La Columbia Graphophone Company, S.A.E. in San Sebastián

This corporation was established in San Sebastian on August 30th, 1923, by three individuals: Juan Inurrieta, an industrialist; Eduardo Vega de Seoane Echeverría, a lawyer; and Baltasar Repáraz, an employee who had also worked as an attorney for the defunct Hispano American Society. The company’s building was situated at Eustasio Amilibia Street (1). The construction of the new building was supervised by civil engineer Juan Machimbarrena (2).

La Voz de Guipúzcoa (1929)

The primary objective of this industrial company was the manufacture and sale of Regal and Columbia label records, as well as the talking machines and grafonolas and accessories in Spain and its territories. The company’s headquarters remained the same as that of the dissolved Hispano Americana Society, located at 27 Libertad Avenue, 2nd floor. As per its statutes, the company would be managed by a General Meeting, an Administrative Council, and a Managing Director. The first administrative council was led by Mr. Fernando Sardon as president, Mr. Eduardo Vega de Seoane as vice president, and Mr. Baltasar Reparaz as secretary. Later, Mr. Antonio Inurrieta, the brother of Juan, assumed the role of president, and Mr. Prudencio Parra de Aguirre was appointed as the secretary of the administrative council.

The Managing Director of the company was Mr. Juan Inurrieta for an unlimited period as long as he wished to remain in charge of the company. The complete management of the company’s business, especially those aspects directly related to the manufacturing of records and devices, was under his responsibility. Juan Inurrieta brought to the company, upon its establishment, a contract he had signed with Columbia Graphophone Limited in London on January 17 of that year, along with all the rights stemming from this contract.

In its first catalog in 1924, the company, operating under the Regal label, featured the earliest recordings of the Orfeón Donostiarra conducted by Secundino Esnaola, the Trikitixa from Zumarraga and Gipuzkoa, the Tamborrada of San Sebastian, songs performed by baritone Celestino Sarobe and bass Gabriel Olaizola, and more. The catalog also included txistu music performed by Elola and Landaluce, well-known txistu performers from Bilbao.

Additionally, utilizing matrices from American Columbia (3), the company produced some records that were featured in the same year’s catalog. These recordings included fragments of operas performed by Florencio Constantino and José Mardones.

In the early stages, they utilized the distribution channels of the now-defunct Hispano Americana Society for their record distribution. Regal label records manufactured by Columbia artists such as Barrientos, Bonisegna, Lázaro, Stracciari, or Casals became available at 2 Hortaleza Street in Madrid in early June 1924. On July 19th of that year, Columbia in San Sebastian released “The Bejarana” on Regal records. In 1925, the Hispano Americana Society in San Sebastian continued to be mentioned in the advertisements for Regal records (4).

The recordings during this period were executed by British sound engineers (5) who traveled with mobile equipment throughout Spain. Juan Inurrieta, along with Jose Fernandez Grados, the company’s artistic director, selected the recordings to be produced. Juan, known for his remarkable commercial acumen throughout his life, signed significant exclusive contracts, such as the one inked with Hipólito Lázaro, a renowned tenor of the time. In 1930, when Pablo Sorozabal was rehearsing “Katiuska” in Barcelona for its debut, he auditioned for Juan Inurrieta and Fernández Grados. Both were so impressed by the work that they decided to record it in its entirety. For the role of Pedro in the play, they selected the baritone Marcos Redondo, with whom they had also signed an exclusive contract.

As the record factory began to outgrow its space, Antonio Inurrieta, in his capacity as the “industrialist owner of the record factory,” requested in January 1930 to occupy the space within the block to expand the factory’s facilities and construct a temporary pavilion. According to the project submitted to the town council, this space needed to be preserved, so the request was not granted. The following month, in February, Antonio Inurrieta, serving as the Chairman of the Administrative Council of the Columbia Graphophone Company, sent another application to the City Council, this time to construct four additional floors for expanding the factory on the ground floor, adjacent to the ice factory, which he owned.

