Memoir of my Career at Victor Talking Machine Company
by Harry O. Sooy
On January 6th, this year, we moved the New York Laboratory from 46 West 38th Street to 28 West 44th Street, 22d floor, National Association Building. The first date in our new quarters on 44th Street was with the All Star Trio dance organization.
After getting started with our work in these new quarters, we experienced considerable annoyance because other tenants of the building practically declared us a nuisance owing to the noise we make while records are being made.
We also had quite a lot of trouble with the new recording room, itself, for record making, and found it necessary to have the interior of the room changed considerably before obtaining satisfactory results.
Early in January, 1921, it was decided by the Victor Company to send a representative of the Recording Department to Europe. After a conference with Mr. B[elford]. G. Royal, I was authorized to have Raymond Sooy make the trip, and was informed that in all probability he would be stationed at the Gramophone Company Laboratory at Hayes, Middlesex, England, from one and a half to two years, to take up the duties of our line of work.
Plans were all made and the necessary equipment prepared and shipped, but in the meantime we deemed it advisable to have someone accompany Raymond on this trip for at least three months, that he might have help with the general mechanical work necessary, and to push same thru to completion as quickly as possible; therefore, Marcus Olsen was selected to accompany Raymond.
After all plans were laid, and the shipments had gone forward, Raymond H. Sooy and wife and Marcus Olsen sailed for Europe on the “S.S. Adriatic” February 18, 1921. (p. 81)
Olsen finished with his mechanical work and was permitted by Ray to return to America, arriving in New York June 12th on the “S.S. Mauretania.” But, Ray remained, with his wife, in Europe on the job until November 30, when the companies granted them permission to sail for America to spend the Christmas Holidays. They arrived in New York December 6th on the “S.S. Olympic.”
This trip home for the holidays was granted only with the promise that Ray would return to England for the purpose of checking up and reporting on the work done while he was away.
On February 24th Mr. Royal instructed H. O. Sooy to purchase and build necessary equipment for a Laboratory and Matrix Department in South America. Shipment of the equipment was to be made in three months from date, and we worked like demons in the Laboratory and the shipment was ready to go forward on scheduled time, but was held up owing to some legal matters which seemed to have been overlooked. This was the second time since January 1st, 1921, I was called upon to supply competent men from the Recording Department to take up outside duties.
For the South American position Charles S. Althouse was recommended owing to the length of time he had been in the department, and his broad experience in traveling, having covered this territory a number of times as well as Cuba, Porto-Rico, Japan, China, Philippine Islands, the west coast of South America, etc. And, another advantage he possessed was the ability to speak Spanish fluently.
After considerable delay with the legal matters, Charles Althouse, as manager, with his new wife, accompanied by W[alter]. Hamilton Staats and family, sailed for Buenos Aires, Argentina, S.A., October 21, 1921, on the “S.S. Southern Cross” to take up duties for the newly incorporated company known as the Pan American Recording Company, and located in Buenos Aires. (p. 82)
On April 1, I went to Washington, D.C., to look up quarters in which to make records of the U.S. Marine Band, there being a proposed booking of this organization in the near future.
On April 8, I, accompanied by Charles Sooy, started for Chicago to make a repertoire of dance records from the Benson Dance Orchestra of Chicago, under the direction of Roy Bargy. This was our first venture to Chicago to make records of this or any other organization in that city. The records were made in Forster’s Recital Hall, 235 So. Wabash Ave. It was, in all, a very bad room in which to make records, owing to the necessity of using artificial light because of no windows. The only ventilation obtained was by a forced draught apparatus. Another great feature of this recording room was the five bowling alleys on the floor just above. However, when we heard the finished products we were agreeably surprised.
We returned from Chicago April 17th.
On April 27th H. O. Sooy, accompanied by C. E. Sooy and W. J. Linderman, went to Washington, D.C., and made a repertoire of U.S. Marine Band records. The records were recorded in the Marine Barracks, the Band being under the direction of Captain Santelman.
We returned from Washington April 30th.
On May 2d, this year, Lewis Layton was transferred from Mr. Child’s department to the Laboratory. Being familiar with the catalog, and typing fairly well, he fit in as an assistant to the Recording Staff in a very creditable manner.
The passing of Enrico Caruso: The last engagement the noted tenor, Enrico Caruso, filled at the Recording Laboratory was in Camden, N.J., September 16th, 1920, and the last selection, or record, he made for (p. 83) the Victor Company was entitled “Messe Solonelle” (The Crucifix) by Rossini.
We found Mr. Caruso at all times very congenial and jovial while at the Laboratory making a repertoire of records of his voice, and he would create a lot of amusement at times by attempting to play the slide trombone, while on other engagements it might have been the tuba, violin or possibly the small bells. In other words, there was a time for work and a time for play with Mr. Caruso.
Little did we think that when this great artist left the Laboratory after his engagement of September 18th, 1920, it would be his last engagement with us. He was taken seriously ill during the winter and laid at the point of death in his hotel in New York for sometime. As a last resort, his physicians deemed it necessary for an operation, which, of course, added greatly to his suffering, and, I am told, that he prayed at that time if he must be taken away from this earth that the Almighty would spare him to return to his native land. Mr. Caruso’s prayer was granted as he recovered sufficiently to sail for Naples, Italy, during the spring of 1921 with his wife and little daughter to recuperate. They were in Naples but a short time when he was again taken ill, this time fatally, his death occurring August 2, 1921.
We miss this man, and great artist, but thanks to the Victor Company his voice still lives on the Victor records, and one of Caruso’s well-known sayings was “My Victor records shall be my biography.”
After having worked in the Recording Laboratory on Experimental Machine work since September 16, 1916, George Murray was made a member of the Recording Staff December 10, 1921, to learn the duties of making records. (p. 84)
On September 20th I, H. O. Sooy, accompanied by Fred Maisch, left for Chicago, Ill., to make a second repertoire of dance records from the Benson Orchestra of Chicago, under the direction of Roy Barry. These records were recorded in the same room as on the previous date, Forster’s Recital Hall, 235 So. Wabash Avenue. We returned from Chicago on October 3d after recording fifteen selections. Mrs. H. O. Sooy accompanied me to New York to meet Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Sooy arriving from Europe on the “S.S. Olympic” on December 6th, they returning from Europe to spend the holiday season.
December 13th Fred Maisch and I were in New York making piano solo records of Mr. Rachmaninoff, the Victor Company, as well as we, being particularly anxious to get a good record of the selection entitled “Prelude C. Minor” as played by Mr. Rachmaninoff, who is also the composer of the number. However, this particular selection proved to be another one of the “Jonah” type, and it was necessary for us to make thirteen records before one was selected for a master. The cause of this, like many other selections we have found difficult, was unexplainable. (p. 85)
I, accompanied by Wm. J. Linderman, left for Chicago, Ill., on January 26th to make a third repertoire of records in Chicago from the Benson Orchestra, under the direction of Roy Bargy. Upon our arrival this trip we selected quarters to do our recording in the Steinway Building, 46 Van Buren Street, East, 9th floor. We returned from Chicago February 4th.
February 17th and 18th Mrs. H. O. Sooy and I were in New York seeing Mr. and Mrs. Raymond R. Sooy off for Europe on their second, or return, trip for the Victor Talking Machine Co. for the purpose of checking up his work for the Gramophone Company during his absence for the Christmas Holidays. They sailed February 18th on the “S.S. Olympic.”
MARCH 12, 1898,–MARCH 12, 1922: March 12th, 1922, I rounded out my twenty-fourth and started my twenty-fifth year in the talking machine business. My start was made March 12, 1898, in the machine shop with Mr. E[ldridge]. R. Johnson, then located in the rear of the Collings Carriage Factory, 108 North Front Street, Camden, where I worked until Mr. Johnson took me out of the machine shop to do his personal experimental work on February 17th, 1900.
This experimental work was done on the fourth floor of the first new building Mr. Johnson erected, which was 114 North Front Street, Camden, N.J., or a few doors above the old factory. The Experimental Machine Shop was on the same floor and adjacent to the Recording Room, where they were doing experimental recording.
However, my machine experimental work for Mr. Johnson was rather brief, as I have said before, after completing the first little “C” machine, Mr. Johnson informed me the latter part of March, 1900, I was to join the ranks of the Recording Staff, as he wanted to make a recorder of me. And after I had become efficient in the work I would probably be turned over (p. 86) with the processes to the Berliner Gramophone Company, as he was negotiating the sale of this process of making records to that firm. But before this transaction could be put thru, the Berliner Gramophone Co. went into receivers’ hands; therefore, I have spent the past twenty-two years in this department (Recording Laboratory) of the Victor Talking Machine Co., which has permitted me to see the growth of the wonderful business.
When I started in the Recording Department March, 1900, I was the fourth employee, and this number (four) made up the total for both the Recording Laboratory and Matrix Department, while, to-day, March, 1922, we have thirty-three employees on the Laboratory pay roll, and of this number, nine are members of the Recording Staff, whose duties are to make the original records from the artists. This number does not include seventeen musicians, librarian and two musical directors of the Victor Orchestra who are on the pay roll.
