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[Contents]
Memoir of my Career at Victor Talking Machine Company

by Harry O. Sooy

Main Text

1901
 
Our list of artists during these days was somewhat limited—I will mention below some of the artists of the early days:

The Haydn Quartet—consisting of Harry Macdonough, S. H. Dudley, Wm. P. Hooley and John Bieling. Macdonough, Dudley and Hooley also did solo work as well as singing with the Quartet.

Other pioneers in the business were:

  • George Graham, Recitations
  • Billy Golden, Comic Songs
  • J. J. Fisher, Sacred and Standard Songs
  • Bert Shepherd, Comic Songs
  • The Georgia Minstrel Company
  • Cal Stewart, Talks (Uncle Josh)
  • Edward M. Favor, Comic Songs
  • John Meyers, Standard Songs
  • Dan Quinn, Comic Songs
  • Vess Ossman, Banjo Solos
  • Chas. P. Low, Xylophone Solos
  • Geo. Schweinfest, Piccolo Solos
  • Sousa’s Band
  • Kindle’s First Regiment Band
  • Metropolitan Orchestra

I could not begin to mention the individual artists in the Victor Catalog to-ay, but I may add that the voices of new artists were then, and are now, being tried frequently, likewise instrumental artists and organizations of various kinds, and the number of satisfactory, or successful, artists grew to make the Victor Catalog. New artists will, of course, be added to the Catalog from time to time as long as we exist.

The Recording Department remained at 424 So. 10th St., from September, 1901, to November, 1907; during this period the business progressed rapidly, and Mr. MacEwan, a live, ambitious young man, decided to start a Chef Department in the Laboratory to furnish the Recording Staff with mid-day lunches, which became quite popular until he insisted we eat oyster stews five days a week. Then, we naturally started to rebel, so, to encourage us along, he added a bottle of beer with the stew for a while, but he finally found it necessary to change his menu. He then called on Boothby’s to help him, and I can well (p. 16) remember a roast chicken being delivered at the Laboratory one day, about the size of a snowbird, to be divided amongst three hungry hounds; namely, Nafey, MacEwan and Sooy, with a bottle of beer on the side. This was when Mac lost his reputation as a chef. (p. 17)
 
Early in 1901 we started to make records of ten inch size; these were known as “Monarch” records, while the seven-inch records were known as “Victor” records. Announcements were made in all records at this period of recording; for instance, Mr. Walter B. Rogers, who was cornet soloist of Sousa’s Band, and later Director of the Victor Orchestra, made some cornet solo records while with the Band, which were announced as follows—“Cornet Solo, ‘Minnehaha’ played by Walter B. Rogers, Cornet Soloist, Sousa’s Band,” after which, of course, the music would start. Or, perhaps it would be an announcement like this—“Banjo Solo, ‘Yankee Doodle’ with variations, played by Vess L. Ossman, the Banjo King.”

It was during the Buffalo Fair, or Pan American Exposition, in 1901 we found the ten inch records were quite popular, although, there was a limited number of ten inch records made at that time, and they did not have any great musical merit.

How well I can remember the Buffalo Fair, and the realization of the fair came to the Laboratory Staff in this manner—the employees of the Laboratory having two weeks’ vacation during the summer, and as Mr. Johnson had no one especially to look after his exhibit, we were given our choice in going to the Pan American Exposition, Buffalo, N. Y., for two weeks and help look after the exhibit, with expenses paid, or take the two weeks and spend the time as we desired. Naturally, we decided to take the Pan American Exposition route, so everything was all made ready and set. We then learned we must go individually.  By so doing it would carry us over a longer period; not only that, but I think Mr. Johnson had an idea it would prove to be bad advertising for him to have this bunch go in a body, as he knew us all too well.

Mr. E. K. MacEwan was chosen to go first and assist Mr. Child in making ready for the “Johnson (P. 18) Exhibit,” fitting up the booth etc. There was also another young man stationed for the duration of the fair, a Mr. George Adams. 0n arriving at Buffalo, Mr. MacEwan secured quarters, or a room, with a private family near the Fair Grounds, of a Mr. Jerry Flynn, who, I believe, was a detective. These quarters were retained for each of us following MacEwan. After Mac’s return from the Fair he had some weird stories to relate about his two weeks spent there; we thought he was framing us, but it all turned out to be true, and I know there are many interesting incidents he can recall even at this late date, some twenty years past. (Ask Mac.) MacEwan always spoke very highly of our friend, Jerry, the landlord, after his two weeks’ vacation spent at the Fair.

