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Reminiscences of R.S. Williams & Sons Company

I received a wonderful letter from one of our members who wrote to say that he had enjoyed my article, in the last issue, on the R.S. Williams Company and wanted to share with us his reminiscences about this company in the 1920's. (-ed. Bill Pratt)

Dear Friends,

My grandfather, James Henderson, purchased an Edison Fireside phonograph with diamond point reproducer and some 35 Blue Amberol records from R.S. Williams & Sons in 1914.

In March 1923 R.S. Williams & Sons ran an advertisement in the Family Herald & Weekly Star in which they quoted B. A. records at 1 record 42 cents, 2 records 81 cents, 3 records $1.20 and so on up until if you took a dozen the price was $4.50 postpaid. The ad contained a picture of an Amberol box with an oval-shaped picture of Mr. Edison on it (copyright 1900).

In December 1927 I inquired for B. A. records at a music store in downtown Hamilton run by a Mrs. Stairs. She approached R.S. Williams & Sons re B. A. records. Their only terms were cash with order. This she could not afford. To use her words "They were so rigid they failed."

In January 1928 I inquired of R.S. Williams & Sons for B. A. records. They sent us a "Golden Treasury Catalogue of Blue Amberol Records." We sent them an order for 6 B.A.'s accompanied by a money order. Their response was unsatisfactory - they substituted and sent only five records.

In the summer of 1929 there was a display of pianos and musical instruments at the Canadian National Exhibition. The banner above it read the R.S. Williams Co., B.A. Trestrail, Pres., F.A. Trestrail, Mgr. I think this setup lasted some 2 or 3 years. That was the last I ever heard of R.S. Williams.

In the spring of 1929 we ordered six B. A. records and also a diamond B reproducer from Thomas A. Edison Inc. We were completely satisfied with their response. Both records and reproducer came in due time and were just what we ordered. It was with regret that we learned that the Edison Company had discontinued the manufacture and sale of phonographs and records in the fall of 1929.

The first 4 minute phonograph in our neighbourhood, an Edison Standard, was purchased by William Blacklock in 1909. It was in response to an advertisement in F. Herald & W. Star by Babson Brothers of Winnipeg. In the ad was a coupon which you sent in and they would send a machine on 30 days free trial. The popular recording artists at that time were Harry Lauder, Ada Jones, Billy Murray, Charles D'Almaine, Golden & Hughes, etc.

Babson Bros. advertised the Amberola and B. A. records in the Farmer's Magazine in the early 1920's. They stressed free trial and time payments more than the merits of the machine.

In 1915 I accompanied my parents when they purchased 4 B. A. records at an Edison agency in Guelph. We were taken into a room at the rear of the store where there was a wire rack hanging on the wall containing some 500 records. We listened to several records being played on an Opera phonograph with wooden horn.