indian cinema heritage foundation

A Tribute to A Dog

02 Apr, 2021 | K K Talkies by Krishna Kumar Sharma
Nipper the dog

The history of Indian film, classical or folk music wouldn't be complete without mention of the music company His Master's Voice. The company was founded by Englishman J. Watson Harold on July 7, 1901. This multinational now has music companies under different names all over the world and in India, it is represented by Gramophone Company of India, an RPG enterprise, with headquarters in Calcutta.

But as the company celebrated the 95th year of its founding in India, no one remembered an important character who contributed greatly in making HMV the well-known brand that it is today. The character is Nipper the dog, who listens intently to the music coming out from a gramophone.

But as the company celebrated the 95th year of its founding in India, no one remembered an important character who contributed greatly in making HMV the well-known brand that it is today. The character is Nipper the dog, who listens intently to the music coming out from a gramophone.

Ever since HMV made its mark on the Indian music scene, the dog and the gramophone have been closely associated with quality music. The dog Nipper has had colourful history. Nipper was a fox terrier born on July 23, 1885, brought up by a British painter Francis who made a living out of selling romantic paintings. Once when he had some money to spare, he bought a gramophone, then newly introduced into the market after being invented by Thomas Edison. Francis noticed that Nipper sat engrossed to the sound of music coming out of the large megaphone. His artistic eye at once got an idea and a painting with the dog and the gramophone took shape.

Unfortunately, this painting had few buyers and the original kept lying in the painter's attic for over ten years. Nipper died at the age of 11 in 1896.
 
Francis Barraud painting the famous Nipper
The company president William M. Owen listened to him intently and asked Francis to show him the original painting. Francis was pleasantly surprised when Owen immediately bought the painting at ten times the price Francis was expecting.
Later one day, one of Francis's friends saw the painting gathering dust in the artist's house. He suggested to Francis that since the gramophone had by then undergone some structural changes, he should modify the painting and try selling it to the gramophone company. Francis liked the idea and did likewise. He went to the music company's showroom in London and inquired about the new models on sale. The company president William M. Owen listened to him intently and asked Francis to show him the original painting.
Francis was pleasantly surprised when Owen immediately bought the painting at ten times the price Francis was expecting.
Francis used to get regular royalty and gifts from HMV Company and all subsequent paintings he made with Nipper sold like hot cakes. Later he made a small memorial to Nipper beneath a mulberry tree in Eden Street in London where Nipper was buried.
Owen then went over to HMV, then making its presence felt in the industry and advised the company directors to use the paintings as the company logo. The decision to adopt it was unanimous and thus was born the famous logo which till date signifies HMV records and albums.

Francis used to get regular royalty and gifts from HMV Company and all subsequent paintings he made with Nipper sold like hot cakes. Later he made a small memorial to Nipper beneath a mulberry tree in Eden Street in London where Nipper was buried.

Nipper's centenary passed away unnoticed in 1985 and even the HMV people did not remember the dog who made music history. HMV has produced no record so far to commemorate Nipper, but the dog probably does not need one: he remains alive on millions of records and cassette albums produced by the company worldwide.

Part of Krishna Kumar Sharma's K K Talkies Series. The images in the article did not appear with the original and may not be reproduced without permission.

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