History in Bronze: Albany’s Nipper the dog

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)—That large dog sitting on top of 991 Broadway was a real terrier mix, born in Bristol, England, in 1884. His owner Mark Barraud named him Nipper because he would “nip” the back of people’s heels when they came to visit.

Barraud passed in 1887 and left Nipper along with a recording of his voice to his brother Francis Barraud.

“When his brother Francis set up the phonograph and turned it on,” said Tammis Groft, Executive Director of the Albany Institute of History and Art. “Apparently, Nipper got very excited about hearing his master’s voice.”

Nipper lived to the age of 11 when he died of natural causes in 1895. Three years later, Francis Barraud, an artist, painted Nipper sitting in front of the wind-up Edison-Bell cylinder phonograph.

Barraud took his painting to the phonograph company, but they declined to buy it. He then went to the Gramophone Company, and they agreed to purchase the artwork and the slogan “His Master’s Voice” for 100 Pounds, equivalent to 11,000 Pounds today.

“That was the beginning of Nipper’s international reputation as the trademark,” said Groft.

One brand in the United States that used Nipper was the Victor Talking Machine Company, and in 1929 Victor was purchased by the Radio Corporation of America. You may recognize them as RCA.

An Iron Piggy Bank of Nipper in the archives of the Albany Institute of History and Art.

Nipper’s image was used as stained glass windows, like the four on the “Nipper Building” in Camden, New Jersey. Plaster statues and iron piggy banks were created in his image. There is even a slightly smaller Nipper in Baltimore sitting in front of a gramophone.

Nipper came to Albany in 1958 when the owner of 991 Broadway turned the building into the RTA, an appliance store. The RTA sold RCA brand equipment. The owner wanted a small Nipper statue out front but was talked into a grander plan.

Harris Sanders, a local architect, was working on the project and suggested a much large Nipper on top of the building. Nipper was made in Chicago in five steel and fiberglass pieces. Each piece was loaded on a train car and shipped to Albany.

Over the years, Nipper has been repainted a few times, but he still sits on his uniquely built armature looking out over the city. Nipper does not have legal protection as a landmark, but there has been a push to make it so recently.

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