Mac was succeeded by James Owen, and Jim claimed he spent two of the happiest weeks of his life; in fact, I guess he did, but Jim is more qualified to discuss this matter than I. Jim, like MacEwan, also had a kindly regard for Jerry at the close of his vacation.

I. H. O. Sooy, succeeded Owen, and on arriving at Buffalo, N.Y., went to Jerry’s to see if my room was reserved; he assured me everything was in readiness, and, after leaving my luggage, I took myself to the Fair Grounds, where, upon arrival, I learned I must be “mugged,” or, in other words, have my photograph taken, which was issued for identification on my pass for admission to the Fair Grounds. Well, I was very happy for that, because it saved fifty cents each time I entered the turnstile, and I, not being overly flushed, it helped a lot. I then started on a hunt, and finally located the Johnson Exhibit in the Electrical Building, made myself acquainted to Mr. Adams, after which we did the Midway and all its branches. And, upon our return to the booth, (p. 19) it was then I learned how popular the ten inch records were. As I said before, they were not of a high-grade musical character. Two of the 10 inch records played a lot, and which were quite popular at that time, were entitled “The Dog Fight” by Spencer and Girard, and “The Village Choir” by S. H. Dudley. After playing a few of these records to the audience which had gathered, we would try to persuade someone to leave an order for a machine, and, naturally, get a deposit on same if possible.

I found it customary to report at the booth about nine or nine thirty a.m. We did report, but I must say we made quite a vacation of it. And, after a long day spent at the Fair, I would return to Jerry’s, or where we had our room, and I then found out why MacEwan and Owen felt so friendly toward Jerry. It would make no difference whether you returned to your room at nine p.m. or two a.m., Jerry would always be waiting for you with a “nightcap,” whether in need of it or not.

I was due to leave Buffalo the day prior to Midway Day, but instead I waited, as Bill Nafey succeeded me; he was arriving Midway Day, and I waited over to spend this day with him. Met him at the depot and gave him a hearty welcome, I then took him to our domicile at Jerry’s, we then went to the Fair Grounds and had him “mugged,” or his picture taken, for his pass. And, I will never forget it—the photographer sat him down (of course, in a chair) and Nafey did not sit up very straight, the cause, of course, being from his long train ride, and other things. He then crossed his legs and slouched down in his chair—the photographer exclaimed “Put your legs down, we want to get a picture of your face, not your knees.”

Well, I stuck with Nafey pretty nearly all day, in fact, until it was necessary to go to my room and have a nap. I guess I had been imbibing too freely, although, we were going strong again that evening. And, the next morning, being a day over (p. 20) my allotted time, I was to, and did, leave for home, but not until after I had stuck Nafey up for five bucks to carry me over my trip home. Nafey was still in bed when I left, begging me to leave him alone in quietness. I bade him good-bye at eight a.m. and made a dash to catch my train for Philadelphia. I had a pleasant trip down, but upon my arrival in Philadelphia, I began to check up on my funds, knowing, at least, I had the river to cross to Camden, which would cost me three cents ferriage, but to my great surprise, I found my stock pretty well up; I rounded out fifteen cents in my jeans, and it was all figured out just how it would be spent, which was as follows: Trolley to ferry, five cents—ferriage to Camden, three cents—trolley in Camden, five cents, leaving a balance of two cents when I arrived home. But, upon my arrival in Philadelphia, I was agreeably surprised to find Mrs. H. O. Sooy to meet me at the depot, who relieved me of all this burdensome expense, and my worry had been for naught.

The next day I reported for duty at the Laboratory, MacEwan and Owen, of course, being very anxious to know what I thought of the Fair, etc. It was then I began to realize I knew nothing and saw very little of the Fair.

I had hardly gotten back in harness of our general routine when we got the awful news of President McKinley’s assassination at the Buffalo Fair, which was on September 6, 1901, and we had about decided to take a recording equipment to Buffalo and get some records of the popular talent in the villages on the Midway, I being slated to make this recording trip with Mr. C.  G. Child. We left Philadelphia on the evening of September 13th, arriving in Buffalo September 14th, the day our President died. We found the Fair closed and the city of Buffalo in gloom. This was, indeed, a very sad day, not only to the city of Buffalo, but to our entire country. (p. 21)

We secured quarters to do the work in the Elinwood Hotel, just outside the entrance to the Fair Grounds, but after searching the Midway for days, we found there was no talent of interest left to make records of, and decided to return. The return shipment of our goods was made to 424 So. 10th St., Philadelphia, where our new recording quarters were to be established. This building was previously occupied by the Berliner Gramophone Co.

