Jersey Boys have been making music for generations. Bruce Springsteen…Frank Sinatra…Count Basie…John McCormick….and Enrico Caruso. But they never would have been heard by millions of fans if it weren’t for another Jersey boy – Elridge Johnson.
Johnson was a resident of Camden, NJ and in 1901, this music maker founded the Victor Talking Machine Company. Eldridge cared about how music sounded and how music players looked. Around 1905, he began to experiment with a novel idea to disguise the unsightly trumpet that amplified sound in existing phonographs. When he folded the horn into a large floor standing cabinet, with doors to cover the opening, he made history….and a fortune! His idea was quickly patented and copyrighted as the “Victrola.”
Victor would spend $50,000 on print advertising and $17,000,000 on catalogues and brochures by 1929. Johnson turned his brand name into a generic name. Soon the word “victrola” was applied to all phonograph players designed as furniture. In 1927, the Victor Talking Machine went to the dogs…or at least to “Nipper”, the symbol of the company’s new incarnation, “RCA Victor.”
*Close to 7,000,000 Victrolas were produced between 1906 and 1929. Mint condition Victrolas are routinely offered on Ebay for thousands of dollars. More affordable ‘stored in the attic’ machines sell for as little as $200. Oak is usually better than mahogany and table models fare better than the floor variety. The portable phonograph was actually marketed by Sears & Roebuck as early as the 1920’s and looked like a small suitcase. It cost $14.95 and was called the Portola.