RCA Victrola 45's

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                     The RCA Victrola 45

From RCA's 1949 Annual Report: 
              To the Stockholders of Radio Corporation of America (RCA) 
"The year 1948 was a period of new achievements for Radio Corporation of America in every phase of radio as a science, art and industry.  Progress in television was particularly outstanding.  The enthusiasm of the American people for this new art has justified the years of pioneering and the investment of many millions of dollars by RCA in its development as a service to the public".

First RCA commercial record changer 9JYSo begins a new era and the beginning of the final chapter of what I believe was the last great American phonograph- the RCA Victrola 45.  The research and engineering activities at RCA labs summarized in this Report include advances in AM/FM radio, television, broadcasting and the NBC national network, telecommunications, radar, Ultrafax, electron microscope & phonographs.  Phonographs?  

The Annual Report contains only a few comments about the development of a completely new type of phonograph and record, combining the finest quality of record reproduction to be publicly announced early in January 1949.   Excerpts follow:

       "The new life-long record, which is less than seven inches in diameter is made of durable, lightweight vinyl plastic and plays up to five minutes and twenty seconds on each side.   The record player, which operates at 45 rpm, contains the fastest record-changing mechanism ever designed.  The excellent quality and clarity of tone of the new reproducing system has been highly praised by outstanding musicians.
        There is every indication that as a significant achievement in the evolution of the phonograph it will ultimately benefit the majority of consumers as well as the entire record industry.  The durable record player, together with a substantial catalogue of records, soon will be available to the public".

RCA Victor 45 1939 Prototype
Contrary to what is often reported, RCA did not develop the 45 record format and player in response to Columbia's introduction of the 33.3 rpm LP.  In the June 1949 issue of RCA Review, the following comes from a paper published by RCA Engineers, Carson, Burt and Reiskind.  "About 17 years ago, there began a program aimed at a fundamental improvement in the reproduction of recorded music.  Unhampered by any previous restrictions, attempt was made to develop an ideal method of bringing recorded music into the home.  Factors of cost and convenience to the customer, playing time, record life, freedom from distortion and numerous technical considerations were established with the "ideal" being the objective.  Some nine years of research and experimentation culminated in a new record playing means which, after eight more years of testing and refinement, finally emerged in a record changer and record to be discussed in this paper".    Click above prototype photo.

Investors in RCA stock were some of the first to see the RCA Victor 9JY recordRCA Manufacturing changer which was later called the 45J attachment.  Some highlights from the Annual Report: 1948 revenues $357 million up from $314 million, earnings $24 million, dividends up to $10 million, RCA personnel count 41,791.

From RCA's 1950 Annual Report:

In 1949 when RCA was celebrating its 30th Anniversary, the company reported more outstanding progress.  "Public acceptance of RCA products and services lifted sales to the highest peak in the history of the Corporation", attributed to Television's spectacular rise, development of high-definition (yes HD) color TV in field test, introduction of the RCA 45-rpm system, announcement of new 33.3 rpm LP record, and new advanced radar for national security and safety at sea and in the air. This was the year of plant expansion across the USA; the RCA Victor division alone employed 30,887 and more than 45% were women.

As the new 45-rpm system had been successfully launched during the year, the company reported "it has already won public acceptance", noting the "45" is becoming the most popular type of record on the market.  By the end of 1949 these records were being manufactured at the rate of more than 25 million per year while turntables capable of playing '45's were produced by RCA at the rate of more than one million annually.   It was a surprise that sales of Victrola phonographs while excellent competitively were lower than in 1948.

From Radio Age Magazine:

Radio Age 1949
The April 1949 issue of RCA's Radio Age Magazine has an article written by JB Elliott, Vice President in charge of RCA Victor's Consumer Products Division.   The following are some of the more interesting points:  RCA expected the country's retailers would sell between 2.5 - 3.0 million instruments equipped to play RCA 45 rpm records so RCA ramped manufacturing capacity in Indianapolis (the primary plant). RCA noted that at least 29 leading manufacturers were incorporating RCA 45 rpm technology in their instruments.  Nearly 12,000 dealers placed orders.  Excerpts from JB Elliott's article follow:

"This system offers music free from all discernible distortion and surface noise on a small, 6⅞", non-breakable disc that plays up to 5 minutes and 20 seconds, equal to the playing time of the standard 12" record.  The new disc, offering a small, standard size for all classifications of music, goes a long way toward solving the consumers' record storage problem in the home".  Note RCA ads often showed 45 rpm records being stored on a standard size book shelf.
RCA Manufacturing
"It has an unusual new record changer- the fastest ever developed- which has been designed to eliminate the traditional problem of chipping, crackling and breaking records during changer operation. In a marked departure from most conventional systems, the drop mechanism is housed in the player's center spindle, which has been enlarged from the previous " diameter to 1". 