The moving of the Laboratory from Camden, N.J., to 424 So. 10th St., Philadelphia, was done while we, Mr. Child and I, were in Buffalo by Mr. MacEwan, a bob-tail horse and Mr. Nafey. Money in these days, not being overly plentiful, MacEwan acted as teamster on the job, and Nafey, I guess, was boss; however, the moving was done in a very creditable manner.

The ousting of the Laboratory from Camden was done to provide more room for the Machine Shop.

Upon entering our new quarters at 424 So. 10th St., or 10th and Lombard Sts., which was known as the colored belt of Philadelphia, we were furnished with considerable excitement in the neighborhood outside of making records.

We finally got established with the recording department on the second floor, and the matrix plant in the basement. The Matrix Plant had a capacity at that time of about thirty (30) records a day. The Recording Department at that time would make the original records, prepare them for, and put them in, the plating baths, owing to the small force in the Matrix Department. Prior to this, the machines and records were known as Eldridge R. Johnson’s products.

If I remember correctly, it was in October, 1901, that the Victor Talking Machine Co. was formed, or incorporated, with offices established in the Girard Building at 11th and Sansom Sts. (p. 22)
 
1902

In the early days of Mr. Johnson’s Recording and Matrix work, the first pressing from the master matrix was made in the Laboratory, and from this pressing it was determined whether the selection, or record, was worthy to be listed in the catalog. If such selection was listed in the catalog, matrices were made and forwarded to the Durnoid Manufacturing Co., Newark, N. J., who made all the pressings for the market. Therefore, it was necessary for the Durnoid Mfg. Co. to have a large quantity of matrices. Later on we established a nickel plating department at the Durnoid Company for the purpose of re-nickeling matrices.

I think it was in April of this year that, for some reason, it was deemed necessary to renumber most all of the matrices at the Durnoid Company in Newark, N.J. A day was set for doing this work when Mr. Child, Mr. Nafey, Mr. MacEwan and I journeyed to Newark and re-numbered the matrices. We completed the job shortly after noon, after which we explored New York City, mostly the east side Bowery.

It was, I think, MacEwan’s first trip to New York as well as my own, so we left it to Nafey to pilot us around, while we reciprocated by buying the drinks. It was a happy party and we returned home the same evening full of “spirits.” (p.23)
 
One of our old friends and co-workers of the Machine Shop, in fact, one of the pioneers of the factory—I refer to Mr. Curlis Gouldy—after a brief illness, died and was laid away Easter Sunday this year at Mt. Holly, N.J. Mr. C. K. Haddon, Mr. A. C. Middleton, as well as a number of the employees attended the funeral. We all went in a body to the house, and upon arriving at the Gouldy home, we found the services were to be postponed, owing to the minister being detained by another funeral service. My old side-kick, Billy Nafey, and I became rather restless, and decided we would explore Mt. Holly, and then return for the funeral services at the Gouldy home. But, much to our surprise on our tour of Mt. Holly, we met another friend, and co-worker, by the name of Archie Wallace, who lived in the burg. It being Easter Sunday, we naturally looked for an open side door, and, by gosh, we found one down on Water Street which nearly spelled disaster. It is safe to say we did not get back to the funeral service, in fact, it was only by good luck that we got the train home. We did, however, manage to catch the train, and all the employees, including Mr. Haddon and Mr. Middleton, were awaiting our arrival at the Mt. Holly depot. Some were very much disgusted with Mr. Nafey and me, while others were envious. Nevertheless, we boarded the train for Camden, and upon boarding the train, to my great surprise, I found Mrs. H. O. Sooy on the same train. I spoke to Mrs. Sooy gently, but thought I was better fitted to ride in the smoking car, so after the train left the depot I started for the smoker, and when passing between cars my hat blew off, and, of course, was lost. Upon arriving at Haddon Avenue Station, Camden, Mr. Haddon, Mr. Middleton, Mr. MacEwan, Mr. Nafey and others got off the train to see the greeting I was to receive from   Mrs. Sooy. Well, there is no use for me to mention the greeting—I will leave that to your imagination. But, this is the situation I was placed in—Easter Sunday without a hat—why? (p. 24)

Business seemed to be going along well, and I think it was in this year, 1902, Mr. Child was sent to Europe on business matters, and to secure matrices of Red Seal artists, which the Gramophone Co. had recorded. He selected many valuable matrices, which contained the voices of many noted artists, after which we started recording Red Seal artists.