The Matrix Plant and Laboratory have for many years past been distinctly separate departments.
My twenty-two years of service in the line of my mechanical experience and duty with the Recording Department have been very interesting, and they are just as interesting to-day.
I, like all members of the Recording Staff, am always anxious to hear the results of the finished products, which is usually the following morning, after the records are recorded. There is always a lot of competition on every date, that is, with the Recording Staff, as each member has his own recorders and the anxiety creeps in to know whose recorders are making the best records, and which one will be chosen for the master record. It is just this spirit and anxiety to elevate the standard of record making, and the spurring on by our good company, that are responsible for the Victor Catalog to-day. (p. 87)
I am in possession of some records made back in the year 1900, and it is astonishing to hear and see the comparisons musically, mechanically and in appearance between these records and the ones being made to-day in 1922.
I can recall, in earlier days, the Victor Company deemed it necessary to have the record catalog, or a big portion of the records, remade on two occasions, in order to bring the good selling numbers up to the advanced standard. I have been in position to follow up pretty closely these improvements and to study them from various angles, and when we are successful enough to make an improvement then comes the fight to hold that standard and try for one better. Naturally, I am very curious to know what the Talking Machine Record Standard will be in the next twenty-five years.
I may also add that since I have been in the Recording Laboratory I have been associated with some of the greatest artists the world has known, and some of the greatest musical organizations and their directors; these, of course, make up the Red Seal catalog. And, on the other hand, there are the lesser artists who make up the large Black Label Catalog, but I must say they all have their individual artistic temperaments, whether Black Label or Red Seal. I have also met and made records of some of our greatest statesmen in the United States, including Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, William J. Bryan, Champ Clark and the last being Warren G. Harding, President of the United States, whose records I made in the White House, Washington, D.C., on April 23d, 1922. This was the first and only time, to my knowledge, that records were made of a President of the United States in the White House.
It is needless to say I have seen artists come and go—some of the world’s greatest and they have been stricken down in death at the pinnacle of their careers—some (p. 88) who were at one time wonderful and could make good in record work, but can no longer make successful records for various reasons.
The Victor Catalog to-day consists of many classes. The Domestic Catalog consists of Red Seal, Blue Label and Black Label, and contains 4,600 selections. The U.S. Foreign catalog, made chiefly for the foreigners in the United States, contains 3,850 selections. The Export Catalog contains 3,000 selections. The Japanese-Chinese Catalog contains 3,500 selections, making a grand total of approximately 14,000 to 15,000 selections listed in these various catalogs, and which cover nearly every language of consequence in the world, and also go to make up what is perhaps the greatest musical library in the world, which in a measure I feel somewhat responsible for, most particularly the mechanical work, which has always been a part of my duty. From February 1st, 1916, the mechanical work has been directly under my supervision. For some few years past, we have maintained three recording studios in which the records are recorded, (two being in Camden, and the third in New York) and at the present time, two of these studios are going constantly, at least five days per week, making records, and the third is in operation the greater part of the time. And from the present outlook, it seems as though more recording studios will be necessary in the near future to meet the requirements of the Company. Let the good work go on.
Finish of twenty-four years.
March 13th, 1922: On this date the Victor Talking Machine Company decided to discontinue the use of mileage books, and, as it had been the custom in the past to check our trunks to and from the New York Laboratory on this mileage, as a result of this ruling we had to resort to our next best step, shipment by Express, which was started this (p. 89) date. And, all trunks being shipped back and forth between the Camden and New York Laboratories are now taken care of in this manner by the American Railways Express Co.
March 21st, 1922: At the Advisory Committee Meeting of this date, Mr. Royal issued instructions that one thousand (1000) best selling records now in the catalog should be tested musically, mechanically, for volume and quality, and, when possible, compared with records of our competitors’ makes, also to report the advisability of having any of these records remade. Testing to be done by Messrs. Pasternack, H. O. Sooy and Bourdon. After we had completed the testing of about two hundred (200) selections of the suggested thousand, we were instructed to have the balance shipped to New York October 23rd, where they would be tested by Mr. Cairns.
April 7th, 11th and 14th: I, accompanied by F. Maisch, was in New York making records of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Willem Mengelberg (guest conductor). (p. 90)
Easter, April 18th, H. O Sooy, taken ill with tonsillitis and rheumatism; wasn’t able to report for duty until May 18th.
April 19th: Mr. and Mrs. R. R. Sooy returned from their second trip to Europe for the Victor Company, Raymond’s duties being in connection with the Recording Department of the Gramophone Co. Jack Linderman met them on their arrival in New York.
May 23d: I, accompanied by F. L. Maisch, journeyed to Washington, D.C., under instructions that I was to make two records of Warren G. Harding, President of the United States, the records to be recorded in the The White House May 24th, my appointed time at the White House being twelve o’clock, noon. Daylight saving time was then effective in most cities, but on arriving at Washington, we found standard time in effect. After my arrival, I called Mr. Beck, Attorney General, U.S.A., who had made the appointment, notifying him I was in Washington, representing the Victor Co., for the purpose of making the records of President Harding, and asked him my appointed time at the White House, and how I should obtain entrance to same. Mr. Beck asked me to call Mr. Christian, secretary to the President, saying he would give me full instructions. I then called Mr. Christian, asking him for the appointed hour, and what entrance I should use to come to the White House, informing him I had quite a lot of conspicuous paraphernalia; Mr. Christian said that made no difference, and that my appointment was at twelve o’clock, noon, further adding that the President would make the records at two o’clock, p.m., and for me to come to the front entrance, ask for Mr. Hoover at the front door, who was acquainted with the entire plan, and he would see that we were taken care of. The hour and matter of entrance to the White House being settled, I then wanted to get a good-looking taxicab to take our equipment to the White House, retaining the taxi until we were finished, so not to cause any more confusion than (p. 91) possible. Inquiry at the taxicab stand at the Raleigh Hotel where we were stopping brought forth the information as to how I could get a taxi large enough to get my paraphernalia in, as most of the taxies in Washington, D.C. are of the touring car type, and not suitable for carrying luggage. It was then I learned that such taxies as I wanted were stationed only at the Union Depot, so over to the Depot I went, got hold of the taxi starter, salved him a bit, and he gave me just what I wanted. Returning to the Raleigh Hotel, I loaded up our equipment and started for the White House, arriving 12.02 p.m., or two minutes after the appointed time.
We fully expected to be stopped on entering the White House grounds, but, strange to say, we drove right up to the front door without any interference from the Secret Service. After making ourselves known to Mr. Hoover, we unloaded our luggage, following which Mr. Hoover took us to the President’s study to see if the room was suitable for making the records. Naturally, we accepted the President’s study as a suitable place for the work, after which Mr. Hoover had our recording paraphernalia sent to the quarters assigned to us, and we started immediately to put the recording machine together to make ready for the President at the appointed time. We got along nicely, and, apparently, had lots of time to have everything in readiness for the arrival of the President, which, of course, made us feel very comfortable; however, my comfort was of short duration, as misfortune assailed me when I stooped to pick up a part of the machine which was lying on the floor. Upon rising from my stooping posture, I found the seat of my pants had been badly ripped, and, after discovering the embarrassing plight I was in, the beads of perspiration came out on my head as large as peas. I remarked to Fred “I’ve had a terrible accident,” and informed him of the predicament I was in. It was then 1.10 p.m., or fifty minutes before the President’s appointment, and there I was in the White House at Washington, D.C., with my pants all ripped out, and the feeling of embarrassment increasing all the time. (p. 92).
However, I made known my troubles to Mr. Hoover, and asked him where I could find a tailor to make repairs; Mr. Hoover directed me to a tailor repair shop, and I beat it out of the White House grounds in haste to get my troubles remedied, leaving Maisch to take care of the recording apparatus. I imagined that everybody along the highways saw the uncomfortable predicament I was placed in. On arriving at the tailors I again explained my accident, and asked if he could make repairs immediately. He consented, and as the shop was on the street floor, with large windows, it was to me, more or less, like a movie procedure. It was necessary for him to put screens around me while I removed my unfaithful garment for him to mend. However, the repairing was done very quickly and I was soon on my way back to the White House. Upon my return the guards were not going to admit me, but it just so happened that one of the guards recognized me and informed the others I was there by appointment, after which I was permitted to enter. It was then 1:45 p.m. when I returned. Mr. Hoover informed me I had better be in readiness, so I hastened to the President’s study, where the records were to be made, and President Harding arrived on the scene sharply at two o’clock, accompanied by two secret service men.
The President entered the room alone, and closed the door behind him, leaving him in the room alone with Maisch and myself, which was more than I had ever dreamed would occur. It was then I realized the confidence placed in our good firm, and Attorney General Beck who had succeeded in getting the President’s consent to make the records.
