Phonothèque québécoise

A Sound Archive
Preserving, documenting and sharing our sound heritage

Highlights in the history of Quebec's record industry
history of Quebec's independent record labels 1895 - 1925







Hector Pellerin


Highlights in the History of Quebec's Record Industry



Interviews, research, editing, writing and digitizing by Christian Lewis


  * Hyperlinks will take you to photographs or sound clips



Important Artists

Comments and Links





* The first issue of the music magazine Le Passe-Temps is published in February, 1895.

Le Passe-Temps

* The Archambault music publishing house is founded.

* The Berliner record company is founded in Montreal in 1899; In 1887 in Europe, Emile Berliner had patented a gramophone using his procedure for replacing the cylinder with a disc; 1890 witnessed the birth of sound recording  in Germany.


* Edison (cylinder), Columbia (cylinder and disc) and Berliner (disc) fought over the North American market; Quebec artists recorded with foreign companies (Berliner/Victor, Edison, Columbia…).

* From 1898 to 1908, 300 French Canadian recordings were brought out by Edison, Columbia, Victor, Imperial and Berliner; classically trained singers and popular artists (some of them speakers for the silent movies) shared the market.

* Berliner brings the first Quebec series to market in 1903; singer Victor Occelier inaugurates the series; in the same year, Edison launches 36 recordings for the French Canadian market, including notably Henri Cartal  (risqué repertoire) who would record for Columbia in 1905; Joseph Saucier would record for the same company as well as for  Berliner (in 1904: La Marseillaise, the first recording entirely made in Canada) and His Master’s Voice.


* In 1903, the first concert to combine works by Canadian composers with poems by Canadian authors from the École littéraire de Montréal.

* In 1909, Berliner offers recordings from France and England (on the His Master’s Voice label); a few French titles begin to appear on the market in 1918.

* Following a lull between 1908 and 1916, recording picks up again, with romance, humour, country dances (starting in 1914) in addition to the genres already in circulation (burlesque, religious and patriotic songs, folklore, risqué)

* Enrico Caruso and Sarah Bernhardt can be heard on disc in Quebec.

* Pathé Frères opens branches in Montreal (J. A. Hurteau & Co. Ltd) and Toronto to handle the Canadian distribution of their products.

* Starting in 1911, ethnomusicologist Marius Barbeau begins collecting and recording 3000 American Indian songs on Edison wax cylinders; from 1915 to 1930, he records and documents 6700 French Canadian folk songs (this collection is at the Museum of Civilization in Hull).

Marius Barbeau

 Marius Barbeau

* In 1917, the Canadian Phonograph Supply Co. begins importing Starr discs.


* In 1918 Herbert Berliner, son of Emile Berliner founds the Compo company in Lachine, near Montréal; the plant presses records for independent labels (including Starr and Starr-Gennett, which produce  burlesque and dance or traditional music); Compo would later produce its own records (Apex , Sun).

* Between 1914 and 1920, record production in the U.S.A. quadruples (from 25 million to 100 million copies) ; the clergy does not approve of the dance music available in Quebec, but the young people are going crazy for the new dances, the fox–trot, the one–steps ...

* In 1924,  Berliner is taken over by Victor.

* In the 1920s, Montreal is less a jazz city than many others; operettas and traditional music are the favourites; the phenomenon of translating American songs forges a particular cultural identity; local French Canadian expressions begin to be heard on record.

* Between 1898 and 1960, over 10,000 works by more than 700 French Canadian artists are pressed.

* At the dawn of the 20th century, the first presenters for the silent movies in Quebec are stage professionals (singers, actors, variety, burlesque ..); many become popular and make records, including Hector Pellerin, musician, speaker and pioneer of records and radio (CKAC); Pellerin makes American adaptations (of Roméo Beaudry in particular), of the cabaret, cafe concert and romantic ballads; starting in 1915, when burlesque becomes popular, he records songs and monologues on the Starr-Gennett label.

* In 1924, the Berliner Gramophone Company is taken over by the American Victor Talking Machine Co.

* In the early 20th century the entertainment industry is already beginning, on a modest scale, to create networks among the media (records, movies, periodicals and later the radio).

* Electric recording begins in 1924, noticeably improving the spectrum of frequencies and the quality of recordings; renewal of the record label catalogues.



Henri Miro





  • Paul Dufault

Paul Dufault
  • Joseph Saucier
Joseph Saucier
Joseph Saucier
  • Émile Gour
  • Emma Albani
  • José Delaquerrière
  • Louis Chartier
Louis Chartier
Louis Chartier

  • Rodolphe Plamondon

Classical music:

  • Lavallée, Calixa (composer)

Popular song:

  • Hector Pellerin

Hector Pellerin
  • Louis-Richard Beaudry

  • A. Fertinel

A. Fertinel
  • Henri Cartal

  • Henry Burr

  • Alexandre Desmarteau (or Desmarteaux)

Alexandre Desmarteau
  • Blanche de la Sablonnière

Blanche de la Sablonnière
  • J. Hervey Germain


  • Henri Prieur

  • Charles Dalberty

Charles Dalberty
  • Rolland Conrad

  • André Descart

  • André Descart
  • Olivier Gélinas

Traditional music:

  • Arthur Joseph Boulay (violin)
  • Charles Marchand
  • Eugène Danton

  Humour :

  • Joseph Dumais (known as Père  Ladébauche)

  • Elzéar Hamel

  • J. B. Mallet


Instrumentalists :

  • Henri Miro (piano and conductor)

  • Albert Chamberland (violin)

Albert Chamberland
  • Ernest Gill Plamondon (violin)

  • J. B. Dubois (cellist)

  • Willie Eckstein  (silent movie pianist)

  • Rosario Bourdon (cellist)


  • Adanac Quartet

  • Dumbells

  • The Venetian Garden of Montreal dance orchestra

  • Melody Kings of Montreal (with Billy Munro on the piano)

Billy Munro

 Billy Munro




*Note: the materials cited below are available in French only.

