History of the RCA logo

April 13, 2011  |  Branding, Check this out

So, the story goes like this. The logo we (American’s) know as the RCA logo is one of the first instances of company branding. See, way back in 1899 the Gramophone company bought a painting by Francis Barraud with a dog listening to a record of his dead owner’s voice. Interested? Follow the jump to find out the whole story.

What we Americans think of as the RCA logo, having grown up seeing it everywhere. But the logo first belonged to British entertainment company HMV, which is in fact named after the original painting on which the logo is based, called “His Master’s Voice.”

Francis Barraud was a Liverpudlian painter who had a brother named Mark. In the late 1800s, after Mark died, Francis inherited a bunch of his stuff: An early cylinder phonograph player, cylinder recordings of Mark’s voice, and Mark’s dog, a fox terrier named Nipper.

Francis observed that when he played the records of his dead brother’s voice, the dog would run over to the phonograph and listen intently. Francis painted the scene, calling it “His Master’s Voice” and tried to sell the painting. Initially no one was interested. But in 1899 The Gramophone Company purchased it, and by 1900 it was their corporate logo. Roughly eight years later they changed their name to HMV, after the painting, in an early instance of “branding.”

The Victor Talking Machine Company saw the logo a year or two later and acquired the U.S. rights for themselves. Being an American company, they used the logo a helluva lot more aggressively than their British counterparts, and when RCA acquired Victor in the 1920s it became their logo. Which is why we Yanks grew up seeing it.

Interestingly enough, Barraud’s original title for the painting was “Dog looking at and listening to a Phonograph.”

I’ve been into HMV stores over the “other” big lake between the US & Europe but never knew the story. Pretty interesting.

Thanks to Core 77 for the great story.



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