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A Chronology of the Sound Recording Industry, 1878-1924

The history of the early recording industry can be extremely confusing, with its multitude of companies (often with nearly identical names), and complex corporate relationships. This table is designed to provide some clarification.

Green graphical element Edison companies Red graphical element Bell/Columbia companies
Yellow graphical element Berliner/Victor companies Grey graphical element Independent companies

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 Green graphical element Edison Speaking Phonograph Co. Five stock holders, including Gardiner G. Hubbard (the father-in-law of Alexander Graham Bell), bought Edisonís tinfoil phonograph patent for $10 000 & guarantee of 20% of future profits. It leased out demonstration rights for promotional purposes.
1885 Reg graphical element Volta Graphophone Co. Established by Bell & his associates to demonstrate and promote the graphophone.
1886 Red graphical element 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 Green graphical element Edison Phonograph Co. Edison bought back the assets of the Edison Speaking Phonograph Co. and reorganized as the Edison Phonograph Co.
1888 Grey graphical element 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 5000 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.
Green graphical element Edison Phonograph Works Established to manufacture and develop the phonograph while patents and sales rights were held by North American Phonograph Co.
1889 Red graphical element 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 Yellow graphical element 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.
Red graphical element American Graphophone Co.

Columbia Phonograph Co.
Control of the American Graphophone Company acquired by the president of Columbia.
1894 Grey graphical element 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 Yellow graphical element Berliner Gram-o-phone Co. Established in Philidelphia to manufacture all equipment and discs under licence from Washington based U.S. Gramophone Co.
Red graphical element 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 Yellow graphical element National Gramophone Co. Established by Frank Seaman to undertake distribution and advertising of the gramophone and given exclusive sales rights.
Green graphical element 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 Yellow graphical element The Gramophone Company (England) Established in London by William Barry Owen and E. Trevor Williams to manufacture gramophones and records in Europe.
1899 Yellow graphical element E. Berliner, Montreal Established by Emile Berliner to hold exclusive manufacturing, sales and distribution rights to gramophones and discs in Canada.
1900 Grey graphical element

Green graphical element
R.S. Williams & Sons Around this time, R. S. Williams, an instrument manufacturer based in Toronto, begins Canadian distribution for Edison.
Yellow graphical element The Gramophone & Typewriter Company Ltd. The Gramophone Company (England) changes its name.
1901 Yellow graphical element Victor Talking Machine Co. Established by Eldridge Johnson to take over the Berliner interests in the United States.
1904 Yellow graphical element Berliner Gram-o-phone Company of Canada E. Berliner, Montreal reorganized and renamed. Incorporated with Emmanuel Blout, Joseph Sanders, and Herbert Berliner as directors.
Red graphical element Columbia Phonograph Co. Begins operations in Canada with headquarters in Toronto and offices in Hamilton, Montreal and Brantford, ON.
1906 Red graphical element Columbia Graphophone Company The American Graphophone company is reorganized and the name changed to reflect its identity with Columbia.
1907 Yellow graphical element 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 Yellow graphical element 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 Masterís Voice label using masters imported from The Gramophone Co. in England and France. The His Masterís Voice label was later used for series of Canadian recordings in English (1916) and French (1918).
1910 Green graphical element Thomas A. Edison, Inc. Edisonís various manufacturing enterprises were reorganized and brought together into one corporation.
1913 Grey graphical element Canadian Vitaphone Company Established in Toronto and headed by W.R. Fosdick, former manager of His Masterís 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 Grey graphical element Pathé Frères Begins distribution in Canada through J.A. Hurteau & Co. Ltd., Montreal and M.W. Glendon, Toronto.
1915 Grey graphical element Starr Piano Co. Begins issuing vertical-cut records in the US.
1916 Grey graphical element Brunswick-
Balke-
Collender Co.
Begins issuing vertical-cut records in the US.
1917 Grey graphical element Brunswick-
Balke-
Collender Co. of Canada
Opens factory in Toronto to manufacture Ultona talking machine. In 1920, begins manufacturing records as well.
Grey graphical element Canadian Phonograph Supply Co. Begins importing Starr records.
1918 Grey graphical element 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).
Red graphical element Columbia Graphophone Manufacturing Company Columbia reorganized.
Grey graphical element Pathé Frères Phonograph Co. of Canada Established in Toronto.
1924 Red graphical element Columbia Phonograph Co., Inc. Louis Sterling of the Columbia Phonograph Co., Ltd. of London, bought out Columbia and reorganized it.
Yellow graphical element 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.