"By centering the drop mechanism, RCA Victor found it possible to eliminate the usual outside record posts, speed up the changer cycle, simplify the changer mechanism, silence its action, reduce the overall size of the player and eliminate many costly and intricate moving parts.   The new 45-rpm records have been designed with a raised shoulder between the playing area and the center rim, providing air spaces between the playing surfaces and center rim of stacked records.  In most  conventional systems, the record separating blades are required to force their way between the stacked records.  This forcing action is often the cause of record damage.  With RCA Victor's new design, the blades move into the air space provided by the raised shoulders of the records".  

Single size discs for all classifications of music are featured, with the various categories identified by bright shades of color -ruby red for classical music, midnight blue for semi-classical, jet black for popular, lemon-drop yellow for children's, green grass for Western, sky blue for international and cerise for blues and rhythm.  
RCA Victor Color Records
From RCA's 1951 Annual Report:

By 1951, RCA was operating in more than 13 plants around the US but the overall company growth rate slowed. But sales of RCA Victor radios and phonographs were greater than in any pre-television era year. 

RCA Victor records sold better than ever spearheaded by an expansion of new selections available on both 45 rpm and 33.3 rpm LP.  As higher fidelity and truer reproduction of music developed with this new 45 rpm format developed, there was a rejuvenated public interest in classical music. New operatic records were released headed by a complete performance of La Traviata conducted by Maestro Arturo Toscanini and an all-star recording of Carmen.  

New products

From RCA's 1952 Annual Report:
RCA achieved an all-time record volume of sales in 1952. The year was marked by advances in science and engineering especially related to the development of the transistor.  TV continued to expand including new domestic and international markets for TV transmitters and receivers.

The Annual Report highlights accomplishments of skilled and loyal workers who build fine products that make "RCA" the symbol of expert workmanship and dependability. 
As the Truman administration 'freeze' on new TV Station construction had been lifted in 1952 , RCA achieved an impressive 16% Year over Year growth in revenues and increased the number of employees by 11%.  RCA introduced the Extended Play (EP) format this year providing up to 8 minutes on each side of 45 rpm record.

RCA Annual Report 1952

Considering the cost constraints and available technology, after having rebuilt many different models of RCA Victor 45 phonographs, there is no doubt these machines were well-engineered and produced with high quality materials and workmanship.

These PhonoJack 'rebuilt' phonographs will now be reliable and dependable for another fifty years.  The rebuild procedure which brings these popular phonographs back to life is described in more detail in the PhonoJack RCA Victrola Collection Section

Basically the rebuild includes gently restoring the wood, bakelite or plastic cabinet, rebuilding the electric motor, rebuilding the record changer including replacing all rubber, idler wheel, cam and motor mounts while recalibrating all moving parts, applying proper lubrication and most important rebuilding the tube amplifier.   

Above is perhaps the most widely recognized logo and advertising image in the world. It is one of the best examples of a great American and British venture.  Nipper the terrier is 100% British made, born, lived, died and buried in London proper.  The Berliner Gramophone is 100% American made, the painting was created by Francis Barraud also British, the final painting was commissioned and purchased by William Barry Owen an American living in England, Managing Director of the British Gramophone Company. The logo was trademarked and adopted by Emile Berliner a German-born American.

From RCA's 1955 Annual Report:

1955 was a keynote year for RCA.  The company revenues exceeded $1 Billion placing RCA among the top twenty five largest companies in the United States. Highlights from the Annual Report: Sales of $1,055,266,000, net profit before tax of $100,107,000 paid $97,998,000 in income tax, property taxes, social security and excise taxes.  Paid out $24 million in dividends.  RCA added 8000 new employees for a total of 78,500 including 8,500 overseas. David Sarnoff Chairman of the Board observed his 50th Anniversary of service in radio communications.

RCA Victor Records

"Three main factors were responsible for increased global demand for RCA Victor records in 1955:  Advances in new Orthophonic High Fidelity Sound (tweeters!) a roster of the worlds finest artists... RCA produced more recorded music in 1955 than any previous year in its history.  And the RCA Victor trademark was more firmly established than ever as the symbol of the finest recorded music...".   Camden Records, another RCA Victor label had sales increases of more than 50% above 1954 results. The lower priced Camden Records were then primarily re-issues with enhanced sound of recordings made earlier. 

