Friday, August 30, 2013

Columbia Phonograph Company record labels for the year of 1902. A year of big changes in the labels and the company itself..

The Columbia Phonograph Company had a rather shaky beginning when it came to the flat disc record. First off, they did not have any patents to support the making of disc records when they started their venture in mid 1901. The beginning of the Columbia disc started in New Jersey. In Milburn. New Jersey to be exact. The head of the Columbia Company Edward Easton went to the Burt Company in Milburn to see about the ability of this company to manufacture disc records. It would not be a problem for them. They had dealt with discs before for a while with the Berliner Gramophone Company.  The Climax recordings would be made by the recording engineer Mr. English. Who incidentally was the recording engineer for the International Zonophone Company. It seems that much of the talent for the early Climax Records comes from the pool of talent that was recording for Zonophone.

The original deal set up in mid 1901 was that the Burt Company would create a company within called the Globe Record Company. Through this company would be records in which Columbia could sell. These records would be called Climax Records. In fact for the first 3 weeks of production, which was very limited. The first Climax Records had no affiliation on it's label to the Columbia Company. In fact it is not totally understood why they were made this way. Was it possible that the Burt Company was selling the records too? What ever the reasons for this short lived label it was within weeks replaced. The original label was no label at all, the information about the record was embossed on the disc itself. Within 3 weeks of this original style the embossed records had labels placed over the printed material of the record stating it was a Climax Record made by the Globe Record Company solely for the Columbia Phonograph Company. This whole scene gets rather confusing as you dig deeper. But for all of 1901 there was the Climax Record.

Now for the main point of this article, by late 1901 it was a pretty open secret that Columbia was behind the Climax Records and was producing them illegally. For what they were doing went against the patents of Emile Berliner, creator of the first commercial disc record.. Until October of 1901 there was little Berliner could do about this. Because he had been forced out of the industry by the Columbia Phonograph Company and their magnificent lawyer Phillip Morro. Mr. Morro had used a very liberal interpretation of an early Bell-Tainter patent to force Berliner out through an injunction. Now of course Berliner could seethe, but do little else. 

But on Oct 3, 1901 Eldridge R. Johnson and Emile Berliner joined forces and created the Victor Talking Machine Company. It's initials were VTM and that is very important. On December 10, 1901 Columbia received their first patent on disc recording that mattered. It was the Joseph Jones patent for making wax disc recording. Edward Easton and the Columbia crew breathed a sigh of relief. Now they can take a break and have a well deserved vacation. 

They had not given much thought to the Globe Record Company as of late or to the Burt Company who was not happy about that. Do to this fact Columbia had been very late paying bills. Not once, but several times and the Burt Company was understandably very upset. 


                               The January 1902 raid on the Globe Record Company

In the dawn of the new year Eldridge Johnson paid a visit to the Burt Company and bought the Globe Record Company from them. This is very important. Remember that the Globe Record Company was making the Climax Records for Columbia. Now the main competitor of Columbia and the possessor of all the Berliner Patents owned the company that made their records! 

After the purchase of the Globe Company Johnson arranged to have all the Climax stampers from Globe brought to the Victor headquarters in Philadelphia. There each of the Climax Stampers was affixed with a circle next to the label saying VTM in it's center.  When Edward Easton and the Columbia crew returned from their vacations they were shocked to discover that their recordings were being made by their competitor and not only that. Each of their records advertised and showed who owned the records, VICTOR!!

A lot of legal issues followed as Columbia and Victor prepared to do battle. But armed with the Jones patent, Columbia could do a lot of harm to Victor. However, armed with the Berliner patents Victor could do the same to Columbia. So after a few months of a severe staring match...both blinked. Victor sold the Globe Record Company back to Columbia and Columbia allowed Victor to use the Jones patent. Of course this pooling of patents and legal movements had a profound effect on the labels of Columbia records in the year of 1902. In fact there are 5 different styles of label for this momentous year. I have put them all together here to show what I think was the progression. By 1903 everything got more simple and the labels stayed somewhat the same. 


This is the Standard early 1902 Climax Record made by the Globe Record Company when it was owned for a short while by the Victor Talking Machine Company. Note the VTM at the 2 o clock position. This label would be produced for a few months in the beginnings of the year as all the legal battles ensued. Note also the brass grommet in the center. Also note that there is no information anywhere on patents.

There was a transformation of the Climax Label as Columbia was starting to produce their own records. However, most of the recordings owned by Columbia were announced at the beginning as a Climax Record. So while a massive recording program started to make records with Columbia announcements The Climax's were sold with the VTM on it. You will see here as well on this mid 1902 Climax the VTM is also at the same 2 o clock position as the previous. This would be the last Climax label. It would be killed in middle of the year.  You will also see no patent information and the brass grommet is used like the previous.

The first Columbia label produced in the first few months of 1902. There are several telling factors. First off this is a Climax record. There was a massive mix of Columbia and Climax recordings in the early months of 1902. Through much of the year labels would be confused, masters confused, Title's confused as the Climax Record was phased out and the Columbia Record was phased in. So here we have a very early Columbia Label. It is a Climax Record as you can see the VTM at 2 o clock.  What you will see here also is no patent information. No information at all on the record. However for a very short time the Climax grommet would be carried over to the new Columbia Label.

 A slightly later Columbia Record from the middle of 1902. Note that the grommet is now gone. However here we have another example of a Climax Record. Oddly the stamp this time is at the 10 o clock position. This is due to the label just going the other way and the VTM is upside down. I gather by this time the less people that saw that or read it the better. This is the beginnings of a large amount of production of Columbia Discs. The Climax Record was no longer being produced. However this year many of the old Climax stampers were used till they wore out as Columbia needed to re-record nearly every one of their records. The records without announcements made for Climax would be used for years by Columbia. But this is the last of the no information labels

Finally we come to the last of the 1902 labels and it has the information we were looking for. Patents! By the time this record came out there were very few if any Climax records being pressed anymore.  I am sure the Columbia Company heaved a sigh of relief when the this label made it appearance. Finally the Columbia disc had come of age and was legal.