It has been reported in the papers today that high street retailer HMV has gone the way of Woolworths, Jessops, Comet, Zavvi (until rescued by HMV), and Fopp (until rescued by HMV) – into administration. As more people shop online on sites such as Amazon, stores that you can physically go to, particularly for entertainment products like DVDs or video games, are disappearing. Kindles may well prove to be the death of book stores too. Perhaps all this is no bad thing. But the long history of some of these companies, and their places within the British cultural consciousness, make these changes sad, even if necessary.
Given HMV stores’ association with DVDs, the younger among us might be forgiven for thinking that the company was established relatively recently, but in fact it was founded back in 1921. Originally it was a sound device manufacturer and music retailer and footage of the HMV factories from its early years can be found in the British Pathé archive.
As well as some general shots of an HMV factory in the 1930s (along with a look at a sign reading “His Master’s Voice”, which was abbreviated to HMV), you can also find singer Gracie Fields visiting the huge factory at Hayes pressing her four millionth record in 1933. Another clip worth highlighting is one from 1932 concerning “voice grafting – the latest miracle of sound science”, filmed at HMV studios. View it here.
Interestingly, the history of British Pathé is linked to HMV through the former ownership of both companies by EMI. The archive was at EMI and Thorn EMI from 1969 until 1986 and a visit to the archive during that period can be found here.
View all of the HMV clips within the archive via this link.