In December 1902, I came to the conclusion I wanted a home, one that I could call my own, but just how to raise the $36O0.00 necessary to accomplish this I did not know, as my limit was about $600.00 strong. After thinking the matter over from many angles, I decided to speak to Mr. E. R. Johnson about taking a mortgage for me, realizing the money necessary to make me “hunk” on the property would mean a big mortgage against the property of this value. However, I stood a bit on my nerve, went to the phone and called Mr. Johnson in his private office, inquiring if he would see me for a few minutes. He set the time for my appointment, and believe me I was there. I stated to Mr. Johnson my desire and the limit of funds I had to do it with—he said he was glad to see me trying to get a home and instructed Mr. A. C. Middleton to look the property up, and report, that he might be able to decide on a loan, which was granted in the next couple days. So, I purchased the property, 429 Chambers Avenue, Camden, N.J., and occupied same on December, 26, 1902. Thanks to Mr. Johnson.

At the end of this year, 1902, we were just completing a Portable Recording Machine, which might be used for Export Recording in foreign countries. This machine was a duplicate of the one used in our Laboratory, the operating power being furnished by springs, and was a duplicate of the machine designed by Mr. J. C. English. (p. 25)

1903
 
From the early start of making E. R. Johnson’s records, up to and including a portion of 1903, all records in which an accompaniment was required, a piano was used for the purpose. But, the same, old piano accompaniment became pretty monotonous, and it was deemed absolutely necessary to substitute an orchestra to take the place of the piano; at least in part of the records we were making.

So, we got a small orchestra together, consisting, I think, of about seven pieces (or musicians) and carried on a series of experiments to get the general effect of orchestra accompaniments in the records, which was favorably received, and, I think, it was in the early fall this year (1903) that we started to make records for our catalog with orchestra accompaniment.

Mr. Arthur Pryor was secured sometime after as Musical Director. The musicians of the orchestra were not on the pay roll, being engaged for such dates as we deemed necessary.

It was not long before we found piano accompaniments had drifted into a forgotten age, being used mostly for accompaniments with instrumenta1 solos such as violin, cello etc.

About August, this year, we started to make twelve-inch records.

In, or about, September, this year, (1903) Mr. Walter B. Rogers joined the Orchestra (which was then under the direction of Mr. Arthur Pryor) to play first cornet. He filled this position until about September the following year (1904) when he was made Director of the Victor Orchestra to succeed Mr. Pryor, who thought the Directorship of the Orchestra too confining, and had the desire to establish a reputation as a Bandmaster. (p. 26)

1904

During April, this year (1904), the Victor Company sent me to Newark, N.J., to learn the method of Jewel Grinding under the instruction of L. A. Chipot.

On Sunday, April 24, 1904, I had occasion to go to New York and make records of Mme. Johanna Gadski. Sunday work was not frequent in the department, but I recall this particular Sunday engagement by the disastrous fire which occurred in our factory.

Upon my return to Philadelphia I heard various remarks about the Victor plant in Camden being burnt out; no doubt, you can imagine how a fellow feels when he hears such remarks about a business establishment he is so much interested in. And, stopping at the plant when I reached Camden, I realized the seriousness of the fire. As a result of this fire the Victor Company lost much valuable information as well as the general equipment of Machine Shop tools.

On October 8, 1904, we moved our New York Laboratory from Carnegie Hall to 234 Fifth Avenue, which was more centrally located, and it made better quarters for the work. It was a great relief to get out of Carnegie Hall, and away from the Vocal Studios where vocal teachers were constantly trying voices, good, bad and otherwise.

November 5, 1904, we made our first records of Mme. Marcella Sembrich, soprano.

November 11, 1904, we made our first records of Maud Powell, the great lady violinist, who continued an exclusive Victor artist until her death, which occurred January 8, 1920, at Uniontown, Pa. Miss Powell’s last recording date at the Camden Recording Laboratory was December 30, 1919, or just nine days prior to her death.  (p. 27)
 
For quite a long time after we had started to do recording in New York, we carried all of our original plates, or recording blanks, to New York, and likewise when returning with the master records after they were recorded; we did not trust them for shipment because of fear they would be broken while in transit.

