Born in Wilmington, Delaware, E.R. Johnson is remembered as a businessman, innovator, philanthropist, and pioneer in the recording industry.
Growing up in Dover, Delaware, Johnson graduated from the Dover Academy in 1882, but was considered not smart enough to go to college and was encouraged to learn a trade.
Johnson went on to become a machinist, working in Camden, New Jersey. There he was approached by Emile Berliner, inventor of the gramophone and disc record. He was tasked to invent a motor that would play discs at a continuous speed, eliminating the need to constantly crank a gramophone by hand. Johnson's spring motor invention was a success.
By 1901, Johnson had Berliner's patents, combined them with his own, and founded the Victor Talking Machine Company. The company grew to encompass 10 city blocks in Camden, grossed millions annually, and produced some of the most famous recording artists in the world. Johnson's international sales offices were located worldwide in countries such as Australia, Buenos Aires, Japan, and Milan.
Johnson's innovation led to the sale of thousands of Victrolas with interior horns, to ornate and electrified credenza units, and the fostering of a gamut of recording artists in a variety of genres - all with the public in mind.
After nearly 30 years in the industry, Johnson retired in 1927. The Victor Talking Machine Company was later sold to RCA in 1929.
In 1985, Johnson received a Grammy Award presented posthumously, now proudly on display at the Johnson Victrola Museum in Dover, Delaware.