And the answer is….A Klingsor gramophone, well done to those of you who answered correctly!
And the answer is….A Klingsor gramophone, well done to those of you who answered correctly!
Name: William Barry Owen
Born: 15 April 1860
Resident: Born in Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts
Occupation: Sent to London to raise investment funds for the Gramophone Company to expand into Europe
Loves: Music, Musicians, Gambling, London high society parties
In July 1897 William Barry Owen resigned from his post with the National Gramophone Company in the United States and sailed for Britain. He was sent by Emile Berliner, inventor of the Gramophone and flat disc to set up the company in England and find investors. When he arrived he met a young Welsh lawyer; Trevor Lloyd Williams who became his co-founder of The British Gramophone Company in 1899.
Owen was an excellent sales man, having refined his selling talents as a sales man during his law degree at Amherst College. He was also a gambler who enjoyed the high stakes of starting up new ventures and more importantly he enjoyed living the high life that could be achieved if successful and so he jumped at the potential high profits in Berliner’s new Gramophone.
Initially he threw himself into the work but found high society London to be a tough crowd to crack, the Gramophones were selling but he found it difficult to attract investors to help build the business. It was his idea to bring in the Lambert Typewriter as an insurance product in case the Gramophone flopped. However, as fate would have it, the Lambert typewriter failed to bring in much revenue and The Gramophone Company stopped production in 1904. At this point Owen seemed to loose interest in the business, he remained on the board for two more years and then left The Gramophone Company altogether in 1906.
After resigning he left Britain and returned home to the United States where he made several unsuccessful attempts in the agricultural business. By 1910 he had spent all of his money and was riddled with debt. He spent the rest of his life living off a pension paid jointly by Victor Talking Machine and The Gramophone Company.
Frederick William Gaisberg 1873 – 1951
“Fred was clearly one of those Children with a natural talent for the keyboard, and his mother made the most of this opportunity from the moment she began to teach him when he was four.”
-Extract from ‘A Voice in Time’ – Jerrold Northrop Moore
Name: Frederick William Gaisberg
Born: 1 January 1873
Resident: Born in Washington DC, immigrated to the United Kingdom as a young man of only 25 in 1898
Occupation: Sound Recording Engineer, A&R Supreme
Loves: Travelling, musicians, engineering
Fred Gaisberg’s love affair with music began at the early age of just four. From the age of eight until his voice broke Fred was a chorister at St John’s Episcopal Church, here he met and studied under one of Washington’s most celebrated artists of the time – the young master of the United States Marine Band, John Philip Sousa.
“I attended rehearsals in his then modest home in the Navy Yard in South Washington. He (Sousa) patted me on the head and made quite a pet of me… I was one of those music-mad youngsters who hovered by his podium and never missed a concert.”
-Fred Gaisberg recalling his childhood
Although he was an excellent singer, the piano remained his first love and after securing a scholarship to study piano he gained a reputation for his excellent playing and accompanying and was soon playing for charitable organisations and amateur organisation throughout the city. In 1889 in search of some more pocket money, the sixteen year old Gaisberg came across an advert for the Columbia Phonograph Company. They were looking for someone to play the piano loudly and clearly enough for its sounds to be captured by the apparatus as the accompaniment for a musician to record.
One of the first musicians selected to record with Gaisberg was John York Atlee, a Whistler. Together they would churn out in three’s countless records of performances of ‘Whistling Coon’, ‘Mocking Bird’, and the ‘Laughing Song’. These recordings were made on small hollow cylinders of wax, where a needle moved gradually in a lateral way etching the grooves that represented the sound waves into the wax.
Fred Gaisberg secured his first job working at the Columbia Phonograph Company. He spent the next few years working for various people within the growing phonograph industry, including Thomas Edison.
In 1894 he met Emile Berliner and his career took on a new direction. His fascination with Berliner’s novel recording process was the start of his career change from an accompanying pianist to a recording sound engineer. Very soon after meeting and working under Berliner, Gaisberg was sent to London to record music for the European market, working with Trevor Lloyd Williams and William Barry Owen.
Once he reached London he was introduced to another sound engineer – Sinkler Derby and together they continued to travel all over the world recording local music for the ever expanding Gramophone Company. His travels are well documented in “The Fred Gaisberg Diaries” which have been made available by Hugo Strötbaum. Fred Gaisberg was without a doubt one of the single biggest contributors to the success of the Gramophone Company. More details on exactly what he got up to can be found in our Gaisberg Travels blog series.