The research carried out by the Phonothèque québécoise on the Berliner and RCA companies is available at its documentation centre. An inventory of private record collectors in Quebec is also available at the  Phonothèque.

The following interviews relating to the sound history of this period may be consulted at the Phonothèque:


See the  Gramophone virtuel section on the web site of the National Library of Canada and the web site of the Bibliothèque nationale du Québec to hear sound recordings from this era.

Jean-Jacques Schira deposited an impressive and well-documented collection of recordings (songs and popular music) on cylinders, pressed records and 78 rpms (1895-1960) at the Archives nationales du Québec en Estrie.

Gabriel Labbé deposited an impressive and well-documented collection of recordings (traditional music) on cylinders, pressed records and 78 rpms (1895-1960) at the National Library of Canada. M. Labbé deposited a part of his collection at the Phonothèque québécoise.  

Excerpts of interviews relating to this period in the history of records in Quebec:

Real One

Opera repertoire:

Emma Albany, pionnière de l’enregistrement de la musique lyrique- Maheu, Renée, (28” / 177K) enregistré le 29/05/2002

Joseph Saucier, pionnier de l’enregistrement de la musique lyrique et traditionnelle - Maheu, Renée,  (23” / 149K) enregistré le 29/05/2002

Popular songs: 

Premiers disques édités au Québec - Lacasse, Germain, (28” / 177K) enregistré le 21/03/2002

Chanson illustrée dans les scopes ou l’ancêtre du vidéoclip- Lacasse, Germain, (1‘ 04” / 395K) enregistré le 21/03/2002

Hector Pellerin, musicien, bonimenteur et pionnier du disque et de la radio - Lacasse, Germain, (1‘ 51” / 688K) enregistré le 21/03/2002

Chanson urbaine et culture au début du XXe siècle - Lafrenière, Claire, (1‘ 38” / 608K) enregistré le 27/06/2002

Recherche du répertoire du siècle dernier en consultant des disques 78 tours, des partitions et des rouleaux de piano mécanique - Lafrenière, Claire, (58” / 363K) enregistré le 27/06/2002

Influence des productions françaises et américaines au Québec au début du XXe siècle - Normandin, Steve, (29” / 190K) enregistré le 25/04/2002

Version d’une vieille chanson québécoise sur la syphilis - Normandin, Steve,  (37” / 233K) enregistré le 25/04/2002

Les styles et influences des chansons au Québec au début du XXe siècle et propos sur la censure de l’époque - Normandin, Steve, (1’ 34” / 581K) enregistré le 25/04/2002

Traditional music:

Études du folklore et cueillette de Marius Barbeau  - Bégin, Carmelle, (47” / 297K) enregistré le 19/07/2002

Grande popularité des disques des artistes de musique traditionnelle québécoise au début du XXe siècle Bolduc, Marc, (56’’ / 350K), enregistré le 30/05/2003

Avènement de la spécificité de la musique traditionnelle québécoise– Bourque, Benoit, (1’16’’ / 474K), enregistré le 30/05/2003

Production d’un disque à partir des enregistrements collectés au début du XXe siècle par Marius Barbeau Chalifoux, Lorraine, (1’14’’ / 459K), enregistré le 30/05/2003

Valeur patrimoniale des disques et transmission du répertoire Garand, Gilles, (54’’ / 337K), enregistré le 30/05/2003

Instrument mécanique et répertoire gravé - Lafrenière, Claire, (46” / 286K) enregistré le 27/06/2002

Recherche comparant les chansons à répondre au Québec avec les chansons de danse en France - Martineau, Danielle, (28” / 177K) enregistré le 10/05/2002

Music industry (production and recording techniques):

Histoire de l’enregistrement sonore, du disque et de la radio à Montréal - Gervais, Raymond, (56” / 352K) enregistré le 16/05/2002

Histoire de Berliner et de RCA Victor à Montréal 
- La Rochelle, Réal, (1‘ 32” / 568K) enregistré le 05/07/2002

Intermédialité amenée par l’avènement de l’audiovisuel et propos sur Thomas A. Edison  - La Rochelle, Réal, (45” / 284K) enregistré le 05/07/2002
Intérêt d’Émile Berliner à s’installer à Montréal– Roback, Léa, (51’’ / 314K), enregistré en 1993  

* Hyperlinks will take you to photographs or sound clips


 1895 - 1925


*From the collections of the Phonothèque québécoise, the Bibliothèque nationale du Québec and the Archives nationales du Québec 

The periodical Le Passe temps  Passe-temps - Cartal-v
La Bolduc La Bolduc 
Bluebird Labbe-Bluebird-Jo-Bouchard-v 
Melotone Labbe-Melotone-v 
The periodical La Lyre H-Miro-Lyre-v 
*From the collections of the Phonothèque québécoise, the Bibliothèque nationale du Québec and the Archives nationales du Québec

The sound clips on our site are in  Real Audio 

  (download the free RealOnePlayerGold plug-in!).

Link to the virtual exhibition:*
History of Montreal's independent record labels (in French)*
Click on the link http://www.museevirtuel.ca/, then choose "Histoires de chez nous" from the menu on the right,
then "Recherche d'expositions", under "Explorez" and then type in
Phonothèque under the heading.




Tous droits réservés
© 1997 Phonothèque québécoise / Musée du son.
Mise à jour le 17 juin 2004


URL http://www.phonotheque.org/Hist-Maisons-ind/hist-maisons-ind-1895-eng.html