On the Record:
Berliner Brown Records ...
The one characteristic of the earliest "made in Canada" records that makes them both recognizable and in
demand by collectors, particularly those in the United States, is the fact that from 1900 to about 1910 the
Montreal-pressed records of Emile Berliner were, unlike any others at the time, on a light to medium brown
material, known to collectors as "brown wax", although wax was never used for disc records and only for the
earliest cylinders. These records were apparently introduced in early 1900, shortly after Berliner set up
operations in Montreal. The first issues, like the U.S. Berliners in size and often in musical content, were 7-inch
records which, unlike their earlier American counterparts, had a brown and gold paper label. They were known
as "Gram-O-Phone" or "Improved Gram-O-Phone" records, crediting the Berliner Gram-O-Phone Company of
In the following year, 1901, the U.S. Victor firm introduced the 10-inch "Monarch" record and these appeared in
Canada as the "Berliner Concert Grand" record. Shortly thereafter, probably late 1902 or 1903, the familiar
figure of Nipper appeared on a label similar to the Victor/ Monarch label, then in use in America, and the brand
name was simplified to "Concert Record" while the label colour was lightened to match the milk-chocolate
colour of the actual record. During this period, and probably until 1904, the Canadian records differed from their
U.S. counterparts in two respects; first, they were numbered in their own sequence, with most in a 5000 series
(even though the majority were pressed from Victor matrices), and second, the centre holes of the records were
protected by a brass ferrule - a feature which would have saved many a record for today's collectors, as the
automatic changers introduced in the late 1930s had a tendency to chew away at the hole in the record!
In early 1905 the "Monarch" and "Deluxe" labels, identifying 10 and 12-inch Victor records respectively, were
replaced by the Victor name, which henceforth appeared on virtually all the records of the company. At the
same time or shortly later, the "Concert" label was replaced by a "Victor" label on Berliner's records from U.S.
matrices, with a notice announcing that the record was specifically "for sale or use in Canada only". (It is not
known just who dealt with the offenders, - and how - , who were bold enough to play one of these in Detroit
or Buffalo!) It was at or near this time that the Canadian number sequences were dropped and Victor numbers
were used. Somewhat later, the phrase "His Master's Voice" was added above the "Victor Record" which
appeared on each side of the centre hole, so that the trade name appeared to read "His Master's Voice-Victor", a
phrasing which was used until 1947 on Canadian Berliner and Victor products, with the exception of Berliner's
Montreal-recorded products from 1918 until 1924 and a handful of records pressed from U.S. matrices which
possibly used leftover labels from the Canadian records. These bore the legend"His Master's Voice" without
The use of brown material for records continued through at least most, if not all, of 1909, and through the first
100-odd double-sided issues in the 16000 series. At some point late in 1909 or early 1910, the brown records
were quietly discontinued, and Berliner's products appeared in the familiar black. This was the last North
American appearance of brown or "red" records until Aeolian Vocalion introduced their label in late 1918.
Ironically, the Canadian equivalent of this label appeared on black records! There were two rather odd types of
records of the "brown wax" period. The first is the pre-1909 Canadian Red Seal series, brown material but with
the familiar crimson label; the second apparently resulted from some frugal manager in Berliner's operation
being unwilling to discard the brown labels left over from the matching records, and appears as occasional black
records bearing two (or less often, one) brown labels.