wick
brunswick

Brunswick Phonographs and Records

HOME

By R.J. Wakeman

R. J. Wakeman lives in Davis, California

In the 1920s the two biggest American phonograph companies were the Victor Talking Machine Company and Brunswick. Edison had a relatively small piece of the market by this time. In 1921 Columbia was forced into bankruptcy and receivership due to stock speculations and overproduction. The company bounced back but by 1925 was no longer American, becoming a subsidiary of the British-owned Columbia Ltd.

The Brunswick Company was long known for making billiard equipment. It was founded in 1845 by John Moses Brunswick, who joined Julius Balke in 1873, thereby forming the J.M. Brunswick and Balke Company. In 1879, Hugh W. Collender merged with Brunswick and Balke, forming the world's largest billiard equipment company and calling itself by 1884 the "Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company." That is the name we find on many machines, 78s and paper sleeves. Most Brunswick models have a decal under the lid on the lower back panel. It states "Brunswick" in large gold script with "The Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company" beneath in smaller black print.

brunswick

Brunswick cautiously tested the phonograph market in the 'teens'--and then jumped in. Casting about for a growth project, Brunswick executives had scrutinized newspaper ads for items selling well. Phonographs and 78s were selling because of a dance craze. Cabinets were the most difficult part of a phonograph to manufacture, and here the huge company saw an opportunity. Phonograph makers were asked if they would be interested in bids on cabinets, and orders for phonograph cases soon had Brunswick factories humming. The Edison Phonograph Company was Brunswick's main client.

But making cabinets for others did not satisfy Brunswick executives. Why make excellent cases and see them sold under different trade names? It was an affront to company tradition. Workers at the Muskegon plant were given $50 for purchasing hardware and were asked to make two demonstration models that could be mass-produced. The models were ready by April 3, 1916. Brunswick executives decided to plunge into this market. (Victrola and 78 Journal, Issue 10)

The company began by making two styles of cabinet phonographs, later producing a range of upright and console models as well as a line of period models and custom-built cabinets for the higher priced markets. It never made external horn models, which were no longer fashionable. Brunswick's expensive models featured large ornate cabinets with hand crafted designs and carvings, a testament to the factories' wood workers.

In the late 'teens', the company issued some vertical-cut shellac records -- but only in Canada. Early Brunswick discs were not sold in the U.S. due to an agreement with the Pathe Phonograph Company, which opened recording facilities in New York City in 1914 and a large pressing plant in Belleville, New Jersey. By special arrangement, Brunswick phonograph dealers would sell only Pathe records and advertise Pathe records in local newspapers. Brunswick benefited since its phonographs played Pathe discs, and Pathe purchased Brunswick cabinets. This lasted until late 1919.

Brunswick could put many machines on the market in a short time and, in 1920, many 78s. Unlike most new companies making these products, Brunswick had its own large cabinet manufacturing facilities and a national retail network.

A distinctive Brunswick innovation was its Ultona reproducer, patented by Louis Taxon on September 18, 1917. It is designed to play the three main types of discs sold in that period: normal lateral shellac (Victor and Columbia 78s), vertical cut shellac (Pathe), and vertical cut Diamond Discs (Edison). The reproducer has four movable parts which can be adjusted to play any record. Steel needles can be inserted, played, and then removed. Twist the reproducer and its permanent diamond point (with independent stylus-diaphragm) plays Edison discs. A ball-shaped sapphire stylus mounted in a metal shank plays Pathes and other vertical cut discs. A sliding weight allows for proper pressure on a record.

brunswick brunswick brunswick

The elaborate design of the tone arm causes air leaks but these can be sealed with grease. Regrettably, some Ultona tone arms are made of pot metal, which can swell and weaken over time, easily breaking and shattering.

Opinions vary regarding Brunswick machines with the Ultona. Most listeners consider the sound to be merely adequate. Models with fully restored reproducers and lubricated connections can sound great, but few collectors want to risk replacing diaphragm gaskets on the large and complicated reproducers.

When Edison discs are played, record grooves must move the stylus and heavy reproducer across the disc since no gearing mechanism from the motor advances the tone arm (as is the case in Edison models). Some collectors hesitate to play Edison records with the Ultona reproducer for fear of damaging records. Check the condition of the Edison jewel stylus often and carefully.

Edison executives probably had Brunswick's Ultona in mind when adding this warning to Edison record envelopes: "This Re-Creation should not be played on any instrument except the Edison Diamond Disc Phonograph and with the Edison Diamond Disc Reproducer, and we decline responsibility for any damage that may occur to it if this warning is ignored." Edison executives felt threatened by Brunswick's sales, and they had good reason to worry!

