Timeline of the Victor Phonograph Company
The following timeline shows key events during the era of the Victor Talking Machine Company (1900-1929) along with notable historical facts and world events. Events relating to Victor are shown in red.
Eldridge Johnson purchases the Berliner Gramophone Company after Berliner loses a legal battle over rights to manufacture flat-disc Gramophones. Johnson forms the Consolidated Talking Machine Company
William McKinley is President of the United States; US population is 76,000,000
Puerto Rico and Hawaii added as US Territories
Ransom Olds forms Oldsmobile Motor Company
Carrie Nation leads national fight over consumption of alcoholic beverages
1,500,000 telephones in use in the United States
Johnson reorganizes Consolidated Talking Machine and calls the new venture The Victor Talking Machine Company
Victor $3, Type A, Type B, Type C, Monarch and Monarch Deluxe models introduced. The $3 machine would be equivalent to $60.00 today. The Monarch Deluxe ($60) would sell for $1200.00 in today's economy.
Victor sells 7,570 phonographs during the year
President McKinley assassinated on Sept 14; Theodore Roosevelt sworn in as President
J.P Morgan founds US Steel Corporation
Victor introduces the "Rigid Arm" tone arm concept, which allows the arm to pivot independently from the horn
Victor Monarch Jr., Monarch Special, Type P, Royal, Victor II, Victor III and Victor IV models introduced.
Philippines are declared US Territory
Practical air conditioning system invented and demonstrated
Flatiron Building in New York is the first skyscraper
Victor introduces Type D, Type Z, Victor I models
Initial sketches of an internal horn phonograph design appear at Victor Research. This concept would eventually lead to production of the Victrola
Wright Brothers flight at Kitty Hawk
The Great Train Robbery is released as the first feature film
Ford Motor Company founded
First World Series baseball game held.
Victor introduces the deluxe gold-trimmed Victor VI model, selling for $100 ($1900 in today's money)
Tapering tone arm debuts on certain models
Work begins on Panama Canal
New York opens first subway train
Louisiana Purchase Exhibition held, first "Worlds Fair"
Roosevelt re-elected as President
Victor sells 65,591 phonographs during the year
Russian Revolution begins
Einstein proposes Theory of Relativity
Many external horn phonograph models undergo cabinet redesign
The pneumatic-powered Victor Auxetophone introduced in May. Selling for $500, this is equivalent to $9,300 today.
The first internal horn phonograph, the Victrola, is introduced in August. Selling for $200, this equates to $3,700 today. Even at this price, the Victrola is an instant success, producing over 500 machines by year's end. The cabinet is made by the Pooley Furniture Company of Philadelphia
San Francisco earthquake strikes (April 18)
Congress passes the Pure Food and Drug Act
Victor drops the letter designation models on external horn phonographs (P, D, etc.)
Victor begins transitioning manufacture of Victrola cabinets to its Camden plant, and begins using the VV-XVI designation on Victrola advertisements.
The "domed lid" is introduced on the Victrola during mid year
Oklahoma admitted to the Union
Stock Market panic and economic downturn begins on Mar 13. This results in a gradual economic slowdown (recession) that runs through 1911.
Victor introduces the Type O (zero) external horn phonograph
Victor introduces the super deluxe Victrola XX model with gold trim. Selling for $300 ($5400 in today's money), it is too expensive and is discontinued within a year.
Victor sells a record 107,000 phonographs during the year. This sales volume would not be achieved again for 3 years.
Ford introduces the Model T, selling for $550 ($9,800 in today's money).
Roosevelt refuses to run for another term, William H. Taft elected US President
Victor introduces the first tabletop internal horn phonograph, the Victrola XII. Selling for $125.00 ($2,300 in today's money), it fails to sell and is discontinued in 1910.
Victor introduces the economy Monarch Jr. external horn phonograph, priced at $10.00 ($185.00 in today's money).
Victrola introduces the custom "Moorish Marquetry" cabinet option for the VV-XVI. Selling for $750 ($13,900 in today's money), it is intended for the wealthiest customers.
Victor sales plummet over 50% during the year due to the economic downturn.
Admiral Perry treks to the North Pole
Victor focuses design and production efforts on the internal horn phonograph, and away from the external horn models. The Victrola X, Victrola XI and Victrola XIV models are introduced in September. These machines were intended to make the internal horn phonograph more affordable. The Tabletop X was the lowest priced internal horn machine that Victor produced, selling for $75.00 ($1,400 in today's money).
The "Victor-Victrola" decal on all Victrolas is replaced with a simple "Victrola"
US Population is 92,000,000
Los Angeles Times Building destroyed by terrorist bombs
Victor announces the Victrola IX early in the year. This is the first truly low-cost internal horn tabletop model selling for $50.00 ($900.00 in today's money)
The Victrola VIII, Victrola VI and Victrola IV are introduced in the fall. The IV is priced at a mere $15.00 ($275.00 in today's money), making it the lowest cost internal model Victor ever produced.
