The story of NIPPER the HMV dog
the nipper saga
a little fox terrier sits inquisitively listening to his master's
voice coming from the horn, the famous painting is one of
the world's most recognized and best loved trademarks.
the nipper logo made his first appearance in advertising in 1900.
enjoy the story!
was a stray dog found in 1884 by mark barraud
in bristol, uk. when mark died three years later,
nipper (so named because of his tendency to nip the backs
of visitors' legs) was taken to liverpool by mark's younger
brother francis, who was a painter.
nipper discovered the phonograph (a cylinder recording
and playing machine) and francis barraud often noticed how
puzzled he was to make out where the voice came from.
this scene must have been indelibly printed in barraud's brain,
for it was three years after nipper died (in september 1895)
that he committed it to canvas.
'his master's voice'
in its original form, completed in early 1899, the picture
showed the dog listening to a phonograph with a black horn.
this is the version which was submitted for copyright by
francis barraud on 11th february 1899 under the title
'dog looking at and listening to a phonograph'.
later barraud decided to rename the painting 'his master's voice'.
barraud tried to exhibit it at the royal academy, but was turned
down. he had no more luck trying to offer it for reproduction
'no one would know what the dog was doing' was given
as the reason!
next on barraud's list was the edison bell company
(leading manufacturer of the cylinder phonograph),
but again without success.
'dogs don't listen to phonographs,' the company said.
a friend then suggested that barraud could make the picture
more attractive by replacing the black horn with a more
modern brass one - and this might better his opportunity for a sale.
barraud visited the newly formed gramophone company,
with a photograph of his painting and a request to borrow
a brass horn to use as a model.
the manager of the gramophone company, gary owen,
liked the painting and offered to buy it if barraud replaced the
phonograph with a berliner gramophone for the edison
cylinder machine. the artist made the changes and the revised
painting was delivered on 17th october 1899.
at his visit to london in may 1900, emile berliner (the germany-born
and washington-based inventor of the flat disc record and the
gramophone) saw the painting hanging on the wall in owen’s office
in the gramophone company.
berliner contacted barraud and asked him to make a copy of the
painting which he brought back to the united states and immediately
sought a trademark for it, granted by the patent office on july 10, 1900.
berliner passed the trademark on to his partner eldridge r. johnson
(with whom he had worked on improving the gramophone).
johnson’s company, the victor talking machine, extended the
trademark protection to central and south america,
the far east and japan.
in the states the nipper logo appeared on johnson’s victor
talking machine sales promotion novelties, on letter headings,
on victor record catalogs and on the paper labels of the discs.
it became the brand logo also of the gramophone company in
england and it appeared on all company literature.
allthough the gramophone company already had an icon
- the 'recording angel' - the dog and trumpet appeared on all
gramophone record labels.
in germany, the DGG (deutsche grammophon gesellschaft)
introduced the logo with the german translation ‘ die stimme
these affiliations lasted roughly until the end of world war II.
the icon survived the merger of victor with RCA in 1929.
died in his 69th year on 29th august 1924,
having painted some 24 copies of his most famous work,
commissioned by the gramophone and victor companies for
their branch offices around the world.
barraud was unlucky not to gain the copyrights of the modified
nipper painting, instead he received two payments of £ 50 each.
the first gave the company sole reproduction rights,
while the second transferred barraud's copyright to the
gramophone company ltd.
the original painting hangs in the offices of EMI,
the successor of the gramophone company.
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