At the time when the recording industry began in San Sebastian, the city had already become a summer retreat for the Spanish court. This attracted elite tourism, leading to the development of businesses aligned with the new preferences of the upper class. Numerous commercial establishments, predominantly family-owned, emerged, including those established by Salustiano Loinaz and the Inurrieta brothers.

The Inurrieta family (1) has its roots in the Goierri region. The father, Francisco Ignacio Inurrieta, was born in Zegama. When he married Valentina Ordozgoiti, they settled in Segura, Valentina’s hometown. In 1888, they relocated to San Sebastian with three of their children: Juan, Antonio, and Agustina. Francisco, the eldest son, had married a few months earlier, and the youngest, Pedro (2), would be born in San Sebastián.

Ignacio Inurrieta was a “mikelete,” and he is remembered as a modest man without grand ambitions, in contrast to his wife Valentina, who was purportedly the driving force behind the family’s decision to seek a better future. They established their home at 1 General Etxague Street, in the recently developed eastern extension of the city, adjacent to Brecha Market, where they operated two stalls. There, they sold chickens, vegetables, and fruits, and they also served as suppliers to the Royal House.

The Inurrieta brothers, Antonio and Juan, ventured into diversifying their business activities, often combining various ventures. In 1904, Antonio Inurrieta was featured in advertisements as a commission agent for the French Gramophone Company (3) (located at Balmes, 56 in Barcelona) for the sale of a new device with an acoustic arm, although no specific address was mentioned in the ads. It wasn’t until 1909 that we saw press announcements for “Inurrieta Hnos.” this time at 5 Guetaria Street, where they were authorized dealers for Hillgartner pianos from Berlin.

Bretxa Market. Orig. Koldo Mitxelena Library

During these early years, Antonio and Juan were engaged in selling musical instruments, talking machines, records, and various other new devices to sustain their livelihood. When Juan Inurrieta married Juana Darrosez, he moved to live at 22 San Marcial Street. As a result, this address also started to appear in advertisements for the sale of Casa Inurrieta devices, although their stores and office remained at Guetaria Street.

Both brothers soon began registering trademarks for accessories related to talking machines and musical instruments. In 1912, Antonio Inurrieta applied for a trademark for accordions with steel reeds and another for diaphragms of talking machines at the Patent Office. In 1913, Juan, who was promoted as a merchant of musical instruments and gramophones at 5 Guetaria Street, registered a brand encompassing all kinds of musical instruments, printed music editions, music manuals, pianos, player pianos, gramophones, talking machines, harmoniums, and illustrated catalogues. Additionally, he registered the name “Casa Inurrieta” as a trade name. During this year, he announced the representation of the “Mercedes” gramophone, a brand he had already registered in October. In 1915, together with Mariano Lahidalga (4), he patented a method for manufacturing wooden horns for talking machines. The advertisements in newspapers showcased a growing array of new appliances for sale. In 1915, player pianos were prominently advertised, with “The Kastonome” among the featured brands. Two years later, they introduced “Fischer” pianolas in their ads, all while continuing to emphasize their representation of “Mercedes” gramophones, for which they were the exclusive agents in the northern region.

In 1917, the paths of Juan Inurrieta and another prominent shopkeeper, Salustiano Loinaz, intersected. Salustiano Loinaz played a pivotal role in the development of the music industry in San Sebastian as the owner of the Pathé factory in Pasajes. By April of that year, the Inurrieta Firm, situated at 5 Guetaria Street, had already been listed as an agency for the sale of Pathé records in San Sebastian. In fact, it was advertised with the title “A new industry in Spain,” promoting the exhibition and sale of Pathé records manufactured in Pasajes at his store. A few months earlier, the Hispano-American Society (5), which served as the precursor to the later establishment of the Columbia Graphophone Company of San Sebastian, had been formed. The existence of the Hispano-American Society allowed Juan to continue selling devices that were not part of the society’s offerings (6).

