investors for the gramophone. He hired Fred Gaisberg, who had prior recording experience, to help him in that capacity. They found investors in Philidelphia to contribute $25,000.
  American Graphophone Co.

Columbia Phonograph Co.
Control of the American Graphophone Company acquired by the president of Columbia.
1894 Pathé Frères Company founded in Paris by brothers Charles and Émile Pathé to manufacture their own talking machine, first called Le Coq, and then the Pathéphone.
1895 Berliner Gram-o-phone Co. Established in Philidelphia to manufacture all equipment and discs under licence from Washington based U.S. Gramophone Co.
  American Graphophone Co.

Columbia Phonograph Co.
The two companies were, in effect, consolidated, the Graphophone Co. concerning itself with development and manufacturing and Columbia handling distribution and sales.
1896 National Gramophone Co. Established by Frank Seaman to undertake distribution and advertising of the gramophone and given exclusive sales rights.
  National Phonograph Co. Edison dissolved the North American Phonograph Company and, salvaging his phonograph patents, established the National Phonograph Co. to manufacture and distribute phonographs for home use.
1898 The Gramophone Company (England) Established in London by William Barry Owen and E. Trevor Williams to manufacture gramophones and records in Europe.
1899 E. Berliner, Montreal Established by Emile Berliner to hold exclusive manufacturing, sales and distribution rights to gramophones and discs in Canada.
1900 R.S. Williams & Sons Around this time, R. S. Williams, an instrument manufacturer based in Toronto, begins Canadian distribution for Edison.
  The Gramophone & Typewriter Company Ltd. The Gramophone Company (England) changes its name.
1901 Victor Talking Machine Co. Established by Eldridge Johnson to take over the Berliner interests in the United States.
1904 Berliner Gram-o-phone Company of Canada E. Berliner, Montreal reorganized and renamed. Incorporated with Emmanuel Blout, Joseph Sanders, and Herbert Berliner as directors.
  Columbia Phonograph Co. Begins operations in Canada with headquarters in Toronto and offices in Hamilton, Montreal and Brantford, ON.
1906 Columbia Graphophone Company The American Graphophone company is reorganized and the name changed to reflect its identity with Columbia.
1907 The Gramophone Company (England) The Gramophone & Typewriter Company reverts to its former name. The company moves its base of operations from London to Hayes.
1909 Berliner Gram-o-phone Company Emile Berliner assumed presidency of Berliner of Canada which underwent reorganization and was renamed. The company begins issuing records on the His Master's Voice label using masters imported from The Gramophone Co. in England and France. The His Master's Voice label was later used for series of Canadian recordings in English (1916) and French (1918).
1910 Thomas A. Edison, Inc. Edison's various manufacturing enterprises were reorganized and brought together into one corporation.
1913 Canadian Vitaphone Company Established in Toronto and headed by W.R. Fosdick, former manager of His Master's Voice Ltd. in Toronto. It manufactured the Vitaphone, a disc-playing machine with a wooden tone-arm and stationary sound box, and imported Columbia records for release on its own label.
1914 Pathé Frères Begins distribution in Canada through J.A. Hurteau & Co. Ltd., Montreal and M.W. Glendon, Toronto.
1915 Starr Piano Co. Begins issuing vertical-cut records in the US.
1916 Brunswick-
Collender Co.
Begins issuing vertical-cut records in the US.
1917 Brunswick-
Collender Co. of Canada
Opens factory in Toronto to manufacture Ultona talking machine. In 1920, begins manufacturing records as well.
  Canadian Phonograph Supply Co. Begins importing Starr records.
1918 Compo Company Established in Lachine, Quebec by Herbert Berliner to press records in Canada for independent companies (e.g. Starr and Starr-Gennett labels for Starr). Later pressed its own labels (Sun, Apex).
  Columbia Graphophone Manufacturing Company Columbia reorganized.
  Pathé Frères Phonograph Co. of Canada Established in Toronto.
1924 Columbia Phonograph Co., Inc. Louis Sterling of the Columbia Phonograph Co., Ltd. of London, bought out Columbia and reorganized it.
  Victor Talking Machine Company of Canada Victor Talking Machine Co. (U.S.) acquired controlling interest in the Berliner Gram-o-phone Company, changing its name.