The Nipper Saga

Nipper is one of the more sophisticated and beloved of advertising brand icons. In the United States, we know him as the “RCA dog.” But this cute little mutt-turned-model was actually of English descent, born in Bristol, England, in 1883.

This is the original painting, showing the Edison-Bell cylinder phonograph.

Here’s how it began. Nipper became the pet of the Barraud brothers, Mark and Francis. Francis noticed the pooch would listen attentively, head cocked, to an old phonograph and it occurred to him that the dog might be waiting to hear his master’s voice. Years later this inspired him to paint the famous oil now known as “His Master’s Voice.”

The work portrayed an Edison-Bell cylinder machine, and Francis first offered to sell it to that company. Edison-Bell declined. Advised to brighten up the painting, he visited the Gramophone Co., Ltd. in London to borrow a brass horn. The company became interested in the painting, if he would agree to replace the phonograph in his original painting with the company’s new disc gramophone.

Masculine Women and Feminine Men record label. Huh?

His Master’s Voice

This painting is the finished product that hung on the wall of Gramophone Co., Ltd. It was first used as a trademark in 1900 in England and was called “Dog and Trumpet.” Emile Berliner, inventor of the disc gramophone, brought the painting to the United States. Retitled “His Master’s Voice,” it became the trademark of the Victor Talking Machine Company (much later RCA Victor and then just RCA).

Barraud painting one of the 24 copies of “His Master’s Voice.”

Along with the original painting, Barraud also painted some exact copies. He produced the copies in precisely the same way he created the original, by painting the dog with the Edison cylinder phonograph and then painting over it with the Gramophone. Today the replica is on display at the Capitol Records Building in Hollywood, California.

Next Month…

Due to the anticipated overwhelming acclaim and renown of this new column “Spokescritters,” we’ve decided to make it a regular column!

Next Spokescritters: That overly excitable blob of flour and water we all know and love to poke, the Pillsbury Doughboy.