Francis Barraud 1856 – 1924
“The whole world saw it and succumbed to its charm”
-Alfred Clark comments on the painting
Name: Francis Barraud
Born: June 16, 1856
Resident: Born in London
Occupation: Artist, Painter, stray dog lover
Loves: Painting, animals
Francis James Barraud was born into a family of artists in London. He studied art at the Royal Academy School and in Antwerp. An accomplished technician, he was a frequent exhibitor at the Royal Academy and else where. One of his early works An encore Too Many is displayed in the Liverpool Walker Art Gallery, and the painting His Master’s Voice brought him world wide fame.
Barraud was never to recapture that success, however and by 1913 he was in financial straits. When he learned of this situation Alfred Clark commissioned Barraud to paint a copy of His Master’s Voice for the Victor Company. Thereafter, Barraud painted a total of 24 copies of his most famous work. In recognition of these services, the Gramophone and Victor Companies paid Barraud a pension. His Master’s Voice remains one of the world’s best-known trademarks.
There’s no place like home…
114 years ago, 20th August 1899, Fred Gaisberg and fellow sound engineer William Sinkler Darby were on their way back to London from Madrid via Bordeaux. They came across many strange characters and had strong opinions about the local cuisine as this extract from Gaisberg’s show’s that even after the best adventure there’s no place like home…
Sunday, 20 August 1899 [at sea]
We awake and find we are on our way to London. We enjoy the good English food once more, and make the acquaintance of some nice English chaps. The day is beautiful and the air is invigorating. After dinner, we sit in the smoking room chatting with the Captain, a jolly Englishman. We were discussing an article in a newspaper saying a woman in England had given birth to a sextette. Some of the men discredited the Captain’s statement, and he said he was not there – nor was he the father of the sextette. The distance from Bordeaux to London is about 800 miles and we’ll arrive Wednesday morning (noon).
Extract from http://www.recordingpioneers.com ©Hugo Strötbaum – Gaisberg Diaries
The young Fred Gaisberg arrived in Liverpool and made his way to London to set up his studio. Despite the long journey and unfamiliar country Gaisberg was in high spirits and recalls
“Arriving in London at the tail end of a strawberry glut of which I took the fullest advantage.”
– Fred Gaisberg
Before any recordings could be made he needed to find the correct space for the studio and purchase all the necessary materials and chemicals. His Notebook is filled with a long list of items such as:
– A gallon of coal oil
– Jars and pitchers of earthenware and glass
– A soldering iron
– An etching tank
– Oil cloth
– Cotton cloth
– A bucket
All parts were necessary to make the discs after the recording.
The studio was based in the basement room of the dingy Old Coburn Hotel.
“Yes, grimy was the word for it. The smoking room of the Old Coburn Hotel was our improvised studio. There stood the recording machine on a high stand; from this projected a long, thin trumpet into which the artist sang. Close by on a high movable platform, was an upright piano.”
-Gaisberg’s description of the studio
Although it was grimy it was very well placed near the theatres, concert and dance halls of London’s west end, which made finding artists to record easier for the young American.
By the end of the first week of August all the necessary materials were purchased, the studio was set up and began recording. The records were made in Hanover at Berliner’s bothers factory. The earliest discs issued are dated
One of the first recording artists was Syria Lamonte, an Australian singer working at Rules Restaurant in Maiden Lane.
Name: Emile Berliner
Born: 20 May 1851
Resident: Born in Hanover in Germany, immigrated to the United States as a young man of only 19 in 1870
Occupation: Recording sound mastermind
Loves: His wife and family, inventing, campaigning for better health standards and shellac discs
Berliner applied himself to the science of sound and recording. On November 8 1887 he patented a successful system of sound recording. Berliner was the first inventor to make recordings on flat disks or records. Previously recordings were made onto cylinders. With Berliner’s new system a spiral groove with sound information was etched into the flat record.
Around the time of his invention Berliner met a young man called Fred Gaisberg. With a keen interest in the newly developing phonograph industry Gaisberg paid a visit to Berliner’s laboratory in Washington DC where he watched Berliner record Billy Golden onto a flat disc and then listened to the playback.
When Gaisberg first heard one of Berliner’s recordings he noted
The superior sound and ease of mass reproducing recordings lead Berliner to set up the Gramophone Company in the United States. He later sent the young Fred Gaisberg to London to set up a recording studio to exploit the European market.