Victrola (internal horn) sales exceed sales of the external horn Victor phonographs for the first time. Victor sales at a record 125,000 for the year.
US sends troops to Mexico to fight in Mexican Revolution
First transcontinental air flight across US
Standard Oil breakup due to antitrust litigation
Victrola XVI and XIV are restyled in the early fall. The XI and X are converted from table models to floor models. The X now has a "spider leg" design that is not popular with buyers.
Victor sales nearly double from the previous year. Production now at 252,000. 90% of production is the internal horn Victrola models.
Steamship Titanic sinks (April 15)
Woodrow Wilson elected US President
New Mexico and Arizona admitted to the Union
Universal Pictures and Woolworth Corporations founded
Victor introduces the automatic brake feature on many models.
The spider-leg Victrola X is converted into a low-cost floor model phonograph
The Victor XXV "Schoolhouse" model is introduced, intended for use by public schools and institutions.
Pancho Villa rises as leader of Mexican Revolution
Camel Cigarettes introduced
Grand Central Station opens in New York
16th Amendment passed, allowing government to collect income taxes
Victor introduces Brown Mahogany as a finish option
World War I begins (June 28). USA announces neutrality in August
Ford Motor Company introduces the $5/day wage
Panama Canal opens
The deluxe external-horn Victor VI model is discontinued due to the rapidly decreasing interest in external horn models.
The elegant Victrola XVIII is introduced in the spring. Selling for $300 ($5000 in today's money) in basic mahogany, it is the most expensive non-custom phonograph that Victor manufactures. As a comparison, a Ford Model T Runabout sells for $345.
Steamship Lusitania sunk by German U-Boat (May 7)
Coast-to-Coast long distance service begins in US
Birth of a Nation is the first movie "blockbuster"
Victor discontinues the too-expensive Victrola XVIII, and replaces it with the more reasonable ($250.00) Victrola XVII.
General Pershing drives the invading Pancho Villa out of USA, back into Mexico
US purchases the Virgin Islands
President Woodrow Wilson re-elected
Victor reaches all-time production high of 573,000 phonographs during the year. Of these, only about 6,000 are external-horn machines.
Victor introduces Victrola Period Models, an elite line of custom-built phonographs for the wealthy. Some models sell for as high as $900 ($13,750 in today's money). These are sold on a built-to-order basis.
Motor design improvements introduced in the fall (on some models) are indicated by an "A" suffix after the model identification (e.g. VV-VI-A)
US enters World War I (April 6).
Victor production partially converted to rifle components and biplane wings; by year's end; phonograph production drops dramatically
Immigration restricted into US
Russian Revolution begins under Lenin
The Auxetophone is discontinued
Wartime inflation results in a series of price increases for all Victor products.
Victrola production down over 40% due to material shortages and wartime production demands. Victrolas nearly impossible to find at dealers for Christmas Season
"A" suffix on models dropped in fall.
World War I ends (November 11)
Czar Nicolas II of Russia executed; Lenin takes control
President Wilson travels to Europe for Peace Conference
Warner Brothers Corporation founded
Victor production slowly converted back to phonographs, annual production rises to 474,000 units
Additional Victor price increases are implemented due to inflation
Series of Federal Court decisions rule against Victor Talking Machine Co's policy of establishing minimum selling prices. Dealers given more freedom to sell at any price they wish
Dealer protest against dual "Distributor/Dealer" franchises peaks during summer months. Victor pressured to separate wholesalers from retailers.
Victor production continues ramping-up as production is transitioned back from munitions to phonographs
President Wilson suffers stroke
Massive labor strikes provoke fears of growing Communism
Dial telephones introduced
Victor discontinues production of all external horn machines (except for the "Schoolhouse" VV-XXV). Sales of external horn models is less than 2% of Victor's total production output
Annual sales of Victor phonographs climbs to 560,000, the second-best year ever.
US population is 105,700,000
Congress approves voting rights for women
First regular AM radio broadcast schedule established in Pittsburgh
Warren Harding elected US President
The rapidly growing popularity of radio and intense competition from "upstart" phonograph manufacturers cuts severely into Victor's business. Production drops almost 30% for the year.
Victor introduces its first "console" style phonograph, the humpback VV-300, selling for a rather steep $250 ($2100 in today's money). It meets with modest success.
Much of the Victrola line is re-named, using Arabic numbers instead of the Roman Numeral designations (e.g. the VV-XVI becomes the VV-120)
Victor offers its first "suitcase portable" model, the Victrola No. 50.
