On the Record:
From Berliner to Victor
In late 1909, Berliner introduced the first of their Canada-only issues since Victor masters had replaced the early
Montreal-recorded sides. These were, however, not recorded in Montreal but were European (French) and
English recordings which the firm felt would appeal to Canadian talking machine owners. Several series were
introduced: the fairly common 120000 (10") and 130000 (12") black-label series, the violet label 100000 (10")
and 110000 (12") single-sided series and a 183000 Red Seal series, with the 121000 series (which included but
one record, the "puzzle record") added shortly thereafter. These were broken up into blocks which appear almost
without logical reason, so that establishing dates for them by number is a frustrating task. The initial records (or
at least the initial numbers) were all European-recorded French-language sides; however, the French records
were shortly thereafter assigned to the 120/130500 block, and then made obsolete by Montreal-recorded
material after 1918.
Although the French records are seldom found in Ontario, the 120-130000 series records turn up often enough to
indicate that material from "The Old Country" proved quite popular with British and Scottish record buyers. In
1914, the more patriotic selections, along with a handful of records from the regular catalogue, acquired a
fanciful red-white-and-blue label with the Union Jack prominently displayed. Once the patriotic fervour of
wartime had diminished, the series reverted to the usual label which it would wear from then on. Around this
time, the numbering was started at 120700 for the 10" series and continued from there until it jumped to 120800
when electric recording was introduced (with the 12" electrics starting at 130800). Moogk's Roll Back the Years
lists two oddities in this series: numbered 120900 and 120901, they are apparently sides recorded in the U.S.
during WWI for Canadian issues!
In 1916 the Berliners resumed recording in Montreal on a regular basis, and began issuing another series, the
Canadian-recorded 216000 series. This started slowly, with a pair of poems recorded experimentally much
earlier and three records by one "Canadian Cohen" (actually Herbert Berliner!) but picked up once the war
ended. Although Canadian talent was used to some extent, many of the records were made by established
American artists, and a fair number were, in fact, "cover versions" of records on competing labels, using artists
such as Billy Jones, Milo Rega and Harry Raderman who did not record for Victor. By 1920, the majority of
Berliner's black label issues were in this series, and the Victor company in the U.S. began to look askance at the
situation. This was responsible for another unique Canadian item: when a popular U.S. record duplicated one of
Berliner's own sides, he simply deleted that side from the Canadian version of the Victor record and substituted
a different pairing. For that reason, a number of Canadian Victors have a different pairing of songs than the U.S.
issue with the same catalogue number!
Finally, in late 1921, pressure from the Victor firm slowed the 216000 issues to a trickle once again. In the
meantime, Emile's son, Herbert, had resigned from his father's firm, moving to the Compo Company which he
had started in 1918. Victor was evidently still somewhat less than happy about being dependent on the
independent company for its Canadian operations, and continued pressure on Berliner until Victor finally
acquired the company in early 1924, renaming the operation "The Victor Talking Machine Company of Canada"
and making the Victor name more prominent on an altered label.