All Brunswick spring motors are of amazingly good quality--well-designed and quiet running. All have two or three-spring motors. Grease originally used to lubricate springs must have been high quality because the springs today rarely require new grease.

Brunswicks have internal horns made of holly or spruce wood. The smaller back sections of the horns often have amazingly complex splicing--perhaps to a cheaper wood--in order to connect to the horn throat. All models have a simple short wood tube connecting the tone arm's base to the horn throat, providing a completely wood sound reproducing system below the tone arm. Regarding its internal wood horn, Brunswick claimed, "It is a vibrant tone chamber like the sounding board of a piano or violin."

New Brunswick phonographs came with a set of 10 and 12-inch record albums. Brunswick also made accessory items such as steel needles, needle tins and envelopes, record dusters, even a small ladies' pocket mirror with the reverse side containing the early Brunswick logo!

Brunswick records first appeared in stores in January, 1920. The 10-inch popular records (the 2000 series) sold for 75 cents each and 12-inch records (20000 series) sold for $1.25. Early celebrity records (5000 series) had similar labels with a violet background.

Early jazz artists on the label were the Original Memphis Five (as the Cotton Pickers) and Fletcher Henderson. Great opera singers include Elisabeth Rethberg, Edith Mason, and Nina Koshetz. Brunswick records are well-recorded, bright in the higher register. Many rank them among the best acoustic records made.

In 1926 Brunswick produced an acoustic phonograph for playing new electrically recorded 78s. Its reproducer was similar in ways to Victor's Orthophonic soundbox. To create publicity for the new machine, Brunswick held a contest for the best name and slogan. When one Mildred Bux of Melrose Park, Pennsylvania, submitted the name and slogan "Prismatone" and "The instrument of colorful music", Brunswick executives gave her the $5,000 prize and then ignored her suggestions, instead naming it the Panatrope. It may be Brunswick's finest phonograph.

Brunswick also began to manufacture wood piano cases and phonograph cabinets. Edison Phonograph was the principal buyer of Brunswick's cabinets. The demand for phonographs was so strong that Bensinger decided that Brunswick should manufacture its own line of phonographs. By 1916 the Muskegon plant was producing Brunswick phonographs and putting them on the market for $150, 40 percent less than comparable models. In 1922 it also began producing records under its own label. Jazz greats such as Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, and Benny Goodman and classical artists such as Irene Pavlovska and Leopold Godowsky all recorded on the Brunswick label. In 1925 Brunswick teamed up with General Electric Company to manufacture an all-electric phonograph called the Panatrope, which came equipped with or without a radio. In 1930 Brunswick sold the Brunswick Panatrope & Radio Corporation to Warner Brothers for $10 million.

The Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company was already nearly 3/4 of a century old when it entered the phonograph business in 1916. Very shortly after entering the phonograph market, Brunswick introduced a clever tone arm and sound box assembly which could be adapted to pay all the styles of disc records on the market at that time (lateral, Edison and Pathe). Brunswick, aided by its immense cabinet factory, quickly became the number two phonograph manufacturer in the United States. The Brunswick phonograph headquarters for the entire West Coast was established on Mission street in San Francisco, with a phonograph department on the mezzanine floor. By 1924, the company was manufacturing many records as well as players and Al Jolson became a Brunswick artist - thereby publicizing the release of "California, Here I Come".

In 1925, Brunswick announced that it would produce a revolutionary new type of phonograph that used vacuum tubes and electricity to amplify phonograph records. The amplifier electronics were designed and supplied to Brunswick by RCA. The Brunswick Panatrope was displayed in concert throughout the United States and created a sensation when demonstrated. The first units were shipped in early 1926 at about the same time as similar machines from Victor. Some of the Panatropes contained only a phonograph, and other models were offered in combination with RCA Radiolas. The phonograph only model sold for $700 new. The Panatrope/Radiola 28AC was one of the earliest all electric radio-phonograph combinations. It cost a staggering $1100 when new.

brunswick brunswick

In April 1930, Warner Brothers Pictures paid around $10 million for Brunswick's musical division, which included radios, phonographs, and records. The Warners, successful with Vitaphone talkies, envisioned a subsidiary record business using Warner Brothers stars. They had no interest in phonographs but valued the Brunswick name. The Brunswick Radio Corporation was a subsidiary of Warner Brothers Pictures, Incorporated. In late 1931, the Warners sold it to the newly formed American Record Corporation. Sales of Bing Crosby 78s helped the company through the worst Depression years.