However, after we had moved our Laboratory to Twenty-third and Fifth Avenue, owing to the increased amount of recording being done in New York, we found it necessary to devise some other means of transporting the original recording blanks to the New York Laboratory, and also the return shipments of the master records for manufacturing after each recording date; therefore, we secured good, substantial trunks which were furnished with heavy pads to prevent damage in transportation.

These trunks, containing original recording blanks, were checked out from our home Laboratory for the New York Laboratory by the Union Transfer Company, and upon our arrival in New York we would pick the trunk up at the baggage room and take it to the New York Laboratory in a taxicab.

After the recording engagement was over in New York the trunk was re-packed and its contents of master records taken by taxicab to the New York Station and checked back to the home Laboratory for manufacture. (p.  28)

In January 1904, recording work by this time had become so plentiful that it was deemed necessary to have a man finish original blanks only in order to meet the demand. W. B. Bodine was hired for this position, and quarters fitted up on the third floor, 10th and Lombard Sts. to do this work. The recording continued with the Black Label artists of various kinds, of course, adding a new artist now and then to the list.

On February 1, 1904, we recorded our first records of the great tenor, Enrico Caruso, for the Victor Talking Machine Co.  C. H. H. Booth played piano accompaniment. Ten records, totaling ten selections, were made of this engagement, the titles of which are as follows:

  1. Rigoletto—Questa o quella
  2. Rigoletto—La donna e mobile
  3. Elisir D’Amore—Una furtiva lagrima (1 verse)
  4. Elisir D’Amore—Una furtiva lagrima (2 verse)
  5. Aida—Celeste Aida
  6. Tosca—E lucevan le stelle
  7. Tosca—Recondita armonia
  8. Cavalleria Rusticana—Siciliana
  9. Manon—Il Sogno
  10. Il Pagliacci—Vesti la giubba

The price paid Caruso this engagement was $400.00 per selection, which amounted to $4,000.00 for his afternoon’s work.

I recall he had a very bad frog, or husky spot, in his voice in record entitled “Tosca—El lucevan le stelle” (Puccini) and when Mr. Child played this selection for him we fully expected he would want to remake it, but he absolutely refused, claiming that it was an emotional effect; however, he was very glad to remake the selection some few years later.

This first date of Caruso was recorded in Carnegie Hall, New York, Room 826, which we were then using as a Recording Department. (p. 29)

1905
 
On February 20, 1905, we made our first records of Mme. Emma Eames, soprano. On, or about, the 24th of this month, Mr. Child and I returned to the New York Laboratory with finished sample records to play for her and get her approval of same. We felt pretty well pleased with the results, and naturally picked the particular record we thought best of the lot she had made to play for her first.

Mme. Eames, at that time, carried with her what we call a “Yes, Mam” woman. Upon reproducing the first record, which we considered the best of her voice, she raved and remarked “That’s the most hideous thing I ever heard, it doesn’t sound a bit like me does it?” And, of course, the “Yes, Mam” woman replied, “No, it does not.” While taking this “rotten” record off the Victrola, and putting another selection on, she was still raving, so much so, I thought it was about time for me to make my exit; however, when we started to reproduce the second selection, she had come somewhat to her reason, and thought it sounded better, more human, and more an interpretation of her voice. “Don’t you think so?” to the “Yes, Mam” woman, and the reply, of course, was “Yes, it is much better of your voice.”

And, by the time we had played all the records for her which she had made, she really thought they were not bad at all, and asked to hear the first one again. This, also, she thought very good, in fact, she passed them as being satisfactory.

Mme. Eames last recording date was April 14, 1911, and the recording staff has not had one minute’s Unrest because she does not make any more records for the V. T. M. Co.

Caruso returned for this season’s engagement in the U.S.A., and on February 27th, 1905, we made the second repertoire of his voice for the Victor Company, consisting of five selections, or records, titles as follows: (p. 30) 

  • DON PASQUALE—Serenata, “Com e gentil”
  • CARMEN—Air de la fleur
  • HUGUENOTS—Bianca al par
  • GIOCONDA—Cielo e mar
  • CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA—Brindisi (Drinking Song)

Caruso received $l,000.00 per selection, or a total of $5000.00 for his afternoon’s engagement.

On March 13, 1905, we made our first concerted Red Seal record, a duet by Caruso and Scotti (tenor and baritone) entitled “La Forza del Destino”—Solenne in quest’ ora (Verdi). The record proved successful and still remains popular with the public.

