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Antique Phonograph News
Canadian Antique Phonograph Society

Sep-Oct 2003

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Vera McLean – A Canadian Recording Artist of the Acoustic Era
by Arthur E. Zimmerman

Quite early in his research on the beginnings of the Montreal Marconi radio station XWA / CFCF, Arthur re-discovered the photograph titled "Miss Vera McLean broadcasting over Marconi Wireless, Montreal" (Edward B. Moogk, "Roll Back the Years", page 93, National Library of Canada,1975). The book also lists two recordings that Vera McLean had made for Herbert Berliner’s Canadian black label HMV series, "Love Will Find a Way" from "Maid of the Mountains" (216072-B) and "Bye-Lov" (216080-B).

Who was Vera McLean and why was she chosen to record acoustically for Berliner and to sing over the radio? Arthur provides a comprehensive history of this Canadian recording artist. Illustrated is that same photograph of the Toronto contralto introducing the new Feist hit "When the Tide Comes In" over the Marconi wireless telephone at 93 King Street East in Toronto (NOT in Montreal). Miss McLean is standing beside the station's Marconi YC3 transmitter, singing into a candlestick telephone-like microphone, and that's possibly Dr. Ernest MacMillan at the piano (Aug.-Sept. 1921). Also illustrated: Vera McLean in costume as Tessa in the Savoyards production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Gondoliers" (May 13, 1922) and an announcement by Ye Olde Firme Heintzman and Company, Ltd., of the release of Vera McLean's first recorded side, which she "gave" to the Victor. The release date was December 31, 1919.

Ephemera Corner:
Rare Uncle Josh Stereoview

These 2 Stereoviews were recently purchased by a CAPS member at a small auction in Ontario. The cards, which were marketed under the name Metropolitan Series, were actually released by Sears Roebuck and Company during the period 1905 to 1920. As with all the cards of this series there is no indication that they were a Sears issue. Although some investigation has been done we have not as of yet been able to verify that the figure is actually Cal Stewart who is famous for his early recordings as "Uncle Josh". Any members who can shed some light on this question are encouraged to contact the Editor by email at editor@CAPSnews.org.

An Intriguing Discovery
by Jean-Paul Agnard

The day before I left for the Union show, I bought this empty Amberola III cabinet with its shelf chopped. I knew about it for over a year, but had never seen it in person. At the antique shop, it looked like any other Amberola III cabinet. I even found the standard green and orange Amberola 1A & B decal in the lid while mine has only an "Edison" one. But when I put them together in the same room in my museum, I was intrigued by the legs of the new one which were not straight like the other cabinet.

After a more careful examination of the new purchase and by comparing it with my old one, I realized that I was in front of a completely different cabinet design. The wood cut under the front grill is completely different and much simpler than the new one as well as the sides of the bottom of the case including the crossbar. Even the top of the case does not have the 2" high part added, but flat planks on the top with only a thin molding.


As its serial number is quite low: 129, compared with the other one: 530, I guess that the first machines were made with a different design than the later ones. I would like to know if any other members have the same one, and if so I would be interested to know its serial number.

"Her Mother's Voice"
(a conjectural investigation)

by John E. Rutherford

Francis Barraud's painting, "His Master's Voice", painted about 1897, is a world-famous trademark. It is also a very "Victorian" painting expressing one of the major concerns of the time, namely whether there was life beyond the grave. If the Nipper painting expressed the doubt of an afterlife, it is only following a trend that had been evident in painting for some years.

Around 1887 another British artist, W.Q. Orchardson, painted a picture called "Her Mother's Voice". This painting shows a Victorian widower recognizing the voice of his late wife in the voice of his daughter. The painting was exhibited in London in 1888. It is therefore possible that Francis Barraud saw this painting and used the theme and a similar title for his own more famous painting of "His Master's Voice". The two paintings, "His Master's Voice" and "Her Mother's Voice" both express a similar thought. In Orchardson's painting the voice of the deceased mother is made eternal through heredity. In Barraud's painting the master's voice is made eternal through the gramophone.

At The Auction
by Mark Caruana

Over the last 2 months I have seen two items that I thought were worth attention. The first was originally listed for sale and failed to reach its minimum with the highest bid being $511 (all amounts in $US). Once re-listed it rapidly went up and eventually sold for $2000! Sometimes it pays to hold out for what you want. The item, a Berliner catalogue from 1896 is a real treasure. This catalogue predates the Trade-Mark machine but contains the extremely rare ratchet wind machine which has the spring motor housed in a round metal enclosure. Offered for the first time in December 1896 for $25, this important machine's mechanism was designed by Levi Montross with the help of Eldridge Johnson. The catalogue is full of interesting information such as the price of each part which can be ordered, a listing of the earliest records made which could be ordered for 60 cents each or $6 a dozen plus 5 cents per record shipping. To encourage the use of the machine for exhibition purposes the catalogue includes a suggested program of records to play.


The second item I was taken with was the pair of photographs shown here. The first 9 x 7 inch photograph of a horse drawn carriage in front of the dealer shows the address to be 248 east 24th street. The second 6 x 4 inch photo, although not as clear, shows the same two gentlemen and a woman proudly showing off their wares. This wonderful pair of photos fetched a reasonable $493.