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The Rival Claims Made On Record Jackets Or "What's Up Your Sleeve?"

Some of my old record sleeves (jackets?) are getting rather tattered but I hate to replace them with sterile blank ones. Besides, the old jackets (sleeves?) can supply some very interesting information. For example, many of the early ones not only list "recent releases" but their prices as well, and it is quite a shock to learn that in Canada the Caruso- Tetrazinni "Sextette" (one-sided) sold for $8.00! That was about a week's wages for a young woman working behind a shop counter at that time.

Another jacket (World War II era) tells me: "For Victory, save and sell this empty envelope." I was around in World War II and I don't remember anyone wanting an empty record envelope, let alone paying for it. The same jacket tells me that the record had an O.P.A. ceiling price of 35 cents. What, pray, was the O.P.A.?

One use of a record jacket (besides the obvious one of protection) was advertising. I learn from a jacket that the Aeolian Vocalion record player can be fitted with a "Graduola" device (see illustration) that "enables you to shade and vary ... tones to suit your own musical taste." The "device" is a long release plunger that one used to attach to a camera and the idea was that it allowed you to change the volume (for the most part from loud to soft) without leaving your armchair.

Some of the claims made by record companies on their record sleeves were reasonable and truthful. "Diva" claimed their records were "made to rival the best." No one could say that that was a wild claim. "Radiex" told us that theirs was a "record of beauty." To a collector, all records have a certain beauty, I suppose, so I'll give full marks for honesty to "Radiex". It's when the companies get into the superlatives that matters get confusing - "the World's best" and "Absolutely free from foreign surface sounds" (Edison Bell); "Equal to any records on the market" (Star Gennett); "This is a perfect record" (Columbia); "Better records can't be made" (Perfect); "None better" (Cameo); "The record that has no equal" (Victor); "The world's largest roster of Internationally Famous _ Artists" (London); "The World's Greatest Artists" (Columbia and Victor).

It is difficult at this time to confirm or deny these claims, but they can't all be true. For example, it would take a lot of research to prove that "Perfect" was "America's fastest selling record."

Most of the companies claimed that their "sound" was superior to all the others. Here's an example, perhaps the most loquacious:

"Notice that Brunswick has not been satisfied merely to record the talent of a master artist, but has also recorded the magnetic characteristics of the original interpretation, the very warmth of the artist's inspiration and the vivid atmosphere of the selection."

Quite a mouthful for an acoustic record!

Rival companies also made claims about the durability of their records. Vocalion stated that "Red records last longer." Victor claimed that a "new record must be played over at least three times with regular needles before it will give you the best results", and Columbia topped that one by "Columbia records actually improve with playing."

(Editor's note: Speaking of durability, let us not ignore the classic among advertisements. I think the illustration speaks for itself.

Lambert Gold Moulded cylinders were advertised in 1900 as:

"Permanent Records, An Instantaneous Success, Solid and Durable, Non-Slipping, Loud and Clear, Will Not Break, Will Last a Lifetime, Recorded By the Finest Talent in this Country, The Greatest Advance Yet Made in the Talking Machine Line!!!")

My final example of advertising does not come from a record jacket but from a Victor catalogue. You'll remember that in 1923 Victor was still producing one-sided records (the "Red Seal" series). Distributors had been pressuring the Victor Company to double these records as people could get two songs for the price of one by buying records from other companies. Victor finally gave in, and came out with the following announcement:

"The doubling of Red Seal Records has been regarded as the supreme achievement - the World's greatest event."

How's that for a superlative?!?