Grey Gull 1

Grey Gull (U.S.A.) / c. 1921

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Design: A beautifully-drawn, well-balanced design with differently-shaped panels containing the information. The curling, organic ornamentation contrasts well with the bold, vertical strokes of Gothic lettering used for the label name.

History: Launched in late 1919. The term 'lateral,' seen to the right of the spindle hole, is a reminder that two playback technologies were still competing for public acceptance: 'lateral' meant that the needle travelled from side to side in the groove using a sharply-pointed steel needle, while 'vertical' meant that the needle travelled up and down in the groove, using a ball-shaped sapphire needle (the records were not interchangeable and could only be played on the machines for which they were designed).

The patent rights governing lateral technology, once the exclusive property of Columbia and Victor, had only recently run out, and the many new companies entering the record-manufacturing market, such as Grey Gull, could produce the more popular lateral discs without fear of legal prosecution. Originally marketed as a high-quality product commanding a correspondingly high price, competition from the new fad of commercial radio, which started up in the early 1920s, forced Grey Gull and other phonograph and record-producing companies to start dumping their product in bulk through the newly-emerging dime-store chains, at much reduced profit margins.

Elaborate multi-colour designs such as the one above would soon be dropped for plainer formats that were cheaper to produce. Many record companies (including Grey Gull) would not long survive as independent labels, most being swallowed up by conglomerates. It would be a few years, following the widespread economic crash of the late 1920s, before radio and record companies would successfully find ways to work in tandem rather than as rivals, with pop music shows actually boosting the sale of record players and records, rather than decreasing them.

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

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