President Harding announces plan for "return to normalcy" after the inflation and war-economy of WW-1
Agatha Christie is year's most popular writer
Victor introduces a low-priced line of "flat-top" consoles, beginning with the "price leader" VV-210. Selling for $100 ($950 in today's money), it is an immediate success.
The success of the low-cost consoles only partially offsets Victor's lower production numbers due to new phonograph competitors and radio; sales rise a meager 5% for the year.
First full-time commercial radio station established in New York City
King Tut's Tomb discovered
Lincoln Memorial dedicated
Mussolini takes over Italian government
Victor launches a series of upper-medium priced consoles using styling cues from the Victrola Period models. The VV-400, VV-405 and VV-410 sell moderately well, but total Victor production levels remains stagnant at around 400,000 units per year.
Victor's Christmas selling season is very slow due to increased interest in radios.
President Harding dies (Aug 2); Calvin Coolidge sworn in
USSR is established under Lenin
Hitler arrested and jailed trying to overtake Munich city government
US occupation troops leave Germany
Victor sales continue to slide during the year, deteriorating to a low point during the usually busy Christmas season. Radios are now the dominant Christmas entertainment gift; literally hundreds of thousands of phonographs remain unsold at dealers and in warehouses.
Addition of deluxe "specialty" models (VV-350, VV-360, etc.) does nothing to improve sales
Victor's unsold inventory rises to unsustainable levels; financial crisis results in layoffs and possibile bankruptcy
Lenin dies in USSR
Calvin Coolidge re-elected US President
Gershwin premieres "Rhapsody in Blue"
Victor meets with Bell Laboratories early in the year to hear demonstrations of electrical recordings, and soon licenses the electric recording process, as well as Bell-proprietary exponential horn designs. These will become the Victor "Orthophonic" line of phonographs later in the year.
Early in the year, Victrolas are produced with optional mounting space and provisions for aftermarket radio installations
Victor sales drop nearly 40% to an annual rate of 262,000 units
Victor introduces the $15 VV 1-1 ($150 in today's money) tabletop phonograph, replacing the old VV-IV
During the summer, Victor launches a "half-price" sale to unload massive inventory of old-style Victrolas in anticipation of the Orthophonic debut.
4 New Orthophonic Victrolas are introduced on November 2; the products are highly successful, since the fidelity and volume are many times greater than the earlier Victrolas. The new products range from the $85 Consolette ($830 in today's money) up to the $275 Credenza ($2700 today).
Victor offers its first radio/phono combination console, the Alhambra I, selling for $350.00
Victor drops production of the last external horn phonograph, the "Schoolhouse" XXV
Scopes Trial in Tennessee debates the teaching of evolution
Chicago gang wars begin; Al Capone becomes dominant gangland figure
40,000 KKK members march on Washington
Some of the 1925 Orthophonic Victrolas are upgraded with new features early in the year, including improved motors and grille cloths over the horn openings.
The success of the Orthophonic models spurs Victor to release a number of new phonographs, including the VV 8-4 and VV 4-40.
The Borgia II is introduced, offering the highest quality electrical reproduction of both records and radio. Selling for $1000, this equates to $9500 in today's money.
Victor sales rebound to almost 420,000 units
Stalin takes control of USSR
Emperor Hirohito assumes power in Japan
Ford Motor Company announces the beginning of the 40 hour workweek
Victor introduces the first totally automatic record changer, the VV 10-50. Selling for $600 ($5600 in today's money), it is powered by an electric motor, but uses acoustic reproduction. The VV 10-51 follows, offering the automatic changer combined with electrical reproduction for $1050 ($10,000 today). The VV 9-55 (released late in the year) offers state of the art phonograph and radio reproduction for $1550 ($14,600 today).
Eldridge Johnson sells The Victor Talking Machine Company to a holding company, JW Seligman (Jan 6)
Lindburgh makes trans-Atlantic flight (May 20)
The Jazz Singer is released as the first "talking picture"
Ford Motor Company introduces the Model A
First laboratory demonstration of working television
Al Capone is the richest man in America
The Credenza is replaced with the slightly smaller VV 8-35. The popularity of electrically amplified radio/phonographs is sharply reducing sales of acoustic models.
Herbert Hoover elected US President
Disney releases first cartoon, "Steamboat Willie"
First color movies demonstrated
Victor introduces the ultra-elegant VV 9-56; selling for $1750 ($17,000 in today's money) it is the most expensive non-custom system ever offered.
RCA and General Electric begin negotiations to purchase Victor early in the year.
Victor is sold again in October, becoming the RCA-Victor Company
Stock prices plunge in the Wall Street Crash of '29 (October 29) beginning the Great Depression
St. Valentine's Massacre in Chicago spurs police crackdown on gangs