Blawg Review

It's not just a blog carnival; it's the law! ~ a fool in the forest

Nipper's Blawg Review

Nipper (1884 - 1895) was a dog that served as the model for a painting entitled His Master's Voice, which later became identified with a series of audio recording brands, including RCA Records. It's quite a story.
Nipper’s original owner, Mark Henry Barraud, died in 1887, leaving his brothers Philip and Francis to care for the dog. In 1898, three years after Nipper’s death, Francis painted a picture of Nipper listening intently to a wind-up Edison-Bell cylinder phonograph. On February 11, 1899, Francis filed an application for copyright of his picture “Dog Looking At and Listening to a Phonograph.” Thinking the Edison-Bell Company might find it useful, he presented it to James E. Hough who (displaying the kind of thinking that would eventually doom the Edison Records company itself) promptly said, “Dogs don’t listen to phonographs.”

On May 31, 1899, Francis went to the Maiden Lane offices of The Gramophone Company with the intention of borrowing a brass horn to replace the original black horn on the painting. Manager, William Barry Owen suggested that if the artist replaced the entire machine with a Berliner disc gramophone, the Company would buy the painting. The slogan “His Master’s Voice” along with the painting were sold to The Gramophone Company for 100 pounds sterling. As Francis Barraud stated about this famous painting: “It is difficult to say how the idea came to me beyond that fact that it suddenly occurred to me that to have my dog listening to the Phonograph, with an intelligent and rather puzzled expression, and call it “His Master’s Voice” would make an excellent subject. We had a phonograph and I often noticed how puzzled he was to make out where the voice came from. It certainly was the happiest thought I ever had.” Presumption that Nipper is sitting on the coffin of his former master has never been confirmed by the artist nor the Victor Talking Machine Company. Nipper had three masters during his lifetime, Mark, Philip, and Francis Barraud. Not one master ever made a sound recording for Nipper to hear.

This modified form of the painting became the successful trademark of Victor and HMV records, HMV music stores, and RCA. (See HMV for a complete history of the brands based on Nipper.)
Coincidentally, or not, this week's Blawg Review #146 is hosted by patent attorney Stephen Nipper at The Invent Blog on National Inventor's Day in honor of Thomas Alva Edison, the inventor of the phonograph!