British Labels 1: Edison Bell

  • This blog covers the main labels produced by Edison Bell in the UK. Edison Bell also pressed recordings for many other smaller independent labels, but these are not covered.

    History

    The Edison Bell Phonograph Corporation was founded in 1892 and acquired phonograph patents which should have given the company a 10 year UK monopoly of the Talking Machine trade. However, Edison Bell did not exploit this fully and rival companies (including James E. Hough and his London Cylinder Co.) quickly began trading.

    Edison Bell tried to stop Hough, but Hough made a deal with them, the result being Hough's new company ‘Edisonia’, formed in mid 1897. The disputes between Edison Bell and Hough continued, and in 1898 Hough lost in court. Edison Bell and Edisonia were then incorporated to form the Edison Bell Consolidated Phonograph Co, but Hough managed to emerge as the General Sales Manager of this new company, which kept overall control of the cylinder market until 1902 when its patents expired.

    Early cylinder box lid


    In 1903 a manufacturing site was set up at Peckham,London to produce cylinder records and players.

    In 1904, Edison established its own European arm, and Edison-Bell lost its distribution rights to Edison cylinders. By this time however, Edison Bell had become one of the three major UK cylinder record producers, along with Pathe and the National Phonograph Co.

     

     



    In 1908 Edison Bell acquired the rival 'Sterling' cylinder manufacturer, and also produced their first flat discs named Bell Disc . These were slightly over 10" in their earliest form, and started at No.1. They continued to be produced, along with cylinders, until 1912. Around 500 Bell Discs were issued and a partial listing may be found at Michael Thomas's site. Two styles of labels seem to have been used, with the green label appearing on later issues.

     



    In 1909 Edison Bell went into bankruptcy. The firm continued to trade and was acquired outright by Hough acting under the name J.E. Hough. Ltd.

    The Edison Bell Velvet Face label was first issued in September 1910 as an improved version of the Bell Disc, and continued until 1914. Bell Discs were produced until 1912.



    "The Winner" label was announced in December 1911, with the first list of records announced in January 1912. It was advertised as being owned by a syndicate, with the address given as that of J.E. Hough Ltd. The earliest labels featured representations of a horse and jockey, and there are many variations.

     

     

    Shortly after the end of the First World War, the Velvet Face label was revived under the control of Joe Batten. It's purpose was to provide more serious works than those in The Winner catalogue. One major milestone was Batten's organisation of the first recording of Elgar's Dream of Gerontius in 1923, which had previously been claimed to be un-recordable. However, the introduction of electric recording in 1925 soon put paid to this label's prestige.



    In 1921 the 'The Bell' name was used again for 5½" (and later 6") children's records. The catalogue number started at 250 and had extended into the 400s by the time the label had ended in 1926. A listing may be found at the same link given above for Michael Thomas's site.


    "The Winner" name was changed to "Winner", and the label changed to a gold drawing of horse and jockey on a claret background about mid 1922.

      

    In March 1926 Winner's horse and jockey label was abandoned, and the label name changed to "Edison Bell Winner". J. E. Hough Ltd. became a public company in May 1926, and the Winner label was changed to show a new name: Edison Bell Limited London & Huntingdon. The first electrical recording to be released was Winner 4386 in April 1926, but this was from American Paramount masters. The first electrical recording from Edison Bell's own masters was number 4444 in July 1926.

       

    The Electron label was introduced in 1927 to replace the acoustically recorded "Velvet Face" records. They were electric recordings and all British matrices. Because of their higher price they did not sell well and are comparitively rare compared to Winner records. The label remained in use until 1929 with the catalogue running from 0150 to 0303. A 12" series was also produced.



    The Edison Bell Radio label was introduced in 1928, and provided 8" records to a very lucrative market,costing only 1/3d (£0.06). Former Music Hall performer Harry Hudson was musical director and provided most of the dance music under a variety of aliases. The catalogue numbers started at 800 and had reached over 1600 by the label's end, although numbers in the range 1000-1200 were not used.



    In 1931 the Radio label was changed from gold on blue to black on gold, but the label was abandoned in 1932.

    By 1929 Edison Bell was making losses, and in January 1933 the company was wound up. No offers for the company were received, and most of the remaining assets were eventually taken over by Decca. Decca gained a concession in 1933 to continue to release Winner records for a short time afterwards, including a new series prefixed W, while Edison Bell itself struggled on until 1938, when it was liquidated. The last Edison Bell records were issued in January 1935.



    Winner Release Dates
    Note: This list does not show the few exceptions which were released out of sequence.
    2000 - 2245: 1912
    2246 - 2515: 1913
    2516 - 2740: 1914
    2741 - 2922: 1915
    2923 - 3081: 1916
    3071 - 3185: 1917
    3187 - 3276: 1918
    3266 - 3359: 1919

    3356 - 3494: 1920
    3487 - 3610: 1921
    3612 - 3757: 1922
    3759 - 3924: 1923
    3933 - 4107: 1924
    4108 - 4320: 1925
    4321 - 4553: 1926
    4554 - 4753: 1927
    4754 - 4870: 1928
    4871 - 4960: 1929

    4961 - 5192: 1930
    5193 - 5412: 1931
    5413 - 5532: 1932
    5533 - 5628: 1933
    5629 - 5687: 1934
    5688 - 5692: 1935

    Edison Bell Winner from Decca
    W.1 - W.52: 1933
    W.53 - W.158: 1934
    W.159 -W.166: 1935

    More dating information

    Sources
     Edison Bell Winner Records; Karlo Adrian and Arthur Badrock; 2nd Edition 1989.
     Edison Phonograph - the British Connection, Frank Andrews, 1986.
     The Ultimate Phonograph Cylinder Handbook, Keith Harrison, 2014 Edition.
     The British Record Industry during the Reign of Edward VII : 1901 -1910; Frank Andrews, 2010.
     (The last two items are available from the CLPGS )


     

Comments

2 comments
  • John Rogers and Nathan Davis like this
  • wes williams
    wes williams The original version of this article only covered The Winner label. This version includes most of the popular labels from Edison Bell.
    September 16, 2014
  • Nathan Davis
    Nathan Davis Looking forward to the rest of this series.
    November 12, 2014