in our Hearts and Very Collectible
Nipper, His Master's voice. The original painting of Nipper
and the Gramophone hangs In the EMI Music offices in London.
HE WOULD BE 110 years old if he were still alive. But he is alive
in the minds and hearts of thousands of people worldwide. He is
probably one of the most popular animals, and certainly one of
the most recognizable in the world. One of the world's best-known
trademarks, he has helped his companies sell millions of units
of their products.
His name is Nipper, and he was a terrier who lived in London.
He had the further good fortune of being owned by the Barrauds
-first by Mark, and then by his brother Francis. Francis was an
artist, and in the 1890s he painted a picture that brought fame,
if not necessarily fortune, to him and to the dog that was his
The use of Nipper as a trademark first occurred in the early 1900s.
So popular was the dog that the phonograph company chose to retain
the trademark and eventually used his likeness on all of their
records, phonographs, books, literature, letterhead and correspondence.
The original design of His Master's voice.
In approximately 1895, Francis Barraud painted an oil of an Edison-Bell
cylinder phonograph, and sitting next to the phonograph, with
his head tilted to best hear the sounds emanating from the horn,
was Nipper. Barraud aptly named the painting His Master's Voice.
The artist was unhappy with the painting; he felt that it was
too dark and depressing. The artist attempted to sell the painting
but without success. He felt that the painting would be brighter
with a brass horn rather than the dark horn. He went to the offices
of the Gramophone Company, Ltd. (London) and asked to borrow a
brass horn to use in his painting. He also asked whether they
might be interested in purchasing his painting.
The Gramophone Company, acting only on a photograph of the original
painting, made a rather fast decision and said yes, they would
buy the painting if Barraud would paint out the cylinder phonograph
and in its place paint in one of the Gramophone Company's new
Disc Gramophones. Barraud agreed, and the die was cast. Although
it is speculation, it is assumed but not known for certain that
Barraud had attempted unsuccessfully to sell the original painting
to Edison-Bell or another phonograph company in Great Britain.
Double sided, enameled shop signs such as this hung over music
stores. This one is Of British origin ("His Master's Voice"
versus the American "Victor").
The first use of the "Dog and Trumpet" trademark was made in Great
Britain on company advertising (British Record Supplement) in
January 1900. Nipper's image was used sporadically for several
years in the United Kingdom, and was not regularly used on letterhead
But in May 1900, Emile Berliner visited the company's offices
in England. Berliner, the inventor of the Disc Gramophone and
the founder of the company which eventually became the Victor
Talking Machine Company, was so taken with the painting that he
returned to America and began to use the trademark even before
he applied for registration of the "Nipper and the Gramophone"
logo on May 26, 1900. The next month Berliner applied for, and
received, registration of the trademark in Canada. It has been
in virtually continuous use in North America since.
A papier-mache Nipper. These
stood anywhere from 10 Inches to 42 Inches high.
The artist, Francis Barraud, sold the painting to the Gramophone
Company Ltd. for the sum of 100 British pounds: 50 pounds for
the painting and 50 pounds for transfer of registration from the
artist to the company. Subsequently, Barraud painted a number
of replicas of the original painting, several to exact size, some
slightly smaller. One of the replicas was done exactly as the
original had been painted - the cylinder phonograph painted first
and then painted out and the disc Gramophone painted in. This
exact copy became known as the Chinese Copy, and it was the Chinese
Copy which hung in the board room of the British Company during
the Second World War. The original was packed and sent away for
its safety during the bombing of London. Today the Chinese Copy
hangs on the wall in the Capitol Records building in Hollywood,
Calif., on the executive (13th) floor. (Over the years a great
deal of corporate reorganization and reshuffling has taken place,
and today in Europe, EMI stands in place of the old Gramophone
Company, and Capitol Records is part of the worldwide EMI music
Nipper had been used by both the British company on their products
throughout Europe and by the American/Canadian companies on their
products. Besides the painting on record labels, literature and
corporate documents, Nipper has been used as a more tangible form
of sales promotion. Throughout the decades, when a customer walked
into a Victor (HMV in Europe) dealer, he was greeted with replicas
of the dog in papier mache, hard rubber and a variety of other
materials. A large (36-inch) Nipper was often in the front window,
and smaller dogs, 10 inches, 12 inches and 18 inches, might be
perched on phonographs and other company products in the store.
A modern-day Nipper and
his sidekick, Chipper.
A very popular premium item during the '20s and '30s was a chalk
miniature Nipper, generally imprinted with the dealer's name and
address. Listen to a Victrola, and you could take home your own
promotional Nipper. Salt and pepper sets of the dog and Gramophone
(often made by Lenox China and so marked on the bottom) were very
popular. Today almost any item of "Nipperie" is extremely desirable
The companies had made items such as neckties for their employees,
with a tiny dog-and-Gramophone logo as the design, desk sets,
floor mate, cigarette lighters, glasses, cups and so much more
which all carried the famous image. Several of these items found
their way out of the company and into the hands of private collectors.