Berliner has been described as an eccentric inventor and scientist but the intricacies of the business world never came naturally to him. The success of the Gramophone Company was due to his careful choice in business savvy partners, such as Gaisberg, who made the contacts and sales that pushed the company to be an industry leader. Gaisberg commented in his journals
“For many years Berliner was the only one of many people I knew connected with the gramophone who was genuinely musical and possessed a cultured taste.”
For his achievements in the recording field Berliner was awarded the prestigious John Scott and Elliott Cresson medals by the Franklin institute. He remained a true scientist throughout his career. Both in public health by promoting the pasteurisation of milk thus reducing the rates of childhood infectious diseases and in the field of physics where he continued making developments in acoustic tiles, aeronautics and microphone technology.
On the 23rd of July 1898 Fred Gaisberg, at the age of 25 set sail on the 9 a.m. SS Umbria Cunard ship from New York to Liverpool. He was sent by the inventor of the Gramophone, Emile Berliner to London as one of the first sound engineers to set up a recording studio in London to cater to the European market.
Fred’s personal preparations for life across the sea were simple. “My baggage consisted of a complete recording outfit plus a twenty-five dollar bicycle with pneumatic tyres, and a notebook stuffed with receipts addresses and advice… “
At only 25 years old one can only imagine the excitement, curiosity and fear Gaisberg would have felt as his cousin, Carrie, waved him goodbye from the New York harbour. He must have wondered…would he like the new people? Would London be welcoming? Would the journey be comfortable?
Although he must have been anxious he was certainly ambitious, taking the opportunity to meet potential contacts and artists while aboard. During his journey he met the music hall comedian Bert Shepherd, whose wide repertoire and contagious laugh drew in Gaisberg. The two became friends and before leaving the SS Umbria Gaisberg secured a promise from shepherd to visit the studio in London once it was set up.
Last Sunday a plaque was unveiled in Southwark in memory of one of Britain’s earliest black jazz musicians Frank Bates.
The Southern Syncopated Orchestra was formed by the American composer Will Marion Cook and comprised 27 musicians and 19 singers. The musicians came from, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Guyana, Barbados, Antigua and Ghana among other places.
The orchestra had made a deep impression across Europe. It had very quickly become a staple on the London club circuit. So taken were revellers by this new style of syncopated music and the extraordinary talents in its midst that it wasn’t long before the Prince of Wales (future King Edward VIII) had invited them to perform on the 19th August 1919 at Buckingham Palace.
Tragically Frank, and seven other members of the SSO, died in 1921 in a shipping disaster.
Extracts taken from Kurt Barling original article for BBC London , to read more go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/london/content/articles/2006/10/09/orchestra_feature.shtml
One hundred and fourteen years ago, in December 1897, an American businessman was pacing up and down his room at the brand new and ostentatious Hotel Cecil on the Strand.
The hotel had been opened the previous year in 1896 and was the largest and grandest in Europe, situated in the most fashionable shopping street in the world. Sadly it didn’t survive changing fashions and was knocked down to make way for Shell Mex house in 1930 but back in the day, it looked like this:
Dancing at The Cecil was all the rage.
The American, who was William Owen Barry, was not there to dance. He had moved across from the US to set up a new company. In fact he was seeding a new industry that did not yet exist in the UK; sound recording. He needed investors and had presumably taken rooms at the expensive Cecil in order to suggest the seriousness and potential rewards of his business proposal.
He’d met a number of potential investors since arriving in London in the summer but had not yet been able to secure the necessary funds. Hotel bills and entertaining expenses were no doubt growing as he trawled the town for financial suitors but as he came to end of the year he still had little to show for his endeavours. No doubt there would have been pressure coming from his boss, Emile Berliner, in the States – probably along one of the new telegraph cables that were shrinking the globe. He was pacing up and down the room as he waited to meet a potential investor; Trevor Williams (or to give him his formal Edmund Trevor Lloyd Williams) was a Welshman from North Wales who worked as a solicitor at Lincoln’s Inn and impressed by the new technology and had a yen to invest.
But the American needn’t have worried. The Welshman had formed a syndicate to invest $5,000 to secure the European rights to the new fangled Gramophone. They shook hands on a deal and agreed to work together to establish and grow this new business. They would reconvene in the New Year to dot the i’s and cross the t’s and formalise The Gramophone Company. Possibly a glass or two were taken? Maybe a cigar smoked? And then the Welshman would have stepped outside onto the teeming Strand, back into the bustle of the city at the centre of a huge empire, at the peak of the Naughty Nineties, head spinning with the new business opportunity….
Anything was possible.
P.S. In the years to come, their company would return to The Cecil to make records of the house band….