After establishing a Laboratory Experimental Machine Shop this year (1905) on April 11th John Elfering was assigned to the department for mechanical and machine work.

On May 8, 1905, I was instructed to go to New York and make a personal record of Lord Charles Beresford for Mr. Robert H. Thompson. Upon reaching Jersey City I crossed to Cortland Street, took the subway to 28th Street, as it was the custom to do, taking the express train, changing at 14th Street for a local, which stopped at the 28th Street station. While waiting at 14th Street for the local, a well-groomed gentleman, very much English, approached me and inquired if this was the side of the P1atform to get the local uptown to 32d Street.  I informed him it was, and he thanked me very courteously. Shortly after we boarded the local, I bade him good-bye and made my exit at 28th Street, and on my way from the subway to the Laboratory I wondered if this distinguished gentleman could possibly be Lord Charles Beresford, the man whom I was sent over to make the personal record of, his appointment being at 10.30 a.m.  I reached the Laboratory and proceeded with my work of preparing to make the personal record—sure enough, in about 25 minutes after I had left the subway train (p. 31) who should come walking into the Laboratory but the same gentleman I had left in the subway a few minutes before, with his friend Mr. Thompson, and who proved to be Lord Charles Beresford with his friend, coming to make the record. He exclaimed “This is a peculiar coincidence, didn’t I leave you a few minutes ago in the subway?” And, I replied, “You did.” He then remarked “The world isn’t very big after all.”

During 1905 the Record Pressing Department was located at 23 Market Street, Camden, N.J., and on June 30 there was quite a disastrous fire in this department.

Also during this year, 1905, Messrs. Nafey and Rous made the second recording repertoire in Mexico, the destination being Mexico City.

During the season at Willow Grove Park this year, John Philip Sousa filled an extended engagement there, and in the course of his stay he was going to play some music which required the use of large chimes. Mr. Sousa, knowing the Laboratory was in possession of such a set, which represented a portion of the Laboratory equipment, asked if he could borrow it. His request was granted and it was up to us to deliver the chimes at Willow Grove Park. Mr. MacEwan, being the most experienced man at the time, hired a dray and selected Nafey and I to act as his chief helpers in transporting these chimes to the Park.

Well, the day for the trip turned out to be bad, cold and stormy, but, believe, me, the stimulants were abundant enough to ward off any ill effects, or ambitious germs. (p. 32)

1906

January 3, 1906, Mme. Schumann-Heink, contralto, made her first records for the Victor Company.  (p. 33)

1907
 
January 15, 1907, 1 signed my second contract with the Victor Company.

February 8, 1907, there came a hard blow to both Mrs. Sooy and I by the loss of our son, six years and eleven months old. The firm, knowing we felt this loss keenly, sent me to Cuba on a recording trip February 23d, allowing me to take Mrs. Sooy with me. We returned the last of March, it being my first recording trip outside of our home laboratory, and one to be remembered. I made, during this trip, 171 records.

February 19, 1907, Geraldine Farrar, soprano, made her first records for the Victor Company.

March 5, 1907, Mme. Nellie Melba, soprano, made her first records for the Victor Company. Later on she came to the Camden Laboratory to make records; we started with her engagement at eleven a.m. and continued thru the noon hour. There are numerous whistles at noon time in the vicinity of the Camden Laboratory which make it necessary for us to be very careful lest we record them in the records and thereby spoil the records. To avoid this trouble we are obliged at times to wait until the whistles have ceased blowing before making a record about this time. The whistles we have to guard against are 12 o’clock, noon, 12.25, 12.30 and 12.45 p.m. These whistles caused a delay during Mme. Melba’ s engagement, and she wrote a funny letter to Mr. Johnson, demanding something like $l00,000.00 for the interruption.

