Alfred Clark 1873 – 1950
“The fine thread running through the very fabric of HMV history”
Name: Alfred Clark
Born: 19 December 1873
Resident: Born in New York, moved to France 1899 aged 26 then resident of the UK, 1909 -1950
Occupation: Gramophone Company Managing Director, Chairman and EMI President
Loves: Classical music, sealing the deal, travelling the world
Clark was born into an affluent New York family. He began his career in the newly forming recording industry with North American Phonograph in 1889, at the age of just 16. Throughout the 1890’s he also worked for Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope organisation, where he produced ‘Mary, Queen of Scots’ – Edison’s first scripted film.
“Clark had all the vision of youthful enthusiasm and it was not long before he had enticed to his recording studio the great stars of the Opera and concert halls…”
-Fred Gaisberg meeting Clark in Paris
He later went to join Emile Berliner as a sales manager at the Berliner Gramophone Company store in Philadelphia. Around this time he also became involved in experimental work, redesigning and patenting a new design for the gramophone sound box with Eldridge Johnson.
In 1899 at the age of just 26 Clark immigrated to France as an agent for Thomas Edison and Emile Berliner. He joined forces with the Gramophone Company to form ‘Compagnie Française du Gramophone.’ He remained here until 1908 and after one year’s short break he became the Managing Director of the Gramophone Company in 1909. He stayed in this post for 21 years until 1930, when he became The Gramophone Company’s Chairman.
He played a central part in the negotiations that led to the formation of Electric and Musical Industries Ltd (EMI Ltd) of which he was the first chairman. In 1946 he became EMI President. He stayed in this post for only 6 months before deciding to leave the company. Despite his incredible success Clark took a humble view of his career.
“…it has been a drab, plugging career, nothing spectacular, a business of laying one brick upon another…”