Sunday, 2 March 2014

His Master's Voice Salt & Pepper Shakers

I've shown you before the set of His Master's Voice salt and pepper shakers that I keep under a glass dome in my dining room.  They have a special place in my heart because my grandfather designed them for the RCA Victor company.  They were given away as premiums to RCA Victor customers.

Nipper, the RCA Victor mascot, is still one of the most recognised logos worldwide.  I wonder if Francis Barraud had any idea that his painting of the little dog that had belonged to his brother and then came to him on his brother's death, would make Nipper one of the best beloved dogs of all time? He did the painting in 1898, three years after the dog had passed away.  Nipper used to sit by the gramophone, head cocked to one side, listening to the sounds that came from the horn.  The painting was eventually sold to RCA Victor to use as a logo and the rest is history.

The salt and pepper shakers are very collectible and worth watching for at yard sales and thrift shops. But, you have to beware of copies.  They have been reproduced many times, sometimes under licence for RCA Victor and sometimes as knockoffs to trap unsuspecting collectors.

Let's take a look at the original ones that my grandfather, Jesse William Wyatt, modelled.  By original, I mean the very first set that came off the production line!  The glaze isn't perfected on these and were from a test run. ~

The ears are black.  The black collar denotes pepper and the brown is salt.  I see that order reversed by experts from time to time, but I can tell you for certain that my grandfather marked them as such.

When you see brown ears, you know they are not original. These ones were made in Korea. ~

Each time they take a mold off a set of dogs, instead of from the original model, some detail is lost. My grandfather studied anatomy and was a stickler for showing skeletal and muscular structure as well as it could be shown in a mass produced piece of ceramics.

Later, licenced sets are collectible but aren't very well made.  You can see how much the design has degenerated in these copies from the 1950's. ~

The quickest way to determine if a set is original is to look for detail on the chest and shoulders of the dog. ~

I'm afraid you won't ever find a set like these ones.  My dad left them to my sister when he passed away. My grandfather took three trial sets off the line and inscribed the names of his three sons on them, along with the date of 1938, where it would normally say RCA Victor.

This set belonged to my dad. ~

I'm pretty sure my sister would notice if I switch my set for her signed set.  Instead, I'll return them to her and thank her for letting me share this bit of collectible history.

Happy hunting music memorabilia collectors!

I'm sharing this with - What's It WednesdayCottage Style PartyFrom Dream To RealityTuesdays With A Twist

ps ~ My cousin has just told me there were four sets of signed shakers.  My grandfather did the fourth for himself.  All four sets are still in the hands of family members.


  1. That is so awesome you have that bit of history in your family!

  2. Wow, that is such an interesting piece of history that you have Maureen. I've never seen any of these salt and pepper shakers but they are really cute and I do like the original the best. Thanks for sharing this story. Have a great Monday.

  3. Reading about RCA Victor and Nipper and your family's connection sure brings back great childhood memories of record listening and tv watching. I think everyone would look for that particular logo in anything "electronic" back then. It had to be RCA! How wonderful that you have this piece of history connected to Nipper and the creation of the salt and pepper sets associated with your grandfather and his talents. Has your sister ever had them appraised? Thanks for sharing this with us!

  4. Great post - hope this helps the collectors out there. NOW - can I have mine back (just kidding). We are lucking indeed to have this family history.

  5. So enjoyed reading about the history of these precious collectibles, Maureen, and the fact that your grandfather designed them! Wow! Of course, I would have been able to make the connection from the painting to RCA Victor, but not the tie to the salt and pepper shakers! Thanks for pointing out the differences between the originals and copies; I always find it sad that this happens, especially for the original creator and their talent.


  6. Love that you have originals and a family history to share. This was way cool to see! Thanks!!

  7. That's an incredible story!


  8. You and your family have lead such interesting lives, thank you for sharing another amazing story. No wonder the shakers are so precious to you, I would dearly love to own them but you have the added bonus of their great and very personal provenance.

  9. Those are INCREDIBLE! What a treasure to have those, Maureen! I know that you are so proud to have those. I hate all those cheap rip-offs that were made to lure people into buying them thinking they are getting the "real deal". I am so glad you shared this story and the images here. xo Diana

  10. I absolutely LOVED this post! What a treasure you have. I love the story.

  11. Oh what a fun post to read Maureen. I love that these have such close ties to your family! You have made me smile today because i just realized that I will have room in my new living room for my old Victor Victrola that has been out in my shed for 11 years. Now I need to find some of these salt and pepper shakers to go along with it. What a fun thing to shop for!

  12. Wow! I nearly bought these at an antique shop last year... they are so cute, but the dealer wanted a lot for them. Very cool that they are your grandfather's design!

  13. This is wonderful!! I love the RCA dog, and I love reading this story that has such a personal connection to you! I'm just in awe!


  14. Oh my , these are adorable! What a special story for your family!

  15. They are charming and how fascinating to have such a personal history behind them -they are little works of art!

  16. Wow what a beautiful thing to have, that's amazing that your Dad included the Skelton in his mould. Pretty sure your sister would've noticed but what a beautiful heirloom to have.