During the months of June and July, this year, I made a recording trip to Mexico City; Mrs. Sooy was also along on this trip. Although, I had sent my luggage ten days in advance of my departure for Mexico, when I arrived in Mexico City I found the paraphernalia had not arrived. I immediately wired the office in Camden to start a tracer, and I started a tracer from Mexico City, to locate the delayed shipment. It was finally (p. 34) found on the border at El Paso, and I, knowing the goods could not be delivered in Mexico City for at least two days, we, Mrs. Sooy and I, took a trip to Cuernavaca., Mexico. And, not being able to speak hardly one word of Spanish, we surely had some experience, especially in the dining room of the hotel where we stopped. Although the manager was an American, the help was all Spanish; for instance, in the dining room that evening Mrs. Sooy wanted some ice water, and we told the waiter the best we could and thought he understood our wants; at least, he left the dining room, but only to come back with a large bunch of flowers which he was going to bathe in Mrs. Sooy’s drinking glass. Not being successful getting the flowers in the drinking glass, he then brought a bowl of lump sugar which he was going to dump in the drinking glass, however, we prevented him putting the sugar in the drinking water, and he did not comprehend until Mrs. Sooy took a swallow of the drinking water, which was very warm, after which she made a terrible face, then he exclaimed “Agua con yalo,” meaning “Ice water.”

After our two days stay at Cuernavaca we returned to Mexico City, and spent July 4th in celebration at Luna Park, Mexico City, where they held many American sports—President Diaz, of Mexico, and U. S. Minister Thompson took part at the celebration.

We, of course, like many other Americans, could not miss seeing a bull fight, so we journeyed to the Bull Arena of Mexico City one warm Sunday in July, and saw six bulls killed that afternoon. This is, of course, the Mexican native sport, but once was quite sufficient; it is the most cruel sport I have ever seen, but very exciting, so much so, the Government mostly has a company of soldiers at each bull fight to keep order, it being such a blood-thirsty affair. The tickets at that time were sold with a choice—one dollar on the sunny side, two dollars on the shady side. All sports in Mexico are held on Sunday. (p. 35)
 
On finishing up my repertoire of records I found I had recorded 207 records in all for the Mexican territory.

On July 7, 1907, Evan Williams, tenor, joined the ranks of Victor Exclusive Artists, and soon became very popular with those seeking good music thru the medium of the Victrola, he having a large repertoire of good, standard songs and oratorio selections. The first selection made by Mr. Williams for the Victor Company was entitled “For a Faded Rose.” Mr. Williams made new selections for the Victor Company every year up to and including his last date of November 16, 1917. The last selection sung for us by Mr. Williams was one of his old native songs entitled “Y Deryn Pur” (The Dove), an old Welsh song. After a brief illness Mr. Williams died May 24, 1918, at his home in Akron, Ohio. Thanks to the Victor Company we can still hear his voice on the Victor records.

September 7, 1907, Nafey sailed for Buenos Aires, South America, on a recording trip, this being the first time South American territory had been touched by the Victor Company.

During November, this year, we moved the Laboratory from 424 So. 10th St., Philadelphia, to the building S.W. Corner Front and Cooper Streets, Camden, N.J., in which we occupied the fourth floor.

The first large type “D” recording machine was installed in the Camden Laboratory prior to our moving into same.

Up until July 22, 1907, all Red Seal engagements had been recorded in New York, but on this date Mr. Evan Williams, tenor, made records in our home Laboratory then located at 10th and Lombard Streets, Philadelphia. And, on September 23d, Ellen Beach Yaw, soprano, filled an engagement in the same Laboratory. However, the Red Seal engagements in this Laboratory were few as we moved in November to our new Laboratory in Camden. (p. 36)

The first Red Seal engagements in our new Camden Laboratory were Emilio de Gogorza, baritone, and Mario Ancona, baritone, December 11th and 13th respectively.

From this time on, recording dates of a Red Seal nature were alternated between the Camden and New York laboratories to suit the convenience of the artists. (p. 37)
 
1908

January 2, 3, and 4, 1908, we were erecting one of the large type “D” recording machines in our New York Laboratory, as we had deemed it better for practical use by our past work in Camden on the same type machine. This was the first permanent recording machine in the New York laboratory, and our first big date to be made on this machine after it was installed in the N. Y. Laboratory—Yes, one of the largest dates we have ever had—was on February 3, this same year, when we made the first “Lucia Sextet” record, the artists being Mme. Sembrich; Mme. Severina; Messrs. Caruso, Scotti, Daddi and Journet. We also made this same day the first record of “Rigoletto Quartet”; the artists were Mme. Sembrich, Mme. Jacoby, Messrs. Caruso and Scotti. These were, indeed big engagements and everybody concerned were on their toes with anxiety. And, when we heard the finished records, they were not considered good enough, so an appointed time was set for us to remake them, it being February 7th. The anxiety, of course, became greater on our part, as it necessitated having this number of big artists come back to remake these selections. However, the second attempt proved more successful and pleased all concerned. I admit this was, by far, the hardest job I had tackled in making records during my experience so far in the Recording Department.

