Thomas Edison invented the phonograph. Very few know it wasn’t a record player. Discs, not cylinders developed into a major twentieth century industry, but its inventors and developers stand in the shadow of Edison’s PR canon. There is significant ignored history on the Gramophone/ Victrola side of the recording and playback story. Their flat round “records”, catalyzed popular music by professionals as American home entertainment.
A tale that deserves to better known is that of Harry, Raymond, and Charles Sooy, brothers who worked for the Victor Talking Machine Company in the acoustic era. Harry, the eldest did early experimental work on recording materials and processes for company President Eldridge Reeves Johnson. He became Director of Victor’s Recording Laboratory, and Raymond succeeded him upon his death. These men were pioneers in developing the techniques that brought sound into the company’s acoustical horns to be recorded. In 1925, Raymond helped urge the company to license new electric recording technology, even though it made everything he and his brothers achieved obsolete overnight. Victor Talking Machine Company is justly proud of the wealth it created for its owners, investors, and key employees. When Mr. Johnson sold his company shares in 1927, all others were permitted to do so. There were over thirty millionaires created including Johnson, several members of his family, key executives and factory employees. But, not the Sooys. The article then jumps trenchantly and wittily to the conclusion that record producers have been underpaid since day one.