Caruso hamming it up for the Universal camera crew and 1915’s version of the Paparazzi, from Motion Picture World (March 13, 1915). We have no idea whether the close-up of his “vocal organs” has survived.
Victor skimped on its popular releases for the 1914 holiday season (the dance offerings consisted almost entirely of Victor Military Band renditions, and the pop vocal offerings were hardly more inspired) in favor of pricier Red Seals. Courtesy of John Bolig.
Courtesy of John Bolig, author of The Victor Discography Series
Summer was a notorious “dead zone” for record production and sales, as a glance through the early trade journals makes clear. This was a time to scour the backlogs of less-appealing recordings to sacrifice during Dog Days, as happened with Victor’s August list 1914. All of the Red Seal and blue-label recordings shown here had been sitting on the shelf since early April, and many other August listings were even older recordings.
Courtesy of John Bolig, author of The Victor Discography Series.
These celebrity shots graced the back covers of various Victor record supplements during 1908–1909 (courtesy of John Bolig). The internal-horn “Victrola” was still relatively new at this time, during which it was sold alongside the traditional external-horn machines — the latter were called simply “The Victor,” never “Victrola,” which was reserved for inside-horn models.
These mockups, produced by someone at Bain News Service in 1920, are part of the G. G. Bain Collection at the Library of Congress. “Domine Deus” was from Enrico Caruso’s final session, held in Camden NJ on September 16, 1920, and was the second-to-last recording he ever made (“Crucifixus,” from the same work, was his last).
You can find complete discographical details of Caruso’s Victor recordings in John Bolig’s Victor Red Seal Discography, available from Mainspring Press and many major libraries. (And a new expanded edition of John’s classic Caruso Records is in the works.)
From the November and December 1916 Victor Records Supplements, courtesy of John Bolig. If you’re a fan of these artists, you’ll enjoy John’s Victor Red Seal Discography (Volumes 1 & 2, so far, covering all Red Seal issues to 1930), available from Mainspring and many major libraries. And be sure to watch for the jumbo-sized Victor Black Label Discography, Volume 4 (22000, 23000, 24000, V-38000, V-38500, and V-40000), coming in September.
From the Victor Records supplement for July 1913, courtesy of John Bolig
(author of The Victor Discography Series)
The newest installment in the Victor Black Label Discography Series (Volume IV — 23000, 23000, 24000, V-38000, V-38500, and V-40000 Series) is heading to press in a few weeks and is scheduled to release in September.
Some more posed shots from the Bain News Service, which provided hundreds of publicity photos to Victor, Columbia, Paramount, and other record companies in the years following World War I. These photos (held by the Library of Congress) are in the public domain and may be reproduced without permission.
Caruso fans will be glad to hear that we’ve started work on the revised and expanded paperback edition of John Bolig‘s Caruso Records: A History and Discography, which is out-of-print in original form
Opera collectors — Be sure to check out John Bolig’s Victor Red Seal Discographies, available from Mainspring Press and many major libraries.
Many of the records in Gramophone & Typewriter’s February 1904 catalog were also issued in the U.S. as Imported Red Seal Records. Details of those issues (many now quite rare) can be found in John Bolig’s Victor Red Seal Discography, Vol. I — Check out Mainspring’s Annual Bumped-Book Sale for big savings on copies with just slightly bruised covers (sale ends July 1).
Eventually Victor adopted a policy of replacing imported recordings like these with their own domestic versions whenever the performers could be gotten into a Victor studio. You can find more on the Red Seal’s earliest days in A Phonograph in Every Home: The Evolution of the American Recording Industry, 1909-1919, also available from Mainspring.
Victor’s April 1912 catalog featured the first American release of four Sirota recordings made by The Gramophone Company in Warsaw during 1908–1909. Victor’s earliest Sirota’s releases (of Gramophone recordings made in 1902–1903) originally were issued on the black label, and some were later upgraded to Red Seal status as well.
April also saw the release of the second of three versions of the Lucia sextet with Enrico Caruso (recorded on January 19, 1912). Musical considerations aside, it was a marketing triumph for Victor, whose dealers found “The Seven-Dollar Sextet” an irresistable lure for curious customers. Just how many copies were actually sold at that price remains a question. It spent many years on a list of records that dealers could give away with the purchase a Victrola, probably explaining why such an exorbitantly priced record is so common.
April also saw a new release by vaudeville headliner Elida Morris (billed as “The Girl Who Chases Away All Gloom”). Morris didn’t restrict her recording activities to Victor, for which we can be thankful — Victor’s squeaky recordings make her sound like an asthmatic Ada Jones. She can be heard to better advantage on her cylinders and other companies’ discs.
Details and these and more than 10,000 other Victor records, compiled from the original Victor files, can be found in John Bolig’s Victor Discography Series, available from Mainspring Press and in many major libraries.
Complete discographical data on these and many thousands of other Victor records, compiled from the original Victor Talking Machine Company files, can be found in John Bolig’s Victor Discography Series, available from Mainspring Press.