We found the President to be a very considerate, reasonable, obliging and charming gentleman. He read his two speeches over for me to time (so as to determine the size of the record) which he was to make, the titles being “The President’s Address at Hoboken, N.J., May 23, 1921” (on the return of 5,212 bodies of soldiers, sailors, marines and nurses, who lost their lives in the Great War) and “The President’s Address at Washington, November (p. 93) 12th, l921” (opening the International Conference for the Limitation of Armament). We then proceeded, and, upon my recommendation, the President made two master records of each speech. After we had finished, the President, personally, gave me the printed copies of the two speeches which he used to read from for making the records, and inquired if there was anything else he could do for us. We thanked him for the time and patience he had with us, and he said there was one thing he was going to ask us to do for him. The President said at some later date he wanted to compile a little talk, and then he wanted to speak it on a record for his Airedale dog, “Laddie,” who is quite a White House pet. Assuring him we would be only too glad to make the record for him at his convenience, we then packed our paraphernalia and returned with the records, had them manufactured, and they were issued as a Special for Thanksgiving, 1922, after having been approved by both the President and the Victor Talking Machine Company.
June 8 to 28: We had a three weeks’ engagement with the Victor Symphony Orchestra, Josef Pasternack directing. At the expiration of two weeks Mr. Pasternack’s arm went bad, so much so he could not finish directing the engagement. Mr. Child attempted to cancel the engagement for the last week, but was not permitted to do so by the Directors; therefore, it was continued under the direction of Messrs. [Rosario] Bourdon and [Nathaniel] Shilkret.
Benson’s Orchestra, under direction of Roy Bargy, opened an engagement at Atlantic City, which started June 19th, lasting until September 4th. They stopped at the Laboratory on their way to Atlantic City and held a rehearsal for record work Sunday, June 18th.
June 22: We started to make a series of twelve (12) Health Records, which were termed “The Daily Dozen.” The exercises were set to music, and the different exercises were each announced with a full explanation, for use on the Victrola. While recording these records, Mr. Collins of the Collins Health Institute of Philadelphia, personally supervised the matters of tempo, announcements, etc. (p. 94)
July 24th to August 7th: Vacation period.
August 30th: Instructions were issued by Mr. Royal in accordance with his desire to carry on some experiments to perfect an eccentric groove at the finish of master records, connecting with the record groove, for the purpose of operating an automatic brake. There were one, two and as many as three grooves tried on a number of records, but two grooves proved the best for various reasons, and were accepted as satisfactory December 5, 1922.
August 31st: After successful experiments with Eccentric Grooves, on this date we discontinued putting the concentric groove at the finish of the record spiral.
October 4th: A Record Production Committee was organized, combining the Recording, Matrix and Record Pressing and Record Ordering Departments.
October 19th: During an engagement with Harry Lauder, a misunderstanding between he and Mr. Pasternack led up to a pointed, insulting remark by Lauder. Pasternack refused to finish directing the engagement. However, the engagement was finished with Mr. Lauder’s director, Mr. Charles Frank.
October 27th: We conducted a very interesting experimental date with Whiteman’s Orchestra in New York, by draping, or deadening, the recording quarters.
November 6th: The Victor Talking Machine Company declared a stock dividend of six shares of new stock to one share of old stock to all stockholders of record on November 1st, 1922.
December 2d: A problem confronted us as to just how we could put eccentric grooves in the metal moulds and our stock matrices. The Engineering Department was laying out a machine to do this work, but I, being very much interested and anxious to (p. 95) see the work go thru, also volunteered to carry on a line of experiments in an effort to accomplish the company’s wishes. It was on January 29, 1923, we submitted demonstrations whereby we could successfully take out the concentric groove and put in the eccentric grooves. The method was approved by Mr. Royal, and instructions issued for me to lay out necessary machinery and have same built to do the eccentric groove work. We started making the machinery for eccentric groove work January 30, 1923. (p. 96)
January 6th, this year, my official designation was changed from “Manager of Recording Departments” to “Superintendent of Recording.”
Early in January it was decided by the Victor Talking Machine Co. that the entire plant in the future would close for two weeks vacation period, giving each employee his or her salary for the closing period, but employees not to receive pay for holidays, as had been customary in the past. Two of the holidays were also abolished—Washington’s Birthday and Easter Monday.
January 20th: Mr. Alfred Coates, a distinguished English musician and Orchestra Director, who was in America as a guest conductor, visited the Laboratory this date. He was very much interested in the record making, because of his work with the Gramophone Co. of England, and while at the Laboratory asked to see the recording rooms, most especially the room where we made the Symphony Orchestra records. After a look at this room, he became increasingly interested, as this is the room in which all of our “DR” recording is done in Camden. Mr. Coates termed the quarters the “Hearse Recording Room,” and expressed his desire to have Ray return to Europe in April to make records of his Orchestra by this method.
January 24th: We had a Chickering Grand Piano delivered to the Laboratory for the purpose of making some experiments for comparison with the Steinway Concert Grand Piano.
January 25th: Mme. Olga Samaroff filled an engagement, making piano solos, using her Steinway Grand Piano, and the Chickering Grand Piano, both pianos being the same size. After comparisons were made of the finished products, the results obtained from the Chickering Piano proved much better for recording.
February 12th: We made our first records of some talks by Will Rogers, actor and movie star. Incidentally, these were the first talking machine records made by Mr. Rogers. (p. 97)
February 12th: Theodore Levy was made second Assistant Musical Director.
February 23d: Mr. Alfred Clark, who had recently arrived from Europe, brought with him a Lumiere Machine. I was sitting in the Committee this day making some comparisons with this machine and the Victrola as to tone, volume etc.
February 24th: Mr. Cheney and Lew Layton started for Cuba to make another repertoire of Cuban records. They returned April 3d.
February 26th: Mr. Royal mentioned to me the possibilities of opening a Recording Laboratory on the Pacific Coast in California, and requested that I make preparations for equipping same. The work of preparing equipment was started at once.
February 27, 28 and March 1st: Mr. Cortot had an engagement at the Camden Laboratory, making piano solos. The Chickering Concert Grand proved so satisfactory that Mr. Cortot was induced to remake his entire list of records, which appeared in the catalog.
March 12. 1923: This is my twenty-fifth anniversary with Mr. E. R Johnson and the Victor Talking Machine Co. I speak particularly of Mr. E. R. Johnson because he was my employer about three years prior to the organizing of the Victor Talking Machine Co. Mr. Johnson has always been at the helm as President of the Victor Talking Machine Co., and still remains in that responsible capacity. He is a man I feel highly honored to be associated with.
During my twenty-five years of service with the Victor Talking Machine Co. there have been many very interesting incidents, together with some hard work, and, of course, there are bound to be some hard knocks during a quarter century’s service. However, a man’s daily life and duties are just what he makes them, and I hope my services have proven to be worthy of our good company’s esteem. (p. 98)
Naturally, there are times when we feel things are not going along just as good and smoothly as we would like to see them, and I have called some cases to the attention of my superior, Mr. B. G. Royal, probably in sort of a complaining way. Mr. Royal usually comes back with this consoling reply, “Don’t let it worry you, you will always find the first hundred years the hardest in any business,” which, of course, is very pacifying.
I can express nothing other than my very highest esteem for my superior, Mr. B. G. Royal, Vice President of the Victor Talking Machine Company. And, with such a man as your guide, it really makes hard work easy, and life worth living.
MARCH 12, 1898–MARCH 12, 1923.
March 14, 1923: Mr. Royal instructed H. O. Sooy to build all special and necessary equipment required for a Laboratory to be opened on the Pacific Coast—to be located in Oakland, California. There was a public announcement of the Victor Pacific Coast Laboratory in the Camden Daily Courier, April 7th, 1923.
March 26th, 1923: Mr. L. Leonardi was engaged as an assistant to the Musical Directors, in the capacity of arranging, piano accompaniments, piano solos, etc., On April 19, 1923, Leonardi was dismissed. Did not fit into the organization, neither inside nor outside—too much gossip.
April 2nd, 1923: We started Edward Eckhardt in recording—making him a member of the Recording Staff after Mr. Royal’s instructions of February 26th, regarding Pacific Coast Recording Department.
H. O. Sooy has complained on many occasions about the terrible noisy location of out Camden Laboratory. Many records being thrown away on account of (p. 99) street noises, whistles, etc., being recorded, and for this reason I had taken it upon myself to locate what I thought a wonderful site of ground, where we would not encounter this trouble. It being on the hill, overlooking Cooper Creek and adjacent to Harleigh Cemetery (Forest Hill Park). April 10th, Mr. Fenimore Johnson and I looked the site over, he being very much impressed. Had the survey looked up and drawings made for a proposed building. But Mr. E. R. Johnson, I believe, disapproved.
April 3rd, 1923: Cheney and Layton returned from Cuba after a six weeks recording trip.
April 23rd, 24th & 25th, 1923: Mr. Fred Victor and Mr. Vopel of the Steinway Piano Co., were at the Camden Laboratory, carrying on some experiments with their pianos for recording purposes, trying to get an even register of the entire key board.
