For other uses, see Nipper (disambiguation).

Francis Barraud's original painting of Nipper looking into an Edison Bell cylinder phonograph
Species Canis lupus familiaris
Breed Mongrel (part Jack Russell Terrier)
Sex Male
Born 1884
Bristol, England
Died 1895
Resting place Kingston upon Thames, England
Coordinates: 51°24′40″N 0°18′08″W / 51.410990°N 0.302226°W / 51.410990; -0.302226
Nation from British
Owner Mark Henry Barraud

Nipper (1884–1895) was a dog who served as the model for a painting titled His Master's Voice. This image was the basis for the dog-and-gramophone logo used by several audio recording and associated brands: Victor Talking Machine Company, Gramophone Company, Berliner Gramophone, His Master's Voice, HMV, EMI, RCA, RCA Victor, Victrola, Electrola, Bluebird, Zonophone, JVC and Deutsche Grammophon.


Nipper was born in 1884 in Bristol, England, and died in September 1895.[1] He was a mixed-breed dog and probably part Jack Russell Terrier,[2] although some sources suggest that he was a Smooth Fox Terrier,[3] or "part Bull Terrier".[4] He was named Nipper because he would bite the backs of visitors' legs.[5]

Nipper originally lived with his owner, Mark Henry Barraud, in the Prince's Theatre where Barraud was a scenery designer.[6] When Barraud died in 1887, his brothers Philip and Francis took care of the dog. Nipper himself died of natural causes in 1895 and was buried in Kingston upon Thames in Clarence Street, in a small park surrounded by magnolia trees. As time progressed the area was built upon, and a branch of Lloyds Bank now occupies the site. On the wall of the bank, just inside the entrance, a brass plaque commemorates the terrier that lies beneath the building.[7]

On 10 March 2010, a small road near to the dog's resting place in Kingston upon Thames was named Nipper Alley in commemoration of this resident.[8]

Advertising icon

In 1898, three years after Nipper's death, Francis Barraud, his last owner and brother of his first owner, painted a picture of Nipper listening intently to a wind-up Edison-Bell cylinder phonograph. Thinking the Edison-Bell Company located in New Jersey, USA,[5] might find it useful, he presented it to James E. Hough, who promptly said, "Dogs don't listen to phonographs". On May 31, 1899, Barraud went to the Maiden Lane offices of The Gramophone Company with the intention of borrowing a brass horn to replace the original black horn on the painting. Manager William Barry Owen suggested that if the artist replaced the machine with a Berliner disc gramophone, the company would buy the painting. The image became the successful trademark of the Victor and HMV record labels, HMV music stores, and the Radio Corporation of America, after the acquisition of the Victor company in 1929. The trademark was registered by Berliner for use in the United States on July 10, 1900.[9] (See His Master's Voice for a complete history of the brands based on Nipper.)

The slogan "His Master's Voice", along with the painting, was sold to The Gramophone Company for 100 pounds sterling - 50 pounds for the copyright and 50 pounds for the painting itself.[10] Francis Barraud said : "It is difficult to say how the idea came to me beyond the fact that it suddenly occurred to me that to have my dog listening to the phonograph, with an intelligent and rather puzzled expression, and call it 'His Master's Voice' would make an excellent subject. We had a phonograph and I often noticed how puzzled he was to make out where the voice came from. It certainly was the happiest thought I ever had."[11] The original oil painting hung in the EMI board room in Hayes, Middlesex, for many years.

Logo variations

1910 Deutsche Grammophon logo on Swedish disc 
1910 British Gramophone Company 
1921 Victor Talking Machine company ad 
The revised painting substitutes a disc gramophone 
Revised RCA Nipper logo introduced in 1977 
JVC/RCA Victor Nipper logo 
HMV Nipper logo 


The Nipper stained glass atop the "Nipper Building", the former RCA Building 17 in Camden, New Jersey. This photo, taken from inside the tower, shows the 2003 replacement of the 1979 replacement of the 1915 original glass

The iconic image of a mixed fox/bull terrier, Nipper, looking into a phonograph became an international symbol of quality and excellence for the Victor Talking Machine Company.[12] Nipper lives on through the brand names; he even appeared in ads on television with his "son", a puppy named Chipper who was added to the RCA family in 1991.[13] Real dogs continue to play the roles of Nipper and Chipper, but Chipper has to be replaced much more frequently, since his character is a puppy.

