Friends of Nipper


Nipper - A unique star in the history of talking machines

By Doug Boilesen


Nipper was a a terrier whose lineage is commonly thought to be a mix of Fox and Bull Terrier. But his pedigre didn't matter. It was his curiousity and famous pose as he listened to sounds from a machine that epitomized what this new wonder was introducing to the world.

Born in 1884 in Bristol, England, Nipper was painted listening to a phonograph in late 1898 three years after Nipper's death. The original painting by Francis Barraud displayed an Edison-Bell Phonograph as the source of Nipper's interest. In 1898 Barraud repainted the Phonograph with a Berliner Gramophone and it was this painting that would become the trademark for Eldridge Johnson's Victor Talking Machine Company (which Johnson took over from Emile Berliner).

With his ear cocked sitting in front of a talking machine listening to "His Master's Voice," Nipper would be seen in countless advertisements into the 21st century and far outlive the Victor and its generation of listeners.

It is one of the great advertising ironies that the dog that couldn't find a home with the Edison Phonograph went on to become one of the most famous marketing images of all time, doing so for Edison's chief competitor, the Victor Talking Machine Company.




On February 11, 1899, Francis filed an application for copyright of this painting “Dog Looking At and Listening to a Phonograph.”

According to Leonard Petts, author of The story of 'Nipper' and the 'His Master's Voice' picture painted by Francis Barraud, negotiations for the transfer of the copyright of the repainted picture with the Gramophone " were completed with Barraud by 31st January 1900 and on 6th February the Company applied for a Memorandum of the Assignment of Copyright of the painting of Dog looking into and listening to a Gramophone and entitled His Master's Voice."

Nipper made his first appearance on the Gramophone Company's advertising literature on the Record Supplement for January 1900.

The original painting (below) by Francis Barraud, Nipper's owner and brother of the original owner, displayed an Edison Phonograph as the subject talking machine.

The following photograph shows the 1899 update where Barraud has repainted the Phonograph as a Berliner Gramophone.


Nipper listening to an Edison Phonograph



The repainted HMV version with Nipper and a Berliner Gramophone


Since Nipper became such an icon in the advertising world it's not surprising that there are many examples of "art", cartoons and parody that feature Nipper as the star.

To see a few of these Nipper inspired works go to Phonographia's PhonoArt gallery "Nipper Art".