While Juan was deeply committed to the phonograph business, Antonio continued with his activities at the Brecha Market. Furthermore, along with other financial partners, Antonio opened an ice factory in the Antiguo district of San Sebastian (7) around 1918. This factory was located near the one owned by Juan.

During this period, a notable incident underscores Juan Inurrieta’s entrepreneurial spirit. As previously mentioned, most recordings were produced abroad. In January 1912, thanks to Juan’s initiative and funding, Remigio Peña, Narbonense Fortea, and Secundino Esnaola, members of the Orfeón Donostiarra, traveled to Berlin to make recordings under the Homokord label. They produced several records featuring Basque songs, including songs by Iparraguirre, Maitena, Mirentxu, Mendi Mendiyan, The Tamborrada, and Rigodones Euskaros. Upon their return from Germany, advertisements were published promoting the exclusive sale of these recordings at the shop located at 5 Guetaria Street.

The recording of these songs was warmly received. An article published in the journal Euskal-Erria in January 1912 reported the following event:

At a recent social gathering, a noteworthy occurrence brought comfort to our hearts. A significant portion of Basque music was playing on a splendid phonograph… Believe us when we say that this filled us with great satisfaction… It is high time for our songs to replace the haughty tango and vulgarity that have tormented our ears… We later learned that the phonograph belonged to the esteemed Inurrieta firm (for the record, this is not paid advertising), which is dedicated to safeguarding our music and showcasing our cultural identity in this realm with a resolute and enthusiastic spirit that deserves the warmest praise. God bless them!

This wasn’t the sole endeavor by the Inurrieta firm to produce records. In September 1916, Pilar Alonso, a couplet singer from Menorca, made her debut at the “Salon Miramar” in San Sebastián as part of her tour across the northern regions of the country. Her performance was so well-received that the Inurrieta Firm engaged her to make several recordings. According to the press, an English engineer oversaw the recording process, and the Inurrieta Firm gifted her a gramophone with the records of the 13 couplets she had recorded. The titles included popular hits such as La CastañeraAy, Ramón, and El billete perfumado. In January 1917, she returned to fulfill another agreement signed with the Inurrieta firm, during which she recorded music composed by Larruga, Yust, Retana, and Castells.

(1) According to Sacramental Records, Ignacio Inurrieta was born in Zegama in 1847, and Valentina Ordozgoiti was born in Segura in 1845. They had seven children. There are discrepancies between these records and the birthdates listed in the first municipal census we were able to access. In the 1912 population census of San Sebastian, only the parents, Ignacio and Valentina, along with Antonio, Agustina, and Pedro, were registered at 1-3 General Echague Street. During that year, Juan was listed at 22 San Marcial Street with his wife Juana Darrosez Uria and their children: Aurora (1908), María (1911), and Mercedes (1912). Enrique was born in 1913.
(2) In the 1930s, Pedro Inurrieta Ordozgoiti relocated to Madrid, and he and his brother Francisco later moved to Argentina.
(3) His agencies in the Basque Country also included Enrique García (Gran Via, 8, 10, and 12, Bilbao) and Juan Montes (Hernani, 21, San Sebastian).
(4) Mariano Lahidalga also owned a similar business to Inurrieta’s in Vitoria.
(5) In August 1918, the newspaper ABC reported a visit to the Hispano-American Society, which was owned by Inurrieta Brothers and Company. The items offered for sale, available for both cash payment and in installments, included shotguns, watches, and other modern products.
(6) In 1923, under number 50333, Juan applied for the brand name “Radiophone” – “Juan Inurrieta – San Sebastian” to distinguish receiving and transmitting radio machines and their accessories.
(7) On August 2nd, 1918, ABC reported a visit to the Brecha Market and “its owner” Antonio Inurrieta. The article mentioned that Antonio had a cold-storage installation at 7 General Echague Street. It also stated that he had been a supplier to the Royal House for over 10 years. The article indicated that he was in the final stages of establishing a large ice and cold-storage factory along with a group of capitalists…