Marketing & Promoting Records
The best way to promote the sale of records is to get "Airplay" whether it's on the radio or television.   In radio circles there are several hundred stations of the thousands across the U.S. that are important targets for record producers.  In television, it's no secret that MTV, the Video Music Channel, Country Music TV are the types of companies that record producers must pursue.  

Looking back at marketing and promotional activities of the RCA Victor 45 format, we should thank Dick Clark and his American Bandstand TV show launched in 1957 which was a catalyst and perhaps the best promotional vehicle for the major 45 rpm record labels at that time.  

The Rock 'n Roll generation remembers these amplified record players that woke up a sleepy nation during the fifties to the sounds of Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Eddie Fisher and Frankie Lane, followed by Bill Haley and the Comets, Elvis-The King, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Bobby Darin, Little Richard, The Everly Brothers, The Platters, Frankie Avalon, Pat Boone, Paul Anka and Ricky Nelson.   Many blended the sound of white country and black blues, but nobody did it better than the outsider, The King, Elvis!

By 1959, having survived being Shaked, Rattled and Rolled while Rockin' Around the Clock, this generation saw the rock revolution begin to level off as growth in vinyl record sales slowed.

It seemed to get worse The day the music died, in February '59 when Buddy Holly, J.P. Richardson, the "Big Bopper" and Ritchie Valens were killed in a plane crash.  Record moguls quietly claimed Rock 'n Roll was a passing aberration and the time had come to find a 'Middle of the Road' repertoire.  

The early '60s was an unexciting time for pop music. Teens cried on the first anniversary over having lost Buddy Holly as his music became even more popular after his death. They cried over Teen Angel by Mark Dinning.  They bought a relatively unexciting record written by Jiles Perry (Jape) Richardson, "The Big Bopper", called Running Bear sung by Johnny Preston in sufficient quantities to make it the Number One Hit.  The Big Bopper is better remembered for two of my favorites, Chantilly Lace and White Lightnin.  Other hits included, I'm Sorry by Brenda Lee, Why by Frankie Avalon, and I Want to be Wanted by Brenda Lee.  

RCA Victor ET-2

As time passed, some fun songs emerged, including Alley-Oop, Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, Way Down Yonder in New Orleans and Please Mr. Custer, I Don't Wanna Fight all of which became Number One Hits. More fun songs followed, The Twist, Mother-in-Law, Tossin and Turnin helped sustain the 'flattish' record sales for a few years.  Flat revenues and weaker profits forced RCA to give up on its reliable Victor 45 Victrola featuring conservative, classic brown bakelite cabinets in favor of a new generation of less expensive, 'cost engineered' bright plastic record changers with significantly weaker amplifiers. 

RCA Victor 7EY Series, low cost player & amplifier

These one tube wonders didn't generate enough heat/power or volume to melt or vibrate plastic, so they didn't require the strength, durability and style of bakelite.  The photo to the right is actually a better quality 7EY2HH Deluxe table model with two stages of amplification and with three vacuum tubes.  As these new lower cost record players were introduced, the whole industry seemed to have turned down the volume, it got quiet, very quiet.   

But all that changed virtually over Sunday night on February 9th, '64 when The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show at 8:00PM EST the official beginning of the British Invasion. The Beatles established a welcomed beachhead in the United States as waves of British bands came ashore. They included The Dave Clark Five Gerry and the Pacemakers, Peter and Gordon, The Animals, The Kinks, Manfred Mann, Herman's Hermits, Petula Clark, The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds and The ZombiesThe British Invasion was the driving force that pumped new life into the previously quiet 45rpm vinyl record industry. 

If you'd like to see a 15 minute video of data sheets that describe RCA Victor's 1955 Phonograph and Record Changer Product Line Click this bold link.   It's a large 40Mb file that may take some time to download or to begin streaming to your PC.  It is a standard Microsoft .wmv file format; if your PC can't processes this file, you will have to download Microsoft's .wmv codec video decoder software. Have fun.

Coming from another RCA Victor Dealer brochure, I created a short video that presents some of RCA Victor's 1954 Phonograph and record changer product line.  Click this bold link to watch the video in Microsoft .wmv format.
These photos are scanned from Radio Age a quarterly publication produced by Radio Corporation of America of New York.  Click to enlarge.

RCA Factory Floor 1 - 2

RCA Factory Floor 3 - 4

RCA Victor Factory Floor 5 - 6

RCA Victor

      ← Please click this sign to see PhonoJack's RCA Victor "45" record changer and phonograph collection.


Boston, MA  USA