Nipper continues to be the mascot of HMV stores in countries where the entertainment retailer has the rights to him. Both RCA Records and EMI have deemphasized Nipper in the global music market due to the fragmented ownership of the trademark.

Victor Company of Japan (JVC) also uses the logo within Japan, which includes the "His Master's Voice" slogan.

A huge, four-ton Nipper can be seen on the roof of the old RTA (former RCA distributor) building now owned by Arnoff Moving & Storage[14] and located at 991 Broadway in Albany, New York.[11] A second slightly smaller one was purchased by Jim Wells from RCA in Baltimore for $1. After spending many years on private property in Nipper Park in Merrifield, Virginia, perched over Lee Highway (US Route 29), has now been returned to Baltimore, Maryland, where it originally graced the former RCA Building on Russell Street. Nipper now sits atop the Maryland Historical Society building at Park Avenue and West Centre Street in Baltimore. Though smaller than the Albany Nipper, Baltimore's is the only one of the two to include a gramophone for Nipper to listen to. The Baltimore Nipper was saved when the Virginia site where he briefly resided was sold to developers. It is currently the location of a group of townhomes. The street leading to the development is named Nipper Way.[15]

A small statue of Nipper can be seen perched above a doorway in the Merchant Venturers Building on the corner of Park Row and Woodland Road in Bristol; this building, part of the University of Bristol, stands near the site of the old Prince's Theatre.

RCA Nipper atop the old RCA building, Broadway, Albany, New York
Nipper above a doorway of the Merchant Venturers Building in Bristol

A life-size ornament of Nipper appears in the music video to Cyndi Lauper's song "Time After Time."

Nipper has also been the subject of parodies. One example can be found on the cover of the 1982 bootleg compilation album Elvis' Greatest Shit, a collection of recordings that, in the bootlegger's opinion, were among the worst that Elvis Presley made. The album's putative record company was "Dog Vomit" instead of RCA Victor, Presley's label during almost all of his career, and its logo featured a dog resembling Nipper vomiting into a gramophone.

See also


Nipper as used by HMV record stores
  1. History of Nipper
  2. BBC suggests that he may have been a Jack Russell
  3. Fudge, Erica (2002). Animal. London: Reaktion. p. 67. ISBN 978-1-86189-134-1.
  4. Cunliffe, Juliette (2000). The Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. Bath, England: Parragon. p. 122. ISBN 978-0-7525-4161-7.
  5. 1 2 "the nipper saga". designboom. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  6. "The History of the Department of Computer Science". Retrieved 19 December 2012.
  7. Nipper - His Master's Voice - The London Dog Forum
  8. Surrey Comet News: Kingston's Toilet Gallery alley named after HMV dog Nipper (Posted: January 1, 2010)
  9. Vaclav Smil, Creating the Twentieth Century: Technical Innovations of 1867–1914 and Their Lasting Impact (Oxford University Press, 2005), p240
  10. Petts, Leonard. (1973). The Story of "Nipper" and the "His Master's Voice" Francis Barraud's painting. Talking Machine Review, 19 Glendale Road Bournemouth BH6 4JA England. SBN 902338161
  11. 1 2 Rolfs, Joan & Robin. (2007). Nipper Collectibles, The RCA Victor Trademark Dog. Audio Antique LLC, USA. ISBN 978-1-932433-82-1
  12. "Johnson Victrola Museum, Dover, Delaware".
  13. Chipper
  14. "About Us". Arnoff Moving & Storage - New York's Hudson Valley Mover of Choice. Retrieved 14 June 2011.
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