Although its phonographs and 78s sold well, at no time during the fourteen years that the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company manufactured phonographs and the ten years it made records these were not the company's main products. Brunswick was best known in the business community for making recreation products. In recent times, it has been known for marine, defense, and even aerospace products. In 1995 Brunswick celebrated its 150th year as a company. Had it not jumped into the recording business decades ago, music-loving Americans would have deprived of some wonderful listening experiences.

Brunswick Ultona Phonograph Model 117

brunswick brunswick brunswick brunswick brunswick brunswick brunswick brunswick brunswick brunswick brunswick

The Brunswick Model 'York'

brunswick

Vintage Brunswick-Balke-Collender Phonograph - Model: York

The Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co. phonograph console pictured below is a beautiful, working example of the elegance in workmanship and precision instrumentation that was peaking at the time that it was built. The cabinet measures 35" wide and 33" high and 21 & 1/4" deep overall (not including the winding handle). The elegant legs are 16" high. The sound produced by this player is exquisite. Foxtrots, waltzes, western crooners and marches alike are brought back to life in the same splendor as they were almost one hundred years ago- to the listener, it is as if time has stopped. The player has a few small chips missing from the veneer in the front (see photograph) and a few small dings are present on the edge of the cabinet top that do not detract from the beauty and stateliness of the piece. The phonograph requires frequent winding for continued play. Certainly one could play 78's on a modern machine, but the warm tone< by this player greatly improves the enjoyment of any music recorded in the era the player was made. The placement of a phonograph of this quality and workmanship in one's home adds an ambiance of elegance and refinement that other pieces of period decor rarely match. Pure Cowboy Western Art Association

The Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company was already nearly 3/4 of a century old when it entered the phonograph business in 1916. Very shortly after entering the phonograph market, Brunswick introduced a clever tone arm and sound box assembly which could be adapted to pay all the styles of disc records on the market at that time (lateral, Edison and Pathe). Brunswick, aided by its immense cabinet factory, quickly became the number two phonograph manufacturer in the United States. The Brunswick phonograph headquarters for the entire West Coast was established on Mission street in San Francisco, with a phonograph department on the mezzanine floor. By 1924, the company was manufacturing many records as well as players and Al Jolson became a Brunswick artist - thereby publicizing the release of "California, Here I Come".

brunswick brunswick brunswick
brunswick brunswick brunswick brunswick brunswick brunswick brunswick

☀ A Selection of Brunswick Record (and other) Sleeves ☀

brunswick brunswick brunswick brunswick brunswick emerson victor

☀ A Selection of Brunswick (and other) Record Labels ☀

Gold Border: The BIG TWO record companies in the 1920's

Silver Border: Rare to Very Rare

brunswick brunswick brunswick brunswick brunswick brunswick brunswick brunswick bluebird brunswick brunswick brunswick brunswick brunswick brunswick veltone silver radiex harmony decca cameo para swan broad broad ajaz parlo conq romeo romeo vand clax superior home banner edison patti harlem odeon odeon parlo american lyric fonotipia puritan harmo nations opera valentino zono perfect busy regal eagle busybee aretino vogue tower winner ariel imperial bellcanto soverien minstral bellbird Edisonbell actuelle

☀ Some Nipper/Victor Stuff ☀

nipper HMV duster nipper nipper nipper

☀ The Gannett (Gannett - Starr) Record Label ☀

Included here to call attention to the importance of Gannett Records in the history of early jazz and its performers
gannett gannett gannett gannett gannett

The recording business had been dominated from its beginning by large firms which held valuable patents on wax engraving methods and on the recording stylus. Since 1902, the American Graphophone Company (Columbia) and the Victor Talking Machine Co. had pooled their patents on the lateral cut method of recording in an attempt to monopolize the market. The majors were challenged by a growing number of smaller manufacturers, including Vocalion, Emerson, Brunswick and Starr. The giants sought protection in the courts, and in Victor Talking Machine Co. vs. Starr Piano Company (1922) the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held the Victor patent void for lack of invention and for abandonment.

Not only did the lawsuit effectively end the majors monopolization of lateral recording, it formed a bond between the smaller companies which had joined the Gennetts in the legal battle. Leasing arrangements between the companies followed, eventually involving hundreds of Gennett masters.

In the mid-twenties, Gennett was producing 3 million records annually, in addition to 15,000 pianos and 35,000 spring-driven phonographs. In 1928 Gennett cut 1,250 master records, compared to Victor's nearly 7,000.

