Johnson Victrola Museum

The Johnson Victrola Museum highlights the history of the Victor Talking Machine Company, which pioneered the development of the sound-recording industry and was founded by Delaware’s native son, Eldridge Reeves Johnson.

The Johnson Victrola Museum is a tribute to Delaware’s native son, Eldridge Reeves Johnson, who founded the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1901. Exhibits include phonographs, recordings, memorabilia, trademarks, objects, and paintings that highlight Mr. Johnson’s successful business enterprises and chronicle the development of the sound-recording industry.

E.R. Johnson

Black and white photographic portrait of Eldridge Johnson
Victor founder Eldridge Johnson looks diagonally to the viewer’s right. He appears business-like in glasses and a light-colored suit. In the early 1900s, his company led advances in sound reproduction and produced records with some of the world’s most famous recording artists.

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 with inventing 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 millions of Victrolas all manufactured 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.

The iconic image of a mixed fox/bull terrier, Nipper, looking into a phonograph became an international symbol of quality and excellence for The Victor Talking Machine Company.

Who is Nipper?

Front-facing close-up shot of a large dog statue.
Large composite model of Nipper, painted white with brown ears and nose, dominates the foreground with open Victrola record players behind. This close-up accentuates Nipper’s perked ear, a distinctive trait of his iconic expression in “His Master’s Voice.”

Nipper was a real dog who lived in England and enjoyed chasing rats, “nipping at the backs of people’s ankles, and listening to music.” Reportedly, Nipper was doing just that when artist Francis Barraud thought the scene would make a great painting and created Nipper listening to “His Master’s Voice” in 1899.

The painting and copyright were purchased for use as the trademark for The Gramophone Company in London. The original painting featured Nipper listening to a cylinder phonograph but was changed to a Berliner Disc Gramophone as a condition of the purchase.

E.R. Johnson acquired the U.S. rights to the painting from Emile Berliner in 1901, leading to its use by a The Victor Talking Machine Company. Johnson, an astute businessman, launched Nipper’s image and company name to world-wide fame by branding everything from Victrolas and recordings to salt and pepper shakers. Nipper is buried in Kingston-Upon-Thames in England.

Visitor Information


The museum is open to the public and admission is free. Donations are accepted.

Hours of Operation

Sunday – Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday – Saturday: 9:30AM – 4PM


Tours are self guided, but on-site staff are present for questions.


Free parking is available in our adjacent parking lot.


The first floor of the museum is wheelchair accessible.

Museum Gallery

Frequently Asked Questions

No, guests may visit the museum anytime during normal hours of operation.

No, we do not accept donations directly through the museum. If you have an item you would like to donate to the museum, please contact our Curation and Design Team at (302) 608-5330 or

Once you arrive, the entrance is the door that connects to the parking lot via a ramp.

Restrooms are not available at the Johnson Victrola Museum. Please use the facilities prior to your arrival.

Tours are self-guided, but museum staff will be on-hand to answer any questions and provide additional information.

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