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On the Record:
They Also Sold Records ... (Early Canadian Independent Labels)

A few independent operations sold records in Canada prior to 1942. All of these firms drew their material from U.S. sources, and some were more closely involved with foreign firms.


The first Canadian label after Berliner and Columbia was, in fact, a phonograph firm who apparently wanted records under their own name. About 150 records were issued, primarily standard items although a few dated popular songs appeared; the latest master used appears to be from late 1915, which suggests 1916 as an issue date. Oddly enough, most of the material seems to be from the 1912-13 era, suggesting that Columbia, who pressed the records, may have been less than enthusiastic about duplicating their own popular catalog. Most of the artists appear under pseudonyms, although those most easily recognizable appear under their own name. The label is of interest primarily to U.S. label collectors, since the material is eminently forgettable.


Inasmuch as my own collection includes very few vertically-cut records, most of my knowledge of this label is second-hand. Pathe records were imported into Canada (as well as the U.S.) from 1914 onward, with the first being the odd-sized center-start records that sold poorly. In 1918, quite possibly due to the difficulties in importing engendered by World War I, Pathe began manufacturing records in Canada as well as distributing them, and until evidence indicates otherwise, it can be assumed that the handful of Canadian records in an 800 series date from this time. This operation was apparently short-lived, as Pathe/Perfect masters appear on Compo from 1923 on.


This very scarce label was pressed c. 1918; numbers appearing in the shellac suggest that, although Pathe masters were used, they may have been acquired through a connection with the very short-lived Crescent label in the U.S. Like Crescent, the labels are Pathe-type vertical-cut. Further details regarding this label are not known.


Phonographs under this name (the predecessor of today's Electrohome firm) appeared c. 1914, and the company distributed what are known as the Lindstrom labels (Fonotipia, Odeon, Jumbo etc.). In 1918, as the Okeh line was launched in the U.S., the same records appeared in Canada under the Phonola name, with the same catalog numbers. In 1919, a 4000 lateral-cut series was launched and from 1920 onward the records were pressed by Compo. The label disappeared in 1922, shortly after Compo launched their own line of records.


This U.S. label sold records in Canada as The Gennett Company of Canada in 1920 and 1921. The Starr (later Gennett) phonographs and records had, from 1917 until this date, been imported and sold by a Canadian distributor. In late 1921, the Gennett of Canada disappeared, and the label became more closely tied to Compo. In 1925, the use of Gennett masters ceased and the label name changed from Starr-Gennett to Starr; the latter was used until well into the postwar years for Quebecois material.


Although these plastic-coated cardboard records were almost certainly never manufactured in Canada, I have seen one imprinted on the reverse with advertising for a Quebec news firm, indicating they were distributed in Canada.


Edward Moogk's book Roll Back the Years credits the existence of a line of 8-inch vertical-cut records under this name. A similar U.S. label is known, however, and it is most likely that these were in fact imported. A Compo label under this name appeared later.


One source credits an early label of this name; however, I have not seen one nor do I know anyone else who has.

This list appears to cover the extent of the record industry in Canada prior to the flood of independent labels after World War II. It is almost certain that other U.S. labels were distributed here. Famous, for example, an obscure and scarce label in the U.S. shows up often enough to indicate it may well have been remaindered here after its demise. There also may have been private labels made for special purposes. I own one record on the Ambassador label, featuring a religious vocal group of similar name, which appears to date from the mid-1930s and is custom-pressed by RCA Victor, and there may well have been others.