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The Birth of "His Master's Voice" - Part 2

The popularity of the trademark 'His Master's Voice' became assured just as soon as it was parodied. Many a time it was used in politics, and designs with variations were elaborated by cartoonists.

One of the best known of the caricatures is entitled 'His Master's Breath', in which the Gramophone is replaced by a whisky bottle with a funnel sticking out in a slanting position and a measly little terrier pup sniffing it.

The first use of the dog trademark on records was by Eldridge Johnson in 1901 on his U.S. 'Consolidated Talking Machine Company' label. By 1902, after the formation of the Victor Talking Machine Co. late the previous year, it was reported that the, country was 'beginning to go wild over the dog picture.' Nipper appeared on British record labels for the first time in 1909, replacing the earlier, and familiar, 'Angel' mark, and by late 1910 was appearing on all the Gramophone Company's products. It is widely considered now that the dog and gramophone trademark is probably the most famous trademark in advertising history.

Throughout this amazing growth of recognition and popularity of Barraud's design, the artist was not forgotten by the Victor Company. Between 1913 and 1923 Francis Barraud is known to have been commissioned to paint 24 replicas of his original painting. These were given to Directors and special clients of the Victor Company. One of these paintings Barraud made as a gift to the Company and is known as the 'Chinese Copy'. This particular painting is an exact copy of the original, Barraud having laboriously painted in the phonograph and then overpainted it with the gramophone.

Barraud estimated that it would take him about three weeks to paint each copy. However, there is a well-known photograph of the artist working on one painting while another stands, presumably drying, on the floor beside his easel and so he was probably able to complete each one more quickly by working on several simultaneously.

Barraud himself also produced several posters using a caricature of Nipper as the principal subject, notably a Dreadnought poster in 1914 for the Royal Navy and a pair advertising Reid's Stout.

In 1919, Victor and the Gramophone Company jointly made Barraud an annuity of 250, later raised to 350, for life.

I came across this unusual variation on the dog and gramophone theme: 'His Master's Choice' cigars. The caption to the illustration (in The Tin Can Book) is puzzling. The author states: 'This is an especially old cigar tin, made as early as 1870!"

Since the dog Nipper wasn't born until the mid 1880's and the 'His Master's Voice' painting was not completed until the mid to late 1890's, surely the tin can collector is being a trifle optimistic in his dating? If he is correct, and if the design can be proved to be as early as 1870, should we deduce that Barraud 'borrowed' the idea as the model for his painting? The evidence is tantalizing.