Of the many exploits of Gennett, none was so noteworthy or important as the music recorded at the Gennett recording department. Located at the southern end of the Starr complex, all recording activity frequently had to cease as boxcars would rumble by the recording studio. Over the period from 1916 to 1934, the Richmond studio made thousands of acoustic and electric recordings, featuring blues, jazz, country, ethnic, classical, spoken word, and any other recorded sound that had or could have a market. William Jennings Bryan recorded his famous "Cross of Gold" speech at the Richmond Gennett studios.

A list of famous names who recorded for Gennett, in Richmond and at their studio in New York, is a long one. In 1922, the Friars Society Orchestra (later the New Orleans Rhythm Kings) made their first recordings in Richmond. The following year, 1923, Jelly Roll Morton waxed some records reaching over 20 masters in one day - an astounding feat for that time or any other. He also participated in the first interracial recording session with the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, the same year King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band with Louis Armstrong, Lil Hardin and Honore Dutrey performed before the acoustic horn.

In 1924, Bix Beiderbecke made the first of several appearances for Gennett, with the Wolverines, and later as the leader of Bix and his Rhythm Jugglers, featuring Tommy Dorsey on the trombone. Hoagy Carmichael, a fan of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, and Bix also performed in Richmond with Bix, Hitch's Happy Harmonists, and as leader of Charmichael's Collegians, recording the first version of "Stardust".

Earl Hines was there, in Lois Deppe's band, as was Muggsy Spanier, with the Bucktown Five, Red Nichols, Billy Butterfield, Mary Lou Williams and a wonderful musical personality who worked both sides of the street. He made religious recordings under the name of Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey; for pop recordings, his name was Thomas Dorsey, and for Jug Bands, it was Georgia Tom. Wingy Manone, a fine trumpet player from New Orleans, came to Richmond in the summer of 1930 to record under the name "Barbecue Joe and his Hot Dogs." One of the tunes he recorded was "Tar Paper Stomp," that years later was revised to become "In the Mood."

Michael Shea's Ultona Phonograph Model 117 purchased on April 27, 1962 for $150.00

brunswick

CLICK ME!!

"Jazz dancing is a worse evil than the saloon and scarlet vice. Abolish jazz music. The road to hell is too often paved with jazz steps! Those moaning saxophones and the rest of the instruments with their broken jerky rhythm make a purely sensual appeal. They all are out to appeal to the low and rowdy instinct." -- 1921 The Ladies' Home Journal article - "The Jazz Path Of Degradation" --- See Below:

"The Jazz Path Of Degradation"

by John R. McMahon (a dance instructor)

'The Ladies Home Journal'(1921)

"Our Middle West is supposed to be a citadel of Americanism and righteousness. Yet a survey of its length and breadth shows that it is badly spotted with the moral smallpox known as jazz. Those moaning saxophones and the rest of the instruments with their broken jerky rhythm make a purely sensual appeal. They call out to the low and rowdy instinct.

All of us dancing teachers know this to be a fact. We have seen the effect of jazz music on our youth. The American people will never be the same as they were before they learned the disgraceful art of the shimmy and toddle. It is likely that the birth rate will be affected. The next generation will show certain physical consequences.

There will be more weaklings and fewer stalwarts. The crop of human weeds will increase. Instead of real men and women, we may reasonably expect an augmented stock of lounge lizards and second-quality vamps.

Jazz dancing is a worse evil than the saloon and scarlet vice. Abolish jazz music. Abolish the fox trot, one step, toddle, tango stock of lounge lizards and second-quality vamps or any form of dancing that permits the gentleman to walk directly in front of his partner. The road to hell is paved with Jazz steps!"

In another 1921 'The Ladies' Home Journal' magazine article, titled "Back To Pre-War Morals", the same Mr. John R. McMahon wrote:

". . . if Beethoven should return to earth and witness the doings of a jazz orchestra, he would thank heaven for his deafness.... . All this music has a droning, jerky incoherence interrupted with a spasmodic blah! blah! blah!' that reminded me of the way that live sheep are turned into mutton."

In still another 1921 issue of The Ladies' Home Journal, author Anne Shaw Faulkner asked " Does Jazz Put The Sin In Syncopation ?", and then answered herself by quoting the opinion of Dr. Henry Van Dyke, a Presbyterian clergyman and professor at Princeton University, that Jazz "is not music at all." She went on to state that ". . . jazz originally was the accompaniment of the voodoo dancer, stimulating the half-crazed barbarian to the vilest deeds."

loc

The National Jukebox

☀ Web Pages By Michael Shea ☀ Redlands  ☀ California ☀ 2012 ☀