Juan Inurrieta consistently relied on advertising as a key strategy for promoting their products from the very beginning, and this approach continued with the promotion of Regal records. The label’s catalogs, including both general and supplementary editions, became well-known for their modern covers, which were beautifully illustrated by the artist Rafael de Penagos. This same artist was responsible for creating the cover art for the magazine “Revista Columbia,” a publication whose trademark, numbered 93206, was officially registered on May 6th, 1933. The trademark was registered to distinguish “a magazine, newspapers, and all sorts of publications.” (6)

In the sixth issue of the magazine, published in June/July 1933, advertisements featured two sets of records from a collection that was published by the Columbia firm in collaboration with the Center for Historical Studies. This collection was called the “Archivo de la Palabra” (Word Archive) and comprised ten records in each series, featuring the voices of eminent figures such as Alcalá Zamora, Azorín, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Ramón del Valle Inclán, Pío Baroja, Miguel de Unamuno, and others. The production of works in the first series commenced in 1931 and was published in May 1932, with the collection expanded in the following year with the introduction of a second series.(7)

Inurrieta also recognized the educational potential of the gramophone. In 1930, he generously donated a gramophone to the Musical Circulating Library and offered them an extensive catalog of records available for loan to aid students in their musical training (8).

A few years later, following the conclusion of the civil war, Inurrieta expanded his business ventures by establishing the Poliglophone label, which specialized in publishing records designed for distance language teaching. He collaborated with CCC, a venture founded by Victor Zabala and Juan Morera (9).

Regarding the establishment where the Inurrieta brothers initially launched their business on 5 Guetaria Street in San Sebastian, it had become the property of the company. On November 4th, 1933, the administrative council of Columbia in San Sebastian granted Prudencio Parra de Aguirre the authority to sell it to Juan Inurrieta, who subsequently became the sole owner.

On December 23rd, 1934, under the management of Don Gregorio González de Suso, the company’s statutes underwent changes, which included an expansion of its purpose. The company’s focus was now the manufacture and sale of records with the Regal and Columbia labels, as well as talking machines, radios, grafonolas, accessories, and other items determined by the administrative council. Furthermore, the administrative council was granted the authority to extend sales abroad, create new brands, and modify those mentioned earlier. Simultaneously, the place of business was shifted to the location of the manufacturing facility, specifically, 10 Eustasio Amilibia Street. By the end of the same year, the business employed approximately one hundred workers.

(1) The street was renamed Eustasio Amilibia in 1917 and later changed to Zumalacárregui Avenue in 1937. The factory’s land remained unaffected by the district’s expansion plan in Antiguo.
(2) As reported in La Acción, on November 12, 1923, p. 5.
(3) Several of the works featured in the initial catalog of the Columbia Graphophone Company, Spanish Corporation, under the Regal label, were also present in Columbia’s New York catalog around 1916. These works included opera arias sung by artists like Celestina Bonisegna, José Mardones, Florencio Constantino, and others.
(4) In December 1924, new procedures for “Records without noise” were announced, accompanied by the statement below the logo of the two lions: “La marca preferida. Sociedad Hispano Americana. Apartado 97. San Sebastián.”
(5) The press credited two individuals for the recordings: J.B. Holme and Sr. Machín.
(6) It appears that the magazine had a relatively short lifespan. On April 26, 1945, there was a request for the revival of the magazine brand, though it is uncertain if it was eventually published.
(7) You can find an extensive report in El Sol (Madrid. 1917) on May 29, 1932, p. 2.
(8) La Época (Madrid. 1849) on March 5, 1930, issue no. 28.188, p. 6, featured the information about the gramophone’s donation to the Musical Circulating Library.
(9) For more information, you can refer to the article “Aprender enseñando” in Anuncios: semanario de la publicidad,”published on March 28, 2011.