The Victor Talking Machine Company (1901–1929) was an American corporation, the leading American producer of phonographs and phonograph records and one of the leading phonograph companies in the world at the time. It was headquartered in Camden, New Jersey. Now, even if this information is new to you, it is likely you would recognize the mascot of the Victor talking machine – a little pup named Nipper.
Nipper (1884–1895) was a dog that served as the model for a painting titled His Late Master’s Voice. He was born in 1884 in Bristol, England, and died in September 1895. It is believed he was a Jack Russell terrier. Nipper’s original owner, Mark Henry Barraud, died in 1887, leaving his brothers Philip and Francis to care for the dog.
In 1898, three years after Nipper’s death, Francis painted a picture of Nipper listening intently to a wind-up Edison-Bell cylinder phonograph. On February 11, 1899, Francis filed an application for copyright of his painting “Dog Looking At and Listening to a Phonograph.” Thinking the Edison-Bell Company located in New Jersey, USA, might find it useful, he presented it to James E. Hough, who promptly said, “Dogs don’t listen to phonographs.” Instead, The Gramophone Company ended up buying the painting and the phrase “His Master’s Voice” for 100 pounds sterling. A modified form of the painting became the successful trademark of Victor and RCA. Nipper lives on through brand names; he even appeared in ads on television with his “son”, a puppy named Chipper who was added to the RCA family in 1991.
Nipper was one sweet little family dog. Because of his owner’s inspiration, his iconic form lives on more than 100 years later.