May 1st, 1923: In a conference with Mr. Royal, instructions were issued to proceed immediately to double the Red Seal Catalog, (that is, double-face them) and equip them with Eccentric grooves. Red Seal work was to precede Black Label class, which meant rolling Concentric groove out of Master matrix, and Eccentric groove put in a shell of each selection selected to be doubled, and give them new Catalog numbers. We finished the Red Seal section of the Catalog during the week of November 19th, 1923.
May 4th & 5th, 1923: Mr. Paderewski had engagements at the Camden Laboratory making piano solos. Steinway pianos used. Mr. Victor and Mr. Vopel had been working on April 23rd and 24th, with results decidedly improved.
I had been holding 25 shares of Common Stock of Gramophone Co., Ltd.— On May 21st, I turned certificate over to E. F. Haines to sell. It was sold, and I received check for sale Aug. 27th, l923. Purchase price $5.51—Sale price $12.50. (p. 100)
May 24, 1923: Wm. Randell started as an assistant in Recording room.
June 1st, 1923: Mr. Josef Pasternack resigned as Musical Director of Victor Talking Machine Company. During November of this year he returned in the capacity of Musical Critic on records and Advisory.
June 9th, 1923: On this day occurred the sudden death of James W. Owen (at his home in Clayton, N.J.) an old employee of the Victor Talking Machine Company.
June 21, 1923: (Musical Union troubles) Mr. Child requested H. O. Sooy to accompany him to the Talent room and hear what he had to say to the members of the Victor Orchestra regarding holidays that come during the week—and the possibilities of calling the Orchestra on Saturdays in such cases, or what constituted a 20 hour week’s work. After a private discussion by the members of the Orchestra, it was agreed that the sixth day may be used in such cases. But when they were called five days in any one week, they must be paid for 20 hours. A week’s work is to constitute only five days.
July 3, 1923: Received new machine we designed for putting Eccentric Grooves on Master records. This machine was wired and put in operation July 5th. From this date all Master recordings will be equipped with Eccentric Grooves. First announcement to be made with August 1923 Supplement.
July 28th to August 13th, 1923: Vacation period at Victor Talking Machine Company’s Plant. Mr. and Mrs. H. O. Sooy spending the time quietly at Wildwood, N.J. During the vacation period we had a Mezzanine floor put in the 7th floor, Bldg. 15, in which to make Recording Points. (p. 101)
August 2nd, 1923: On this date occurred the death of Warren G. Harding, President of the United States, at San Francisco, California.
September 8th, 1923; Mr. Vopel of Steinway & Son, came to Camden Laboratory and went over action on Concert Grand Piano known as “Rachmaninoff Piano” to make upper register louder. (Piano purchased in October).
September 15th, 1923: Mr. J. Jackson of the Gramophone Co., England, arrived in Camden to go over some Recording matters regarding Symphony Orchestra recording (D.R. type), also to discuss Recording quarters (size, etc.). Mr. Jackson sailed on his return trip, October 3rd, 1923.
September 21st, 1923: Double-Face Red Seal records were announced this date.
October 1st, 1923: Mr. C. G. Child, former Manager of Recording Laboratory and Manager of Artist & Repertoire Department resigned from active duties with the Victor Talking Machine Company. Mr. J. S. Macdonald being selected to succeed Mr. Child as Manager of Artist & Repertoire Department.
October 2nd, 1923: A new Committee was appointed by the Directors known as “Artist & Repertoire Committee” of which I was made a member, but was excused after a few months.
October 18th & 19th, 1923: On the 18th, H. O. Sooy, R. R. Sooy and F. Maisch went to New York to make records of the Sistine Choir, who had been touring this country. They did not keep their appointment the first day, but did record on the 19th. (p. 102)
October 24, 1923: R. R. Sooy and Fred Maisch left for St. Louis, Mo., to make records of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, after which they journeyed to Chicago and made records of Benson’s Dance Orchestra, returning November 9th.
November 16th, 1923: Mr. B. G. Royal called H. O. Sooy to his office, informing the latter that at the Directors Meeting. November 14th, he had decided to give up his active duties with the Victor Company, and that Mr. Fenimore Johnson had made him Vice President, and would assume his duties, while Mr. George Smith, Jr., had been made General Superintendent of the Plant. The passing of Mr. Royal from his active duties at the Victor Company’s Plant was a great shock, and grieved many of his older employees, because he was always looked upon in the highest esteem, and we looked to Mr. Royal to decide matters beyond our authority, which were always taken up personally, and. discussed cheerfully, with the result of an honest, fair decision, acceptable to all who may be implicated. That’s why we love Mr. Royal and wish him future happiness. However, Mr. Royal was not in good health, which no doubt was responsible for his decision, and which, of course, brings us face to face with the fact that we are not getting younger, as the wheels of time have driven me beyond one quarter of a century of constant services with the Victor Talking Machine Company.
November 26th, 1923: On this date the Victor Talking Machine Company discontinued blowing the whistles for starting and stopping work in the Factory. The whistles have always been a great annoyance for many years to the Recording Department, and we have lost many records by recording whistles in the Masters. The Fire Alarm System is being tapped instead. (p. 103)
December 3rd, 1923: During this week the Engineering Department started to lay out for the Laboratory two additional Recording Rooms to be installed on the 5th floor of Building #15.
December 6th, 1923: On this date occurred the sudden death of Theodore Levy, an old employee, who was Assistant Orchestra Conductor of the Victor Talking Machine Company.
December 12th, 1923: Had Monks Cloth curtains made for windows in #2 Recording Room, also curtains of same material made to go across center of room to break resonance. Proved beneficial.
December 18th, 1923: Received cable from Buenos Aires telling me Charles Althouse had met with a very serious accident. Hit by automobile and operated upon for fractured skull—in critical condition.
December 22nd, 1923: Mr. George K. Cheney was chosen to take Althouse’s place in Buenos Aires, as Manager of that Plant, and was to erect Pressing Plant, also put same in working order, to take care of the South American trade. This plant to consist of Recording Department, Matrix Plant, and Pressing Plant. Mr. Cheney sailed on this date for Buenos Aires, S.A.
December 31st, 1923: We made our first Piano Concertos with Symphony Orchestra. The artists being Rachmaninoff (piano) and the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra (Stokowski, Director). (p. 104)
January 20th & 21st, 1924: Mr. Sholes accompanied me to New York to meet Mr. Charles L. Althouse returning from Buenos Aires, S.A. after his serious accident—he being hit by an automobile in that city, December 15th, 1923. Althouse who was accompanied by a nurse and an attendant, was taken immediately from the boat to his home in Telford, Pa.
January 15th, 1924: At a meeting of the Artist and Repertoire Committee, we were instructed to make dance numbers as experiments. Two dance selections on one l2-inch record as a trick record by reducing the lead screw to 1/2 or 50 pitch per inch, and cut two separate grooves which would, of course, make two distinct records on one. The first dance record of this type was recorded January 25th by R. R. Sooy and Ted Weems’ Orchestra.
February 1st, 1924: Mr. J. S. Macdonald brought Mr. Orlando Kellem and Mr. Jones of the Kellem Talking Picture Company and stated (after an interview with Mr. Fenimore Johnson) I was to work in connection with them—making Talking Picture records of Harry Lauder. Work to be done February 11th, which meant connecting our Recording Machine and synchronizing Recording and Picture Machines. I could get little or no satisfaction from the Directors as to the procedure of this work. But on February 4th, I was instructed to discontinue this work, and Mr. George Smith would have it done in the Research Department, which was quite agreeable.
February 8th, 1924: Went to Telford to see Charles Althouse to persuade him to return to the Camden Laboratory for duty as soon as he had sufficiently recovered, which he agreed to. Salary was satisfactorily arranged, and he was placed on the Camden Laboratory Payroll from February 1st, 1924. (p. 105)
March 10th, 1924: Was in New York going over plans with Peter Clark with the thought of adding another small Recording Room on the 22nd floor of the National Association Building, 28 West 44th Street.
March 15, 1924: Jack Linderman and Edward Eckhardt sailed for Havana on the S.S. Orizaba to make a repertoire of Cuban records. They returned April 15th, 1924.
March 22nd, 1924: Charles Sooy and Lewis Layton started on a mid-west Recording trip, covering the following cities: Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago. On March 30th, it was decided they should go to Kansas City, Mo., to make some Dance Orchestra records.
April 2nd, 1924: On this date it was decided that I should take over the Photographing Department—that is, record groove photographing.
April 2nd, 1924: The Victor Company had a combination Victor and Radio delivered to my house that I might keep in touch with what was going over the air—in conjunction with recording.
April 14th, 1924: Charles S. Althouse came to the Laboratory to-day. It being his first visit to the Laboratory since he returned from South America.
April 21st, 1924: Was in New York looking over rooms in our 5th Ave. Show Room, which had been recommended for additional Recording quarters. (Not suitable.)
