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Label Types of Bluebird Records:
with particular reference to differences in Canadian and American issues
Figure I

In 1990 Colin Bray began gathering information for a book on Canadian 78 rpm record labels. We had known for some years that the various Bluebird label types had not been used at the same time in Canada as in the us, mainly from Steve Barr's brief description of the label in his book, "The almost complete 78 rpm record dating guide". The present article is an attempt to pin down more accurately when these various label types were used. More specifically it concerns the 10" popular series which ran from 1933 to 1945, although other series will be mentioned later in this article. There was another Blue Bird label (note spelling) which was a Paramount derivative from the 1921-22 period (Rust) but this is not part of our study. We are concerned only with the Bluebird label derived from the Victor company.

The popular series began in August 1932 (Barr) at serial number 1800 (Barr; Rust; Sherman). These were 8" records which changed to 10" at 1820 in April 1933 (Barr) and continued to 1853. The colour of the label was dark blue and black (Sherman). In May 1933 the numbering system changed to B-5000. In 1938 it jumped from B-7875 to B-10000 (Barr; Sherman). In November 1942 it reached B-11594 (Rust) and then changed to 30-0800. It reached 30-0835 in 1945, at which time the Bluebird label ended. The name was revived around 1951-52 as the "Bluebird series" on the RCA Victor label.

Plate 1
Canadian Buff - early variety
Plate 2
Canadian Buff - later variety
Plate 3
American Buff
Plate 4
Canadian Staff

Figure I demonstrates that Bluebird used a buff label,a staff label, and a dog label in Canada. In the US Bluebird had two varieties of dog label which we call "dog 3" (because it had three lines of type around the bottom of the label) and "dog 2" (two lines). We must stress that the dates shown in Figure I are approximate having been interpolated from data in Barr.

The bar chart shows the latest date on which a specific type of label was being used. This is based on the highest serial number of that type we have found. There may well be records of that type which bear slightly higher numbers. For example, the vertical line at the beginning of the staff bar shows the approximate date when the staff label was introduced. When a record from an earlier era was re-released, it would bear the label that was being used at the time of re-release instead of the original label. Thus, we can find a record bearing a serial number from 1934, the buff era, which was re-released in 1942 bearing the then current "dog 2" label.

In Canada, the buff label was used for the popular series until October 1939, and the highest number we have found is B-10423. The staff label was used from October 1939 until April 1940 (highest number B-10666) and the "dog 2" label was used from April 1940 until circa January 1945 (highest number 30-0833). In addition, two varieties of the Canadian buff label have been identified. In 1929 RCA announced the purchase of Victor in the US in a deal which included the Victor Talking Machine Company of Canada. The company is shown as such around the bottom of the early buff Bluebird label variety, the highest number we have found is B-5663 (c. November 1934). No reference whatsoever is made to RCA at this time. The later buff label has printed around the bottom "RCA Victor Company Limited, Montreal, Canada". The first issue we have found is B-5795 (c. February 1935). It appears the change was made around December 1934/January 1935.

Plate 5
American Staff
Plate 6
Canadian "dog 2"
Plate 7
American "dog 3"
Plate 8
American "dog 2"

In the US the buff label was used until September 1937, and the highest number we have found is B-7101. The staff label was used until November 1938 (highest number in the popular series is B-7875). The "dog 3" label was used until circa January 1943 (highest number B-11587) and the "dog 2" label was used until circa January 1945 (highest number 30-0831).

Although the dates are approximate, Figure I shows that the buff label was used for a longer period in Canada than in the us. The staff label was used in Canada for a shorter period and at a later date than in the US. Today the staff label is the rarest of the three Canadian types.

There are several other series which are not included in Figure 1. They are:

B-2199 - B-2002 US only, Cajun (note series runs backwards!) June 1935 - September 1936 (Rust)
B-7876 - B-9042 Country, Race, and Rhythm and Blues, Canada and us, November 1938 - circa June 1942
B-1000 - Canada only, French Canadian, probably early 1940s

B-2200 - B-4999 was called an International series that was current from April 1934 to March 1942 (Rust). We have identified two series, the first is a B-4800 - B4999 series which includes some Canadian country and French Canadian recordings. This series ran from probably 1933 - 1935 (Barr). The second runs from art least B-4680 (July 1940) to B-4730 (November 1941) (Barr). This series includes Canadian popular material. We feel both these series might be exclusively Canadian but this needs more research.

In November 1942 Bluebird altered its numerical system to four-figure serials prefixed by a two-figure category code (Rust). Those so far identified are as follows:

21 Country, (US)
30 Popular, (US and Canada), 30-0800 (November 1942) - 30-0835 (c. January 1945)
31 Popular, (US), RCA Victor - Bluebird series, (Barr reports c. 1950)
33 Country, (US), 33-0500 (November 1942) - 33-0535 (Sept. 1945)
34 Race, (US), 34-0700 (November 1942) - 34-0743 (January 1946)
55 Canada only. Country and French Canadian. These may be in different series with the same prefix. Early 1940s
58 Canada only, Country, RCA Victor - Bluebird series. Barr reports this is a reissue in 1951-1952 of the 21 prefixed series and was issued in Canada, possibly exclusively

In addition there was also a series of Children’s records. These were issued with serial numbers ranging from 1 to 1000 with prefixes which included Bk and By from May 1936 (Rust) to the early 1950s (Sherman).

The Bluebird label was discontinued sometime after 1946 (Sherman). The name was revived as the "Bluebird series" on the RCA Victor label.

Examples of the Canadian buff, staff and "dog 2" labels are shown in Plates 1, 2, 4 and 6, respectively. The American buff, staff, "dog 3" and "dog 2" labels are illustrated in Plates 3, 5, 7 and 8, respectively.

References

  • Barr S.C. "The almost complete 78 rpm record dating guide" (2nd edition) 1979, Published Privately, Toronto.
  • Rust B. "The American Record Label Book". 1978, Arlington House, New Rochelle.
  • Sherman M.W. "The Collector’s Guide to Victor Records", 1992, Monarch Record Enterprises, Dallas.

    The authors wish to thank Gene Miller for making his record collection available to us, and to Ken Crawford for supplying information from his collection.