Beka 1

Beka (Estonia) / c. 1914

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Design: Another example of Roman mythology as transposed into popular culture, an impulse toward paganism (and a departure from Christianity) which seemed to have swept across Germany in the early 1900s. The Muses, daughters of the god Zeus (or, in Roman terminology, Apollo) through a human mother were originally thought of as being only three in number: Aoide ('song'), Melete ('practice'), and Mneme ('memory'). The figures here seem to characterize those qualities. Later, the number of Muses governing literature and the performing arts was expanded to nine.

The hand-scripted Beka name, with the beginnings of an underlining swash that would become increasingly prominent over the next decade (right), has been positioned as the focal point of the gaze of two of the muses, while the other engages the potential buyer of the record. The previously dominant Beka logo, showing a flamingo listening to a phonograph horn, has been downplayed, being merged into the greenery on the shoreline.

History: Thanks for updated info to collector Georg Richter of Germany, who notes: "In 1903 Heinrich Bumb and Carl Koenig started the 'Institut fur Moderne Erfindungen [Institute for Modern Inventions] Bumb und Koenig' to develop phonograph machines. Shortly afterward, they introduced the Beka record label, the name of which was a combination of 'Bé-' the German pronunciation of the letter 'B' (for Bumb), and 'Ka,' the pronunciation of the letter 'K' (for Koenig). In 1910 the business magnate Carl Lindstrom began buying Beka shares; by 1917 he had become its sole owner."

Alternate label scans (above) courtesy of collector Georg Richter of Germany, who writes: "This label of the three graces was first used in 1914, and was succeeded by the yellow label in 1925, which was succeeded (finally) in 1926 by the red label. The first version, with the buildings in the background, is from c. 1915 (with a reissue of an 1909 recording), the others are from c. 1922-23. The flamingo had been used by Beka as a trade mark since mid-1905. I would make a guess that the labels with gold text on black might have been used for 'serious' music, the other one for dance music etc."

Alternate label scan (above) courtesy of collector Kjell Thorsen of Norway, who notes that this track, which exemplifies the widespread interest in exotic culture, was recorded in 1919 in Stockholm, Sweden.

Design variations of this label in this decade (click on image to view page):

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