From June 8 to 18, 1908, I was sent to Lincoln, Nebraska, to make records of Wm. Jennings Bryan, which wore of a political nature. Mr. Bryan, at that time, was doing a lot of campaigning thru the country, and was caught out in a very severe rain storm, contracting a heavy cold.  And upon my arrival at his home, where the records were to be made, I told him I feared his voice was not good for record making, which he admitted, but said he would make them now as he had no more spare time to give me, and if the firm was not satisfied with the records he would make another appointment at a later date when I could come out and make them over. (p. 38)

Well, just as I had expected, after I got the records home and they were manufactured, everybody was disappointed with the results, so, Mr. Bryan was notified to this effect, and the second date was set for July 21.

 I started for Lincoln, Nebraska, the second time, on July 18, and upon my arrival called Mr. Bryan on the phone, and he said come out the next morning early. I asked him how early—he said “Seven o’clock, a.m.” On arriving at Mr. Bryan’s home next morning at seven a.m., I didn’t wonder why he had asked me to come out so early. This second trip was after Mr. Bryan had been nominated for the presidency on the Democratic ticket, and there was a camp of reporters at the end of the lane leading to his house. And on driving up to his door in a cab, with all this paraphernalia of mine, the army of reporters came rushing in, but Mr. Bryan had secreted me in his library, and told me to make myself at home around his house, assuring me he would devote all the time he could to the making of the records, but it was necessary for him to interview every caller that might come to see him. So, I spent a very pleasant day, mostly roaming around Mr. Bryan’s home, looking at the wonderful things he got on his world’s tour. The time absorbed at Mr. Bryan’s home in making six selections was from seven o’clock a.m. until eight o’clock p.m.; this work should have been done in about three or three and one half hours.

In July, this year, Mr. Nafey sailed with Mrs. Nafey for China on a recording trip, another territory the Victor Company was about to supply with their native tongue records.

On August 3, 1908, I was called in by the firm from my vacation, which Mrs. Sooy and I were spending quietly at Asbury Park, N.J., and upon my arrival I was instructed to proceed to Hot Springs, Va., to make records of William H. Taft. After getting the recording equipment together, I left for Hot Springs, Va., on August 4th, accompanied by Mrs. Sooy, as our vacation had been broken up. Upon arriving at our destination (p. 39) I called at the Homestead Hotel, where Mr. Taft was stopping, and saw his secretary, Mr. Carpenter. I secured quarters in the Homestead Hotel, and got the recording paraphernalia set up, and reported to Mr. Carpenter I was waiting on Mr. Taft’s convenience. Mr. Carpenter informed me that Mr. Taft was going to play golf this morning, but he would be ready shortly after lunch to make the records, which were of a political nature. After lunch, Mr. Carpenter reported Mr. Taft was going for a horseback ride during the afternoon, but would be ready to make the records shortly after dinner. After dinner, Mr. Carpenter reported Mr. Taft was accompanying Mrs. Taft to a ball given in the Homestead Hotel, but assured us he would not be late getting to our rooms to make the records. I, of course, lingered about the quarters waiting for the honorable Mr. Taft, who came strolling in with a big, broad smile to make the records at exactly two o’clock a.m.; we finished the work at four a.m., thus ended a perfect day of recording at Hot Springs, Va.

On September 14, 1908, Chas. E. Sooy was made a member of the Recording Staff, making three brothers in the department—it looks like a Sooy Combine.

On October 12, this year, I went to Washington, D.C., and made a record of Admiral Bob Evans (Fighting Bob), it being a talk entitled “Admiral Evans’ Farewell Address to the Navy.” The Admiral being well along in years, and not having a strong voice, the record did not come out satisfactorily, so, I was slated, and did make a second trip to Washington October 30th, this year, with the hopes of improving on the ones previously made. The Admiral was persuaded to come and make the record in the Willard Hotel, where I had the recording equipment, and quarters provided. After making the record and having same manufactured, it proved to be much better than the first one, and was listed in the catalog as “Admiral Evans’ Farewell Address to the Navy.” This record was made shortly after Admiral Evans took the American Fleet around to San Francisco, Cal., after which he retired. (p.40)
 
On November 21, 1908, Raymond Sooy made his first recording trip abroad when the Victor Company sent him to Mexico City to make a repertoire of records for the natives of that country. (p. 41)


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