April 25th, 1924: H. O. Sooy was notified to prepare to leave for Oakland, Calif., to set up a new Recording Laboratory. W[illia]m. J. Linderman and Fred Elsasser to accompany me and assist in this work. After completing the work of installing equipment for the new Laboratory, we are to make our first recording repertoire for the Pacific Coast. This first (p. 106) repertoire of records to be recorded prior to Linderman and Elsasser sailing for China which has been set for June 24th.
May 10th, 1924: Started on trip to Oakland, Calif. H. O. Sooy, W. J. Linderman and F. Elsasser (Mrs. Sooy and Mrs. Linderman). We left Philadelphia on the Penna. R.R. 5:10 p.m. for Chicago—from Chicago we left on the C.B. & Q. R.R. for Denver—from Denver we left on the Denver & Rio Grande R.R. to Salt Lake City, Utah—from Salt Lake City we left on the Western Pacific R.R. for Oakland, Calif., arriving in Oakland, Calif., May 15th, 5:15 p.m.
May 29th, 1924: (California Trip) After a series of repairs to equipment which was broken in transit, and the general work necessary to establish a new Laboratory, we were ready and did make our first record in the Oakland Laboratory, May 29th, by H. O. Sooy, Geo[rge]. Hall & Harvey Willitts.
June 5th, 1924: We made two trial records. Artists: Mr. H. L. Perry with piano and Mr. A. W. Sperry with piano.
June 6th, 1924: We left Oakland, Calif., 7:45 p.m. starting for Los Angeles, Calif., to make a repertoire of records in that city, arriving there 7:45 a.m. June 7th.
Upon our arrival in Los Angeles we got quartered at the Biltmore Hotel, as Mr. King had been assured we could have quarters at that Hotel to do our recording as our main object was getting Art Hickman’s Orchestra, which played at the Biltmore Hotel. But there seemed to be some difference with the management that we could not get the quarters most desirable. Therefore, I, with Mrs. Sooy, Mr. & Mrs. Linderman and Elsasser left the Biltmore and went to the Alexander Hotel where we got comfortably located during our stay and we also secured Recording quarters at the Alexander Hotel where we did all our recording on this trip, which consisted of the following Dance Orchestras: Art Hickman’s Orchestra, Vincent Rose’s Orchestra, Don Clark’s Orchestra & Glen Oswald’s Orchestra.
We also made some Hawaiian & Mexican vocal selections. (p. 107) Total number of selections made 32. We returned to Oakland June 17th, on the daylight train (Southern Pacific R.R.).
June 18th, 1924: Now that we were back in Oakland, Calif., we continued our recording in our newly established Laboratory until Linderman and Elsasser sailed from San Francisco for China. Selections made by the following Organizations: Art Landry’s Dance Orchestra, Max Dolin’s Dance Orchestra and Halstead’s Dance Orchestra together with a few vocal artists made 24 the total number of selections recorded in Oakland.
June 23rd, 1924; We gave the Lindermans & Elsasser a farewell dinner at the Hotel Oakland which was a real pleasant evening spent with the gang before their departure for the Orient. Those present were Babe Hall, Mr. & Mrs. Harvey Willitts and Mr. & Mrs. H. O. Sooy.
June 24th, 1924: The Lindermans & Elsasser sailed from San Francisco, Calif., on the S.S. President Pierce, one p.m. for the purpose of making a repertoire of records in Shanghai, Tientsen, Pekin, Hong Kong, Canton and in French Indo China. They returned June 10th, 1925.
June 28th, 1924: Mr. & Mrs. King, Mrs. Sooy and myself took a weekend trip to Del Monte, Calif., which is about one hundred & twenty-five miles below San Francisco on the Pacific Coast. We took what is known as the seventeen-mile auto trip along the Pacific Coast through Monterey, Carmel (an artists town), Pebble Beach and many other places of interest. We also took what is known as the 70 mile ride to Santa Cruz, via Watsonville (known as the “Ale Country”) and Santa Cruz Valley into the big Redwood Forest where we saw trees 70 feet in circumference and 300 feet high which was to me a wonderful sight. During a fire in this Redwood Forest the heart was burned out of one tree in which one could walk. The cavity in this tree would hold at least 2 dozen people. I had practically finished up the work at Oakland and as I had arranged before leaving to take some time for (p. 108) a vacation or sight-seeing while on the Pacific Coast, Mrs. Sooy and I left for Los Angeles on a pleasure or sight-seeing trip July 10th, where we remained until July 16th, taking in many points of interest in that vicinity during our stay—Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Venice, Long Beach (which is a summer resort) Riverside, (the old Riverside Mission Inn) a ride thru the Orange groves, Pasadena, etc.,
We returned to Oakland July 16th, and, after a careful checking up around the Laboratory, packing plates and recording paraphernalia, we started July 22nd, on our homeward journey via the Northern route & Canadian Rockies.
July 22nd, we left Oakland 8:12 p.m. on the Southern Pacific R.R. for Portland, Oregon, arriving at the latter city July 23rd, 10:30 p.m. Stopped at the Portland Hotel. While in Portland we took in some of the points of interest and the one we found to be most attractive was the Columbia River Highway Drive which was vary picturesque (wonderful scenery).
July 25, 1924: We left Portland, Oregon at 8:03 a.m. for Seattle, Washington, on the Northern Pacific R.R. arriving at Seattle 3:15 p.m. Stopped at the new Washington Hotel. Seattle we found to be a very thriving Western town and many places of interest to visit. Remained until July 28th.
On July 28th, 1924: We took the boat for Vancouver at 9:03 a.m. going thru Puget Sound, crossing the main Channel which leads to the open Pacific into Victoria, B.C., arriving at Victoria 1:30 p.m. Here we had a layover of one hour. We looked around the Island as long as we could then boarded the boat again and started to continue our journey to Vancouver, B.C., arriving at that city 7:00 p.m. July 28th. Here we remained until July 30th, stopping at Hotel Vancouver. We did the city as well as taking the famous Stanley Park drive and the Marine Drive, which we found to be very interesting, the most of which is along the Harbor entrance and is mountainous. (p. 109)
July 30th, l924: We left Vancouver, B.C., 5:00 p.m. on the Canadian-Pacific R.R. for Lake Louise, arriving at the latter city, July 31st, 2:50 p.m.
Lake Louise is, I think, the most picturesque place I have ever seen. While there we stopped at the Hotel Chateau.
The trip from Vancouver is a wonderful trip thru the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Open observation cars are used on these trains which makes the trip very enjoyable. The Great Divide, Alberta and British Columbia are crossed on this route.
Upon arriving at Lake Louise we found a beautiful lake, 7,000 ft. elevation— huge mountains of 1,000 ft. surround this lake with huge glaciers at the distant end—all of which one can see at a glance.
There are also two other lakes one can reach by tramping or on horse back. One of which is known as “Mirror Lake” 600 ft. above Lake Louise, and other is known as “Lake in the Clouds” which is 500 ft. above Lake Louise.
August 2nd, l924: We decided we were ready to return without stopping at Banff as we had planned, so we checked out at the Hotel Chateau, Lake Louise, and started for Chicago on the Canadian-Pacific R.R. via Minneapolis & St. Paul.
We encountered some very bad floods crossing Wisconsin, bridges washed away, etc. We were held up at Fond du Lac and did not arrive in Chicago until 2:00 p.m. August 5th.
We left Chicago, August 5th, 3:00 p.m. via Penna. R.R., arriving home August 6th, after a very wonderful trip covering about 11,000 miles. (p. 110)
It so happened upon our arrival home from the California trip, we found one of the records made by Halstead’s Dance Orchestra entitled “Sweet Little You” had been listed and it was the opinion [that] this particular recording did not measure up to our standard; therefore, I was asked to send someone back to Oakland, Calif., to remake this selection as quickly as possible.
August 21st, l924: I had Charles Sooy and Lewis Layton on their way to the Pacific Coast to remake the dance number in question (Sweet Little You). While they were West, they made a number of other selections, both in Oakland and Los Angeles, and returned September 20th, l924.
September 9th, 1924: Was in New York to prepare necessary equipment for the new #2 Recording Room at 28 West 44th Street.
October 6th, 1924: I left Philadelphia, 5:11 p.m. via Penna. R.R. for Montreal, Canada, arriving October 7th, 8:15 a.m., Hotel Windsor, to go over some work in the Victor Company’s Plant in that city and interview Mr. Holmes (recorder). Returned home from Montreal, October 10th.
October 24th, l924: After having the work completed in the new #2 Recording Room, 28 West 44th Street, New York, we made our first records in same this date. Talent as follows:
November 20th, l924: After a request from Mr. Cheney, we started this date to ship to him in South America, 40 finished blank plates per month until he gets a man broken in to do the work which was continued for six months.
December 8th, 1924: After considerable work remodeling the 5th floor, Building #15, for an additional Recording Room for the Laboratory, we made our first records of the Philadelphia Orchestra in this studio on this date. (p. 112)
January 1st, 1925: The Victor Company decided it would be well to have some Broadcasting Concerts put on; therefore, on this date through W.E.A.F. of New York, the first Victor Concert was broadcasted, the artists being Mme. Bori, Soprano; John McCormack, Tenor; Shannon Four and the Salon Orchestra (9:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.).
