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Rca-Victor Company

RCA-VICTOR COMPANY


RCA-Victor Company merged from two earlier companiesVictor Talking Machine Company and the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). The Victor Talking Machine Company was founded in 1901 after the development of the cylinder phonograph. It went into the business of producing phonographs, providing people with recorded sounds and music. The Radio Corporation of America was formed in 1919 by General Electric Company (GE), and spawned several supporting businesses, like RCA-Victor, to better manage its growing interests.

General Electric formed the Radio Corporation of America in 1919 in order to acquire the assets of the British-owned American Marconi. It was the only company operating in the United States equipped to handle transatlantic radio and telegraph communications. Franklin D. Roosevelt (18821945), then under-secretary of the Navy, strongly supported GE's bid to acquire American Marconi. He spearheaded efforts to facilitate the purchase because Roosevelt believed that Americans should own the only company in the nation able to handle transatlantic radio and telegraph communications.

General Electric succeeded and RCA went into business. Though GE was the main stockholder in RCA, American Telephone & Telegraph Company (AT&T) and Westinghouse Corporation also owned significant shares of the company. Between 1919 and 1921, AT&T and GE licensed their patents for long distance transmission. Westinghouse granted RCA access to all of its patents and offered its radio equipment to the public.

Under the combined resources of these companies, RCA flourished. In 1924, RCA transmitted the first radiophoto from New York to London. This photo-transmission paved the way for the development of television. At the same time, RCA was still heavily invested in radio, and it wanted to maintain control over the radio stations it owned. To better manage their operations, RCA formed the National Broadcasting Company in 1926.

Most phonograph companies during the 1920s did not express enthusiasm over the introduction of radio. However, David Sarnoff (18911971), a leader at RCA, had an idea to market a radio and a phonograph together in one unit. The best way for RCA to do this was to acquire a phonograph company. In 1929, RCA purchased the Victor Talking Machine Company for $154 million. The RCA-Victor Company was formed, with David Sarnoff serving as its president. The company began manufacturing radios and phonographs in Camden, New Jersey. Sarnoff became known as the "father of broadcasting."

One of the most outstanding trademarks ever marketed was purchased along with the Victor Talking Machine Company. It was the image of a dog (named Nipper) staring at an old phonograph with the caption "His Master's Voice." Nipper, along with the selling techniques of the newly formed company, helped this new invention of a "radio music box," priced at approximately $75, become one of the most popular inventions of its time.

RCA also created two spin-off companies to manufacture key components in the RCA-Victor phonograph production. Shortly afterwards, the Radio Corporation of America's increasingly complex operations caught the attention of the federal government. The company became embroiled in legal issues regarding its near-monopoly status. Under federal pressure, General Electric, AT&T, and Westinghouse sold their interest in RCA in 1932. The company, renamed RCA Corporation, became independent and was led by David Sarnoff.

RCA, still the parent company of RCA-Victor, introduced a new inventionthe televisionat the 1939 World's Fair. However, the company quickly turned to more basic matters as the United States entered World War II (19391945). RCA factories manufactured a variety of items to help with the war effort, including bomb fuses and radio tubes. A month after the war ended, RCA-Victor's television products found their way back to the market and were produced at a rapid rate. The television age had begun, and RCA-Victor was in the lead.

Under Sarnoff's continued leadership the Radio Corporation of America involved itself in a range of interests, including education, broadcasting, and sound system design. This trend set by Sarnoff continued through the end of the twentieth century, when RCA became an industry leader in digital high-definition television (HDTV) development.

Topic Overview

One of the most outstanding trademarks ever marketed was . . . the image of a dog (named Nipper) staring at an old phonograph with the caption "His Master's Voice." Nipper, along with the selling techniques of the newly formed company, helped this new invention of a "radio music box," priced at approximately $75, become one of the most popular inventions of its time.

See also: Radio, National Broadcasting Corporation, Telegraph


FURTHER READING

Cowie, Jefferson R. Capital Moves: RCA's Seventy-Year Quest for Cheap Labor. Cornell University Press, 1999.

Curtis, Philip J. The Fall of the U.S. Consumer Electronics Industry. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1994.

RCA Receiving Tube Manual. Antique Electronic Supply, 1994.

Sherman, Michael W., William R. Moran, and Kurt R. Nauck. A Collector's Guide to Victor Records. Monarch Record Enterprises, 1992.

"The Web's Home for Home Entertainment," [cited April 21, 1999] available from the World Wide Web @ www.nipper.com/nipper.asp.

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