The Victor Talking Machine Company, Radio Corporation of America and General Electric, Camden, New Jersey photograph collection
Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library
PO Box 3630
Wilmington, Delaware, 19807
Finding aid prepared by in 2013.
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In 1887, German-born inventor Emile Berliner received a U.S. patent for the gramophone, the first commercially available flat disk playing phonograph. In 1895, Berliner and a group of investors started the Berliner Gramophone Company to manufacture the gramophone for commercial use. Berliner's design improved on the phonograph invented by Thomas Edison in 1877 as it allowed for ease of duplication from a master recording, but the hand-cranked gramophone could not maintain constant speed and pitch while playing. In 1896, Eldridge Reeves Johnson, a machinist from Camden, New Jersey, developed a spring motor for the Berliner gramophone and began to produce motors, sound boxes and metal parts for Berliner Gramophone. When Emile Berliner underwent legal difficulties, Johnson decided to adopt a brand name and distribute his own gramophones. In 1900, Eldridge Johnson formed the Consolidated Talking Machine Company with Leon F. Douglass, but it would be short lived. In 1901, Johnson combined his patents with those of Emile Berliner, incorporating the Victor Talking Machine Company in Camden, New Jersey and adopting the "His Master's Voice" trademark from Berliner. The Victor Talking Machine Company increased in success continually, signing Enrico Caruso and John Phillips Sousa to recording contracts, introducing the Victrola with its enclosed horn in 1906 and improving recording technology. The company continued to expand into the 1920s, when sales began to flatten with the popularity of radio.
Radio Corporation of America (RCA) was incorporated in 1919, taking over the Marconi Wireless patents in the United States and focusing their efforts on international communications. RCA quickly entered the broadcasting field in July 1921 and shortly thereafter began to sell home broadcasting equipment manufactured by GE and Westinghouse. RCA desired its own manufacturing facilities, however, and purchased the Victor Talking Machine Company on March 15, 1929. The corporation became the RCA Victor Company in 1930. This merger allowed RCA to consolidate the research, engineering, manufacturing and sales of RCA products. RCA continued to diversity its products throughout the 1930s, expanding to include developments such as radar, airborne electronics and television.
The collection consists of negatives relating to the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), the Victor Talking Machine Company, which was purchased by RCA in 1929, and the General Electric Company (GE), which originally created RCA, divested the company in 1932 and then repurchased RCA in 1986. The majority of the negatives feature sound and television equipment manufactured by RCA. These images include phonographs, radios, radio-phonograph combinations, records, speakers, amplifiers, microphones, facsimile machines, televisions, equipment involved in the transmission and reception of television and radio waves, radio equipment created for use by government agencies and motion picture equipment. Many images show the interiors of RCA equipment, or feature individual radio and television components, such as radio and television tubes. A number of images feature machinery and employees engaged in manufacturing RCA equipment, particularly television components. RCA recording artists and actors/actressees appear in another large segment of the images, both in candid and posed images taken in recording studios and in promotional photographs from films. Images used in RCA advertising also appear in the collection.
Partial alphabetic index available in Pictorial Collections.