January 2nd, 1925: I journeyed to New York in search of a proposed new Recording Laboratory. Cross & Brown (Realtors) 270 Madison Ave., were apprised of our desire and asked to try and locate a building suitable for our work.
I was slated to take a trip to the Pacific Coast with Mr. J. S. Macdonald. The purpose of this trip being to visit the Dealers and obtain whatever information they might have for the benefit of the business. This trip was set for January 8th, but on January 3rd, was asked to cancel the trip for the purpose of doing some work for Mr. E. R. Johnson (Electrical recording). This postponement was brought about by some three or four records submitted by the Western Electric Company, which showed great possibilities in the art.
January 7th, 1925: Charles B. Sooy and Edward Eckhardt left for Oakland, Calif., to make our third repertoire of records for that territory. Los Angeles was also included in this trip. They returned March 28th, through the South, via Houston, Texas; and New Orleans, La. Records also being made in the last mentioned cities.
January 11th, 1925: Fred Maisch left for Chicago to make another repertoire of Organ records of Jesse Crawford, returning January 17th.
January 15th, 1925: The second Victor Concert was broadcasted through W.E.A.F. of New York. Talent: Mme. F. Alda; Mr. F. LaForge, Pianist; Florentine Quartet and Victor Concert Orchestra.
January 16th, 1925: Mr. E[lmer]. E. Shumaker sent H. O. Sooy this date six twelve inch wax records for manufacturing made by the Western Electric Co., recorded from the second concert broadcasted by the Victor Company thru W.E.A.F. of New York, on January 15 which is starting the Electric work and for which I was asked to cancel the Western trip and get into. (p. 113)
January 22nd, 1925: H. O. Sooy was in New York this date going over Electrical recording at the Western Electric Laboratory, 463 West Street. Talked with Messrs. [Edward B.] Kraft, [Harold] Arnold and [Joseph P.] Maxfield. On this trip I took four twelve inch white plates, #72 material. Had Western Electric Company try cuts on two of them. Material not suitable for Western Electric method of recording. (This work is known in the Victor Laboratory as W.E.R. #37.)
January 26th, 1925: Mr. Maxfield of the Bell Laboratories, was in Camden. Went over the layout for wiring and locating boxes for the purpose of demonstrating method of Bell Laboratory’s Electrical recording. Mr. Maxfield and H. O. Sooy went to Philadelphia, 1505 Race Street, (Western Electric Company’s office) to arrange for wiring studio in Camden Laboratory.
January 27th, 1925: A representative of the Western Electric Company, Philadelphia, called to-day to measure up for wiring and equipping studio at Victor Company, as per instructions of Mr. Maxfield. This wiring was started January 28th, and finished February 2nd, 1925. (Studios wired, #2 on seventh floor, #3 on fifth floor.)
January 30th, 1925: Mr. [Stanley] Watkins of the Bell Laboratories, New York, phoned and said they were sending the Electrical Equipment for recording, to the Victor Company, via truck, February 2nd.
February 3rd, 1925: The Electrical Recording Equipment from the Bell Laboratories arrived at the Victor Laboratory, Building #l5, via truck, this date. A new Talking Machine also accompanied this equipment for a demonstration on reproducing the Electrically recorded records.
February 4th, 1925: Mr. Maxfield came over to inspect wiring, etc., and pronounced same satisfactory.
February 5th, 1925: Messrs. Kraft, Collorer and Maxfield, were met by H. O. Sooy at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel and brought to the Victor Talking Machine Company for a demonstration of a Reproducing machine (Western Electric design). Demonstration held in Lunch Club. (p. 114)
February 5th, 1925: Monks Cloth draperies (Curtains) were hung in #2 studio, as requested by Mr. Maxfield.
February 9th, 1925: Messrs. Maxfield, Watkins and [Elmer] Raguse were over to Camden Laboratory and we made our first Electrically recorded record of a piano solo played by Mr. Watkins. (Purely experimental.)
February 10th, 1925: We had our first Electrically recorded date to-day. Talent: Miss Helen Clark with piano (J. Pasternack) and violin obbligato (A. Schmidt). Messrs. Maxfield, Watkins and Raguse present.
February 11th, 1925: Made a duet selection by Miss Olive Kline and Miss Elsie Baker (Electrically). Messrs. Maxfield, Watkins and Raguse present.
February 12th, 1925: I spent the night with Mr. Maxfield at his home in Milburn, N.J. We listened to Electrically recorded records, making many comparisons. We also listened to the third Radio concert by the Victor Company thru W.E.A.F. New York. The artists were Mme. R. Chemet, Violinist; Mr. Emilio De Gogorza, Baritone; and Victor Concert Orchestra.
February 13th, 1925: Was in New York with Cross and Brown, Realtors, looking over some proposed properties in Long Island City, as the thought was to move the Recording Laboratory in New York. But neither buildings nor ground were satisfactory. Decided to let the matter rest.
As we advanced with the Electrical Recording experiments, it dawned upon me on February 24th, that I made a Neutral Reproducing Box back in 1914, with a 2 1/8" diaphragm and that I was in possession of [the] box my home. Naturally, I wondered how this box would sound on the new records, so I resurrected this original box (known as H.O.S. Box) which proved to be a wonderful improvement. It seemed to be right in line with this work. I had been instructed to discontinue this experimental work on Sound Boxes but not until we had six completed. After I found the results obtained by reproducing the new recordings with this new box, I submitted same to Mr. [Edward] Shumaker who also felt very good (p. 115) over the results obtained with the box. Also gave Mr. Fenimore Johnson one of these large (H.O.S.) boxes, and was instructed to continue further experiments with hopes of improving same for manufacturing.
March 6th, 1925; We kept constantly on the go with this electrical recording from February 9th to March 6th, talent for same as follows: Vocal Solos, Instrumental Solos, Vocal Duets, Symphony Orchestras, Dance Orchestras and a Mixed Chorus of 36 voices, etc.,
Mr. Maxfield and Mr. Raguse returned to the Bell Laboratories this date as Mr. Maxfield thought the demonstration had gone far enough for some final action.
March 11th, 1925: I celebrated my birthday, and incidentally, my 27th year with the Victor Company by starting to make Electrically recorded records for our Catalog, indicating the demonstration proved satisfactory to the Victor Company, although the Contract for same has not been signed. This work started on permission from the Bell Company. Mme. [Olga] Samaroff being the first artist to make records for Domestic use.
March 18th, 1925: Contract was signed by the Western Electric and Victor Talking Machine Companies for the process and method of making records electrically, as per demonstration which was started February 3rd.
Now that the Contract for the Electrical Recording Process was signed by the Western Electric and Victor Talking Machine Companies, I saw that it necessitated a lot of work, and changes to be made quickly, in order to get started at the earliest possible date to put this new work in operation.
We started changing all Recording Studios, making same larger, and using considerable draperies (p. 116) for deadening purposes, also started to equip each Operating Room with an Amplifying Room—all Electrical Equipment to be supplied by the Western Electric Company.
This, of course, meant discarding all of our old Equipment used for Direct Recording; therefore, the method of Direct Recording had to come to a sudden ending, after being used by Mr. Johnson and the Victor Company for a period of 25 years.
It also meant using microphones for the talent to sing or play into, instead of a horn, as heretofore used, which necessitated different placing of the talent for the microphone which we found beneficial, because they could be placed whereby they would have more room and more comfort while working.
The Stroh violins used by the violinists of the Orchestra also passed out of existence by this change, and all standard musical instruments were restored. We also found there was little or no use to elevate upon high stools, various members of the Orchestra—as we had done for many years past, all of which was helpful in the art.
With this complete turn-over staring at us, we realized there could be no idle moments, so we all set out to conquer the task which confronted us, as the Directors were hot on our trail to get going with the new method.
In addition to making records electrically in our home Laboratories—all future Domestic and Export records made on the Road will be recorded electrically. (p. 117)
March 21st, 1925: We started to move our Wax Rooms from the 7th floor to the 5th floor, Building #15, for the purpose of making room for the new method of making records. Moving completed March 27th.
March 24th, 1925: Mr. Maxfield called with representatives of the Johns-Mansville Company and the Storage Battery Company, for the purpose of acoustical padding and Electric Storage Batteries service.
March 24th, 1925: We started this date, as per instructions of Mr. Shumaker, to mark all Electric recordings with “VE” in an oval circle.
March 24th, l925: Started to erect partitions for Operating and Control Rooms, 7th floor, Building #15 (Studio#2).
March 27th, 1925: We felt it necessary at this time to have a man from the Western Electric Company to care for the Electrical Apparatus in conjunction with our Laboratory Force, and asked for Mr. Elmer Raguse. The Western Electric Company felt they could not spare his services and wanted us to consider either Mr. Feney or Mr. Millard. However, we still insisted upon having Mr. Raguse, so the Western Electric Company granted him a leave of one year’s absence to come to the Victor Laboratory if he (Raguse) would accept.
