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H.O. Sooy papers

1898-1925
 Collection
Accession: 2300

Abstract

Harry O. Sooy (1875-1927) worked at Berliner Gramophone Company and Victor Talking Machine Company and was involved in the development of American sound recording. His papers contain a diary photocopy that is either a typed original or transcript of a diary that Sooy kept from the time of his employment with Eldridge R. Johnson (1867-1945) from 1898 to the end of 1925. Also included are four miscellaneous items: formula for grading and grinding precious stones, regulations governing the Victor Cooperative Beneficial Association, Red Cross benefit concert, and United War Work Campaign concert.

Dates

  • 1898-1925

Creator

Extent

.5 Linear Feet

Biographical Note

Harry O. Sooy (1875-1927) worked at Berliner Gramophone Company and Victor Talking Machine Company and was involved in the development of American sound recording.

Sooy was born on March 11, 1875. He joined the Camden, New Jersey, machine shop of phonograph pioneer Eldridge R. Johnson (1867-1945) in 1898, where he was later joined by his brothers Raymond (1880-1938) and Charles (1885-1945). Johnson made gramophones for the Berliner Gramophone Company and also early recordings. After Berliner went into receivership in 1900, Johnson began full-scale manufacture of phonographs, leading to the formation of the Victor Talking Machine Company a year later.

Sooy was transferred to the Recording Department early on and thus became heavily involved in the development of American sound recording. He was Chief of the Recording Staff (1909-1916), Manager of the Recording Department (1916-1923), and Superintendent of Recording (1923-1927). He died in Oakland, California, on May 24, 1927, and was succeeded by his brother Raymond.

Scope and Contents

The H.O. Sooy (1875-1927) papers contain a diary photocopy that is either a typed original or transcript of a diary that Sooy kept from the time of his employment with Eldridge R. Johnson (1867-1945) from 1898 to the end of 1925. Also included are four miscellaneous items: formula for grading and grinding precious stones, regulations governing the Victor Cooperative Beneficial Association, Red Cross benefit concert, and United War Work Campaign concert.

In the diary, Sooy describes early working conditions in Johnson's establishment when it was a small machine shop, particularly the craft culture and the pranks and practical jokes played by workmen, himself included. Brief notes mark the enlargement of the plant and the development of recording studios in Philadelphia and New York.

Sooy lists the many famous artists who recorded for the Victor labels, often with the dates they were first engaged, the selections they recorded, and what they were paid. These include Enrico Caruso (1873-1921), Arthur Pryor (1870-1942), Emma Eames (1865-1952), Nellie Melba (1861-1931), Paul Whiteman (1890-1967), and John Philip Sousa (1854-1932). He also describes the many road trips taken to demonstrate Victor's equipment or record foreign artists or famous political and literary figures in their homes. One such trip landed Sooy in the midst of the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Sooy gives his estimates of such subjects as Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925), James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916), Will Rogers (1879-1935), and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Location of Copies

View this collection online in the Hagley Digital Archives.

Access Restrictions

No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Copyright held by owner of original.

Language of Materials

English


Additional Information

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
H.O. Sooy papers
Status:
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin

Revision Statements

  • 2021: Ashley Williams

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Contact:
PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA
302-658-2400