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Eldridge Johnson, A Brief Background On The Founder Of Victor

When Thomas Edison developed the “phonograph” in 1877, it was described to have a mechanical or acoustic type of recording system. This means that pure acoustic energy was used and was transferred mechanically to reproduce the audio signal. Therefore, no electricity was incorporated in the system.

Later, extensive efforts were made to develop a new recording system that was easier to use than the early version. This way, it is more possible and more economic to mass produce the recordings.

The Flat Disk “Gramophone”

The flat disk “gramophone,” developed by Emil Berliner, had a cutting stylus that moved parallel or laterally to the disk surface. This process is known as the “lateral” recording process. In 1887, Berliner earned the first patent of recording technology while his flat disk system was granted patent in 1888. He referred to the latter system as the “Gramophone.” Compared to the Edison wax cylinders, Berliner’s gramophone recording sounded louder and had a stronger disk. However, they were also noisy with the sound a little bit distorted due to the acid etching process.

Developing The Gramophone’s Drive Mechanism

The Gramophone Company together with its distributor in New York asked Eldridge Johnson to develop the Gramophone’s drive mechanism into something that is inexpensive and reliable. Johnson, who lived across the Delaware River in Camden, New Jersey, was an inventor, machinist and model maker.

Between 1895 and 1896, Johnson worked on developing and enhancing the said mechanism. Early Gramophone models used either an expensive yet noisy electric motor or a highly variable hand crank. Johnson needed to develop a spring motor that’s both inexpensive and reliable. Although the task was deemed as difficult, Eldridge Johnson managed to cut the first 10-inch disk on January 3, 1901.

Other Notable Achievements

In March 1898, Johnson earned the US Patent 601198 called “Gramophone And Actuating Device Therefor.” The patent is about using a spring motor that is kept at a constant speed using a fly ball speed governor.

In 1900, Johnson was able to purchase the Berliner Gramophone Company’s US assets following the successful joining of a rival in the sale of the Berliner Gramophone.

On December 8, 1903, Johnson achieved a patents cross license together with Victor and Columbia as part of a settlement negotiation of other legal challenges to his patents.

In the latter period of the 1890s, Johnson developed a new and superior method of building a disk master that is designed to press several copies of a gramophone disk.

In 1900, Johnson developed and patented a new way of applying a round paper label to the disk center while the disk was hot and pressed.

In early 1901, the first records carrying the Victor label were issued. These were still labeled with Johnson’s name and did not bear the name “Victor Talking Machine Company.”

On October 3, 1901, the Victor Talking Machine Company was established in Camden, New Jersey through the merging of Johnson’s Consolidated Talking Machine Co. and the Berliner Gramophone Company. That same year, Johnson introduced five new models of phonograph and sold up to 7,570 machines to the consumers.


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