April 6th, 1925: We had our first date in #2 Studio, 7th floor, Building #15, after padding, etc., for acoustical purposes by Johns-Mansville Company. The talent for this date was Mr. A[lfred]. Cortot (Piano Solos). (p. 118)
April 9th, 1925: Mr. Elmer Raguse of the Western Electric Company, New York, came to Camden for the purpose of talking over the proposed plan to have him join the Victor force for a period of one year. After discussing the position and salary, Raguse accepted and agreed he would report April 27th.
Mr. Shumaker instructed H. O. Sooy to place Raguse on the Victor Pay Roll from April 20th.
April 13th, 1925: We started to set and wire second permanent Electrical Equipment in #2 Studio, 7th floor, Building #15, for Electric recording.
April 16th, 1925: We finished the first large size (H.O.S.) reproducer with 2 1/8” diaphragm pivot point bar. Bar mounted on the alignment of the diaphragm by milling out the edge of box in which the pivot point bearings are mounted. This box was taken by Mr. Fenimore Johnson, April 17th to try out.
April 18th, 1925: We made our first experimental record in #2 Studio, 7th floor, Building #15, with the permanent equipment. Talent: Mr. Josef Pasternack (Piano Solos).
April 20th, 1935: Messrs. Alfred Clark and [Brenchley] Mittell of the Gramophone Company (Laboratory), Hayes, Middlesex, England, came to the Victor Company to study the system and methods of electric recording before its adoption in England. (p. 119)
April 25th, 1925: Gave Mr. Alfred Clark one of the new type (H.O.S.) Sound Boxes, pivot mounted bar, to take back to England.
During April, I don’t know just the date, but it was just sometime prior to the departure of Mr. George W. Smith, Jr. that Mr. C[larence]. S. Wickes was made General Superintendent of the Victor Talking Machine Company, succeeding Mr. Smith in this capacity.
April 27th, 1925: At 9:00 a.m. in the Model Room, Office Building, Mr. Wickes called Messrs. H. H. Murray, F. Jones, S. T. Williams, W. E. Nafey and H. O. Sooy to test out the (H.O.S.) Sound Box on various machines which proved so satisfactory that Mr. Wickes issued the following instructions: That H. O. Sooy turn over drawings to S. T. Williams and that Williams issue an order to build 200 of these boxes within two weeks if possible.
May 1st, 1925: George W. Smith, Jr., General Superintendent, Victor Talking Machine Company, resigned and severed his connections with the Victor Talking Machine Company. Smith’s reign was brief in this position.
May 5th, 1925: After using a groove of a “u” for many years, .002 D and .006 W, we made a change in shape somewhat, making the standard size groove .002 D [and] .007 W.
May 13th, 1925: After extensive changes being made in #1 Studio, 7th floor, Bldg. #15, changing partitions and sound proofing by Johns-Mansville Company, rugs and draperies installed for Electrical recording, we made our first records by the Victor Orchestra, thus making three studios in operation in Camden and abandoning all old direct recording methods.
May 17th, 1925: Mrs. Sooy and myself drove to Atlantic City, giving Messrs. Alfred Clark & Mittell an outing in that city during their stay in Camden, which is due to the Electrical recording work they are taking up. (p. 120)
May 19th, 1925: Was at the Banquet given by the Victor Talking Machine Company, at the Pennsylvania Hotel in New York, at which announcement was made that the Victor Talking Machine Company and the Radio Corporation of America were going to cooperate and install the combination of Victor Machine and Super-Heterodyne Radio in one cabinet by the Victor Talking Machine Company.
After getting into the Electrical recording, naturally, the question arose as to what we were going to do for a Portable Equipment to carry on the same line of work outside of our home studios. The Western Electric Company assured us they could accomplish our desire, so on May 28th, we received our first Portable Equipment, packed or mounted in trunks, which was immediately set up and tried out successfully with Paul Whiteman’ s Orchestra.
June 10th, 1925: Mr. & Mrs. Linderman and Fred Elsasser returned from their recording trip throughout China. (They sailed from San Francisco on this trip, June 24th, 1924.)
June 15th, 1925: H. O. Sooy and M. Olsen were in New York, dismantling old Recording Room and equipment, preparing studio for installation of new method of Electric recording at 28 West 44th Street, 22nd floor of the National Association Building.
June 26th, 1925: Harold Dobbins, who had been acting as secretary for me since February 7th, 1916, decided he wanted to get into the Real Estate business, he feeling indoor work was detrimental to his health; therefore, on this date he severed his connections with the Victor Talking Machine Company.
June 27th, 1925: Miss Florence Bushnell, who has been employed in the Laboratory for a number of years, succeeded Dobbins, on this date, as my secretary, which also includes the general routine Laboratory duties from my office. (p. 121)
June 29th, 1925: H. O. Sooy was in New York arranging for wiring the New York studio and delivery of Batteries and Charging Equipment for Electrical recording. (With Mr. Hatfield of Western Electric Company.)
July 2nd, 1925: Mr. Jones of Department “A” reported he had completed 100 of the original (H.O.S.) Sound Box bars mounted on ball bearings.
July 9th, 1925: H. O Sooy and E. Raguse in New York checking up on wiring of our New York Studio for the new method of recording.
July 27th and 28th, 1925: J. Linderman and J. Green in New York testing out Electric Recording System and preparing same to start recording in that studio.
July 31st, 1925: We made our first Electrically recorded records in the New York Studio after the Electrical installation. R. Sooy and E. Raguse being on the job. The talent used for this date was Jack Shilkretts Orchestra.
During July, 1925, H. O. Sooy received orders from the front to arrange to send a recorder to Buenos Aires to relieve George K. Cheney who had been ordered by the Victor Company to return. (Cheney originally sailed to Buenos Aires, December 22, 1923, to erect a Pressing Plant and act as manager of the new venture.)
Cheney’s service and methods, I’m told, could not and would not be tolerated by the Victor Company; therefore, he was dismissed upon his arrival in New York.
August 1st, 1925: Carrying out instructions to send a recorder to Buenos Aires, S.A. to relieve Geo. Cheney, I selected Lewis Layton (p. 122)
for this duty, and Layton sailed from New York on this date with instructions to remain in Buenos Aires until Linderman and Green arrived with the new Electrical Equipment which was to be installed in that territory. Layton returned February 16, 1926.
Vacations, — No
It has been the custom of the Victor Company for some years past to close the Plant the last week in July and the first week in August, for vacation period (employees receiving salaries for same) but the Victor Company deemed it necessary to omit vacation period this year owing to the depression in business for some time past and the necessity of getting started with the new fall line of work on new machines.
Well, it did not affect me very much because I was slated for a trip to California, early in August, but I could sympathize with those who were less fortunate.
During July, H. O. Sooy recommended having the Oakland, California Laboratory wired for electrical recording, and asked to have Wm. J. Linderman and James F. Green go with him to 0akland to do this work for the purpose of giving them (Linderman and Green) this experience prior to their departure for Buenos Aires, South America, where they are to install this method of recording. (p. 123)
The Victor Company thought favorable of this suggestion and recommended H. O. Sooy set a definite date for leaving for Oakland, California. After getting the paraphernalia ready—August 8th, 1925, was set for our departure to California. The party namely being: Wm. J. Linderman, J. F. Green, and Mr. and Mrs. H. O. Sooy.
We left North Phila., 8:02 p.m. on the Penna. R. R. Manhattan Limited for Chicago. From Chicago we left 11:00 p.m. on the C.B. & Q. R.R. for Denver Colorado. From Denver we left 8:30 a.m. on the Denver Rio Grand R.R. for Salt Lake City, Utah. We having one hour layover in Salt Lake City, Mr. Bain of Clark Music Company, met us and took me up to the Mormon Tabernacle where we expected to stop upon our return and do some recording. However, we were ready when the train pulled out from Salt Lake City, 12:30 p.m. on the Western Pacific R.R. arriving in Oakland August 13th, 5:15 p.m. Babe Hall awaiting our arrival.
Upon our arrival in Oakland and getting quartered at the Hotel Oakland, we prepared to get started with the work at the Laboratory.
August 14th, 1925: We had the apparatus delivered to the Oakland Laboratory and found it had been damaged somewhat in transit. However, we repaired same, installed wiring, and had apparatus set tested and we were ready to make records August 21st.
We made records of Henry Halstead’s Orchestra, Bob Block’s Orchestra, Max Dolin’s Orchestra, and also a tenor solo by Mr. Charles Bulotti with Orchestra, entitled “I Love You California.” (This selection was particularly made to go on sale for the California Jubilee, which was to be held during September in San Francisco. It being their 50th anniversary as a state in the Union.)
There was but little talent of importance to be had in this territory at this time; however, this was more of an experimental trip.