Several were advertising pieces designed to be given to or purchased
by the public to enhance the company's logo. And in store advertising
items are especially sought after. Paper and cardboard signs and
cut-outs, advertising banners, monthly record supplements and
merchandise catalogs have all become extremely sought after, collectible
Even contemporary items, either used by the company as an advertising
promotion, or those made to satisfy the collecting public, are
still quite collectible. Whether it is a ceramic Nipper dog, or
a sweatshirt embroidered with the dog-and-Gramophone logo, or
a key chain, money clip or coffee mug, the image of Nipper lives
on. Today the 36-inch papier mache Nippers have been replaced
with polyethylene plastic Nippers, and these grace dealers' front
windows. Papier mache Nippers are again being made today, but
the quality and value is far below that of the originals. Be sure
when purchasing a papier-mâché Nipper that you are certain it
is original. The detailing is finer on the original; check the
snout, the detailing on the back and the dog's feet. The original
dogs often have a remnant of the original label from the Old King
Cole company affixed somewhere on the bottom of the dog. Merely
"looking old" is not enough; orange shellac will make the bright,
white papier-mâché look old, but it is still new. Buyer beware!
Original 36inch Nippers will often show cracks at the ears and
top of the front legs. During the 1950s'60s, several variations
of plush Nippers appeared in the marketplace. Later, in the late
1980s-'90s plush Nippers were again introduced by the Dakin Company.
These dogs, although collectible, are less valuable than the earlier
Chalkplaster souvenirs, given
to potential customers by Victor dealers, whose names were
often imprinted on the sides. Fit.: 3'/a to 4 inches.
The fact that a Nipper collectible is made in Japan is not necessarily
a sign of a reproduction. The Japan Victor Company (JVC) has been
marketing Nipper items for decades. One of the marketing divisions
of the original companies was in Japan, and today they still continue
to market Nipper as sales promotional items for their own product.
In the 1980s General Electric purchased the RCA-Victor Company
in the United States. The home entertainment products division
was sold to a bench company, Thomson Consumer Electronics, and
they chose to update the traditional trademark. Today, instead
of the Nipper listening to the Gramophone, they have him with
a young pup named Chipper.
Nipper and Chipper have become one of the most popular pairs in
advertising today. The real dogs (puppies have to be replaced
frequently as they outgrow the cute puppy size are much sought
after at store openings, trade shows and other special events.
They are the basis of an entire series of magazine, news-paper
ads and television commercials. (The record, tape and Compact
Disc division of RCA Victor went to a German company, B.M.G. who
have marketing rights to Nipper and the Gramophone in North America,
but not in Europe. B.M.G. cannot use the Nipper/Chippe logo, though.)
Chipper now is becoming a very collectible item. He is new to
the world of collecting and has only been around for a very few
years. This is the time to start collecting. To wait until hl
has proven his worth would be a mistake. As years go by, supply
dwindles and prices will skyrocket. Just as original 1920s Nipperie
is very collectible and often quite expensive Chipper will probably
be just as desirable and collectible.
Souvenir lighter, often given
to RCA salesmen to pass out to customers.
Like any other collectible, rarity and condition go a long way
in determining value it Nipperie. A broken piece is never worth
a: much as the same piece in good condition, but rarity might
make a broken piece a nice addition to a collection. Broken papier
niche car be repaired, and it will often look as good as when
new. Nipper will frequently show up a1 flea markets, swap meets
and antique shops Be sure to check showcases carefully. Many Nippers
were small and tend to get buried behind other "junk" in a dealer's
ALMOST A CENTURY of rumors have grown up around Nipper. A few
of the most popular, and completely erroneous, follow:
o Nipper was a pit bull. FALSE; Nipper was a mixed breed and probably
had a good percentage of bull terrier and some fox terrier.
o Nipper was painted sitting on his master's coffin. FALSE; the
painting His Master's Voice was painted in approximately 1895.
Nipper's first master, the artist's brother Mark, died and was
buried in 1887.
o Nipper was Enrico Caruso's dog. FALSE; Caruso didn't reach recording
popularity until well after the painting was completed and the
dog was deceased.
o Nipper was Thomas Edison's dog. FALSE; Edison was an' American
living in the United States, and Nipper was born, lived and died
in London. Edison had nothing to do with the British Gramophone
o Nipper was stuffed and is in a house in Pasadena, Calif. FALSE;
Mark Henry Barraud's son, Mark, buried Nipper in England in 1895.