Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Records under the "Brunswick" label were first produced by the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company (a company based in Dubuque, Iowa which had been manufacturing products ranging from pianos to sporting equipment since 1845). The company first began producing phonographs in 1916, then began marketing their own line of records as an after-thought. These first Brunswick Records used the vertical cut system like Edison Records Discs, and were not sold in large numbers.
In January of 1920 a new line of Brunswick Records were introduced using the lateral cut system that was then becoming the default cut for 78 disc records. The parent company marketed them extensively, and within a few years Brunswick became one of the USA's Big Three record companies, along with Victor and Columbia Records. The Brunswick line of home phonographs were also commercially successful.
Audio fidelity of early 1920s acoustically recorded Brunswicks is above average for the era. They were pressed into good quality shellac, although not as durable as that used by Victor. Around 1925 Brunswick introduced its own version of electrical recording called the "Light Ray Process" using photo electrical cells. These early electric Brunswicks have a rather harsh distinctive equalization which does not compare well to early electric Columbias and Victors. The company switched to a more conventional microphone process a few years later, with better results. Around the same time they introduced the Brunswick Panatrope, the first home phonograph that reproduced records electrically. This met with critical acclaim, and composer Ottorino Respighi selected the Brunswick Panatrope to play a recording of bird song in his composition "The Pines of Rome".
In April of 1930 Brunswick Balke Collender sold Brunswick Records to Warner Brothers, who hoped to make their own soundrack recordings for their sound-on-disc Vitaphone system. During this period they signed Bing Crosby, who was to become their biggest recording star. When Vitaphone was abandoned in favor of the sound-on-film system--and record industry sales plummetted due to the depression--Warners leased Brunswick to the American Record Corporation in December of 1931.
In 1939 the American Record Corp. was bought by the Columbia Broadcasting System for $750,000, which discontinued the label in 1940. This violated the Warners lease agreement, resulting in the Brunswick trademark being transferred to American Decca (Which WB had a financial interest in), along with all masters recorded up to December, 1931. Rights to recordings from late-Dec. 1931 on were retained by CBS/Columbia.)
In 1944 Decca revived the Brunswick label, mostly for reissues of recordings from earlier decades, particularly Bing Crosby's early hits of 1931 and jazz items from the 1920s.
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