August 28th, 1925: I left Oakland for Los Angeles to determine what could be done in the latter city, arriving in Los Angeles August 29th. (p. 124)
It seemed advisable and I deemed it might be beneficial to take a chance outside of our home Laboratory, therefore, wired Linderman and Green to come to Los Angeles immediately with the Equipment. They arrived September 1st.
We were quartered, at the Alexandria Hotel, and this Hotel not having sufficient rooms in which to do our recording, we rented Symphony Hall in the Music Art Studio Building, 232 South Hill Street. This Symphony Hall has a seating capacity of about 450. We rented this Hall for a week during the day @ $25.00 per day) but we found it should have been rented exclusively because it was also rented evenings, and in which, we learned, they were holding a Spiritualistic Convention. This, we found detrimental as we could not fix the room up for acoustic purposes, as we should have had the privilege of doing. However, we did make a number of selections of Waring’s Orchestra, Don Clark’s Orchestra, Glen Oswald’s Orchestra and four Hawaiian selections.
These records made in Los Angeles did not make a howling success, but we did get a lot of valuable information.
September 8th, 1925: We left Los Angeles—returned with the Equipment and records to Oakland. We remained in Oakland until September 19th, and remade some of the first records which we had recorded before leaving for Los Angeles, upon recommendation from Camden.
September 19th, 1925: We left Oakland with the Recording Equipment 10:00 a.m. for Salt Lake City on the Western Pacific R.R., arriving in Salt Lake City, Utah, September 20th, 3:15 p.m. We got reservations at the Utah Hotel.
September 21st, 1925: We got the Equipment to the Mormon Tabernacle and started to set up to do some recording of the wonderful Tabernacle Organ and Choir.
September 22nd, 1925: We made our first record of the Tabernacle Organ 2:00 p.m. by Mr. Kimball, Organist. (p. 125)
September 23rd, 1925: From 5:00 p.m. to 10:15 p.m. we made two more Organ solos end two Choir numbers (Mr. Lund, Choir Director). These Choir records were made during Choir rehearsal.
September 25th, 1925: While there was no recording to be done we were honored with a day’s Auto trip by Mr. Fred Bain of the John Elliott Clark Company, to the Bingham Copper Mine and Big Cotton Wood Canyon and thru the Farming district, all of which we found very interesting.
September 27th, 1925: (Sunday) After the service we made two more selections of the Tabernacle Choir. We remained in Salt Lake City doing this work until September 29th, making four solos of the Tabernacle Organ and six Tabernacle Choir records.
This work in Salt Lake City proved a very interesting experience. The Tabernacle Organ is quite large, consisting of pipes in number between 7,000 and 8,000, some of which were made of solid logs, cut in Yellow Stone Park and hauled some 400 miles by Oxen team (before railroads were in operation in that section) and made by hand. These pipes are still in use in this Organ.
The Mormon Tabernacle Organ is a world’s famous instrument; massive in structure, and wonderful tone quality. But I am not just sure whether the Organ does possess this wonderful quality of tone within itself or not. But I am personally frank to admit after my experience of recording (or making records) of this instrument, that the high efficiency of tonal qualities is brought about by the wonderful acoustical properties of the Tabernacle in which the Organ is installed.
The Tabernacle Choir consists of 250 unpaid mixed voices, and rehearsals are held every Thursday evening. We used from 150 to 170 voices while making these records. (p. 126)
The Tabernacle is noted for its wonderful acoustics and is 250 ft. long, 150 ft. wide, with an 80 ft. ceiling, and has a seating capacity of 8,000, and is shaped inside like an egg—rounded ceiling, sides and ends. The wonderful acoustical properties enables one to hear a pin drop in the building. Organ recitals are given daily in the Tabernacle from 12 noon to 1:00 p.m. by their own Organists for the benefit of the Tourists or any one who wishes to attend.
Well, we finished our work, packed up the equipment and left Salt Lake City for home, September 30th, via Denver, on Denver and Rio Grand R.R., from Denver to Chicago on C.B. and Q. R.R., from Chicago to Philadelphia on the 2Oth Century Penna. R.R., arriving home Saturday, a.m. October 3rd.
After our arrival home and hearing the finished product of our records made in Salt Lake City, we found we were successful to the extent of six of the ten selections recorded being accepted as Masters.
October 5th, 1925: Had the Victor Company send to my home, one of the new Orthophonic (Credenza type) Victrolas.
October 8th, 1925: Mr. Fenimore Johnson and Mr. C. S. Wickes took up the matter regarding surfaces which seemed to have given a lot of annoyance since I was on the Western trip, especially with the new machine (Orthophonic).
October 8th, 1925: Mr. J. S. Macdonald, an old employee of the Victor Company, and holding the position Manager of the Artist & Repertoire Department, resigned, severing his connections with the Victor Company. Mr. Macdonald [had] succeeded Mr. C. G. Child in this capacity, October 1, 1923. (p. 127)
October 9th, 1925: Mr. Wickes asked me to follow up this question of surface and do everything possible to not only improve but bring the surface to the highest possible standard. The start was made and I began to stir everybody up for better surfaces.
October 12th, 1925: We started to use a new recording material known as 530, which we found to be better for Electrical recording. We also adopted advance ball—[and] surface improved materially.
October 19th, 1925: The Victor Company took my old Victor XVII back to the factory to dispose of same at the cut price.
October 20th, 1925: C. S. Althouse and Elmer Raguse left for Havana, Cuba, to make another repertoire of Cuban records. These being the first records we have made in Cuba electrically. (They returned November 10th.)
October 26th, 1925: Harry Shoemaker transferred from Physical Research Department to the Recording Laboratory to assist in Electrical recording and to be a member of the Department. Started on Laboratory Pay Roll November 2nd.
October 31st, 1925: The Illinois College Band, consisting of 150 pieces accompanied the Foot Ball Team to Philadelphia to play Pennsylvania College and was induced to make two selections for the Victor Company while they were East.
The Band was to have made these records before the game but they got in back of a train wreck which made them late and they did not get over to make the records until after the Illinois College (Red Grange being the star) gave Penn a complete lacing. (p. 128)
However, they arrived 5:30 p.m. and finished 7:30 p.m.
The records were made in the Church Building. There were 100 men in the band and 50 men did the singing, making 150 men in all. The records proved successful and were put out on a “Special” during November.
November 3rd, 1925: Stanley Smith, an employee in our Laboratory Machine Shop, was transferred to the Recording Staff.
November 10th, 1925: Althouse and Raguse returned from Cuba. (They left Oct. 20th.)
November 13th, 1925: As per instructions of Mr. Fenimore Johnson, we made a photograph of the old way (direct recording) in Studio #1—7th floor, Bldg. #l5, showing Horn and Orchestra. Another photograph was made of the new way making records, showing Microphone and Orchestra (Lewis Jones as vocalist). Not satisfactory.
November 23rd, 1915: We repeated the making of these photographs of the old and new way making records which proved to be more satisfactory and shows distinctly the two methods. See photographs.
November 24th, 1925: The new Orthophonic Victrola had a brief stay at the Sooy home, as the Victor Company deemed it advisable to use every one available to supply the Christmas demand. Therefore, a Victor truck hauled it back to the factory to-day. October 5th to November 24th, was the length of time we enjoyed its company, but we are looking for another after the holiday rush is over. (p. 129)
November 26th, 1925; (Thanksgiving) We made two selections, six records in all of the Cornell College Band. Starting at 8:30 a.m. and finished at 11:30 a.m.
We took this opportunity to make records of the Cornell Band because the band was down with the Foot Ball Team which was playing Penn at Franklin Field this p.m. Recording was done in the Church Building. The Band consisted of 41 men. Mr. Geo. L. Coleman, Director.
November 28th, 1925: Fred Maisch and Harry Shoemaker left on a recording trip for St. Louis and Chicago, taking Electrical Equipment and new recording material known as 580. (Returned December 24th, 1925.)
November 39th, 1935: Raymond Sooy and Elmer Raguse left for Detroit to make some records of Henry Ford’s Orchestra. Records were made at Mr. Ford’s place. (Returned December 5th, 1925.)
December 15th, 1925: Mr. Kellogg (Bird Whistler) had an idea of making a record, himself with six Orthophonic Victrolas. This was done by using six records (pressings of a record he had previously made) on the Orthophonics in conjunction with himself, thus making seven Bird voices on one record. Then Mr. Kellogg used this record (with a number of bird voices) on forty machines at the Hippodrome in New York with much success. (p. 130)
December 31st, 1925: With the close of this day and year, meant the last day for Linderman and Green at the Laboratory before their departure for Buenos Aires, S.A. as their sailing date is January 2nd, 1926, for a period of three years. All future records to be recorded electrically.
During the year of 1925, the Victor Company adopted the method of electrical recording, the new Orthophonic Victrola and the Super-Heterodyne Radio.
It necessitated a complete turn-over in most every department of the Victor Establishment. The turn-over was so sudden and so great an undertaking that the Trade suffered during the holiday rush at Christmas time—there were others who felt this turnover because Dividends were cut. (p. 131)
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