Thursday, September 12, 2013

Victor Talking Machine's first celebrity records. The short lived 5000 Red Seal series of 1903

It is always interesting to see where a series comes from. In the field of recorded sound the first red seal records were called so. The short lived Gramophone Red Seal records recorded in Russia in the end of 1900 were the first. The term Red Seal was used just shortly. Later that term was no longer used by the Gramophone or Gramophone and Typewriter. However, the Victor Talking Machine Company newly formed and incorporated on Oct 3, 1901, was looking for something new to showcase the operatic field.

In today's world it is hard to explain the rank that operatic singers were placed at during this period. I would guess that the movie stars of today are the closest in that adoration. They were looked at as the highest form of entertainer and treated like royalty.

By 1902 the Victor company was looking to expand their base. There was basically a large proportion of popular, coon, band, and comedy recordings produced by the company at their meager recording studios in Philadelphia. Although they were very successful in this field, Eldridge Reeves Johnson wanted to make the Victor Record more than just as it was looked at, and that was merely as a toy.

The Gramophone and Typewriter company which is what the Gramophone Company was know as till 1907 was recording operatic singers from it's start. The company was recording from the late 1890's operatic pieces of various qualities. By 1902 they had recorded Caruso, Calve, Plancon,  theVatican Choir with the last Castrates along with many others.  A deal was worked out in late 1902 by Calvin Child so that Victor would press and market recordings made in Europe by G&T.

This event would change the very face of the Victor Talking Machine Company.  These European recordings would be released in March of 1903. These records would have a red label and be put into the first series of it's kind, the 5000 series.  These records would sell at $2.50 each. One has to remember how much money that was in 1903. This amount would buy you a wonderful meal at Delmonico's in New York City.

This first release would be of 25 recordings and over the year more would be added during the spring and summer. By October there were a large number of recordings to choose from.

The 5000 series would be available till October of 1903. The end result was there was not a massive amount of these records ever made or sold. The price and the early date led to very small sales. But one had to remember it was not at all about sales. It was about prestige. I am aware that a very small amount of pressings each of the listings were made. Therefore after 110 years they are remarkably rare. When they were pressed they were rare.

A 1903 pressing on 5067 of the Vatican Choir recorded in April 1902 and pressed in the United States.

In October of 1903 there was change on the labels. All of the recordings that were on the 10 inch 5000 series were split. A large amount of the imported recordings were split into two different numerical listings. Many of the Red Seal records were switched to what is called 91000 series as shown below. In fact this is the same recording shown above in this new series. There is something odd about this record. It has a "D" on the bottom of the wax under the label. The "D" stands for the Dennison Recording machines, which were used by Victor and in some cases G&T from 1903 till around 1907. But this record was made in April of 1902 and most probably not using a Dennison machine. But basically most records made by Victor in this period were stamped with the "D". This was for royalty reasons that the records were marked. However I am of the thought that many recordings were stamped not needing to.

Many of these imported recordings were put on to another numerical listing for records of this type. It was called the 61000 series. The 12 inch recordings would be given the 71000 series. In fact you will see below another recording made at the Vatican in 1902 that made it to the black labeled series. These records would be priced at $1.00.  The recording below is from late 1905 or early 1906. Most of these recordings on the black labels would be gone by 1907.

A late 1906 pressing of a 1904 G&T recording. You will see that there is no "D" on this recording.

As you can see here in a 1906 listing of Imported Red Seal Records, the list is getting shorter. This was due to the fact as soon as the artist could make a new recording for Victor, the old ones listed here would be removed. The 91000 series was not a big seller either, but, was far more successful than the 5000 series.

Here are many of the recordings made at the Vatican in 1902-04 listed under the 61000 and 71000 series. In the catalog of early 1906.

Also many of the recordings made in 1902-3 in Russia were put on to the 61000 series. There had been a few originally released as Red Seal recordings.

The 91000 series would end in within a few years as the Victor Talking Machine Company would start it's first Red Seal recording series in late 1903 as you will see below. This record is from the first Red Seal session recorded in the United States in 1903. However the first Red Seal records were listed with Black Label numbers.

The end result was a massive amount of confusion concerning Imported Red Seal, Imported Black Seal, domestic Red Seal, and domestic Black label. Lastly at this time Victor started a new matrix system. However the first domestic Red Seal Records received a domestic Black label number which shows the confusion that abounded. This Red Seal problem would exist for the first two sessions at Carnegie Hall. That famous music hall is where the recording studio was located in room 826.

One of the rare examples of the first domestic Red Seal records with a Black Label number.