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The Columbia Graphophone Company in San Sebastian

This corporation was set up in San Sebastian on August 30th 1923 by 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 broken Hispano American Society. The building was located at Eustasio Amilibia Street1, in the district of Antiguo. The civil engineer, Juan Machimbarrena2, took care of the construction of the new building.

This was an industrial company whose purpose was "the manufacture and sale of Regal and Columbia label records, as well as the talking machines and grafonolas and accessories in Spain and possessions." Its head office was the same as that of the dissolved Hispano Americana Society, at 27 Libertad Avenue, 2nd floor. According to its statutes, the company would be managed by a General Meeting, an Administrative Council, and a Managing Director. The president of the first administrative council was Mr. Fernando Sardon, his vice president, Mr. Eduardo Vega de Seoane, and the secretary, Baltasar Reparaz. Later, Mr. Antonio Inurrieta, the brother of Juan, became president, and Mr. Prudencio Parra de Aguirre was nominated secretary of the administrative council.

The Managing Director of the company was Mr. Juan Inurrieta for unlimited period while he wished to remain to take charge of the society, and the entire management of the business of the company was under his responsibility, especially those ones that were directly related to the factory of records and devices. Juan Inurrieta brought to the society, at the time of its establishment, the contract he had signed with Columbia Graphophone Limited in London, dated on 17 January of that year and all the rights arising from the contract.

Within its business, the company published, in its first catalog in 1924, under the Regal label, the earliest recordings of the Orfeón Donostiarra conducted by Secundino Esnaola, the Trikitixa from Zumarraga and from Gipuzkoa, the Tamborrada of San Sebastian, songs by the baritone Celestino Sarobe or the bass Gabriel Olaizola, etc. Also, txistu music performed by Elola and Landaluce, the txistu performers from Bilbao, found their place in this catalog.

In the same way, with the matrices from American Columbia3, the company manufactured some records that were included in the catalog that same year, like the fragments of operas performed by Florencio Constantino or José Mardones.

At the beginning they used the channels of the now defunct Hispano Americana Society for the distribution of the records. Regal label records manufactured by Columbia artists like Barrientos, Bonisegna, Lázaro, Stracciari or Casals were sold at 2 Hortaleza Street in Madrid, in early June 1924. On 19 July of this year Columbia in San Sebastian launched "The Bejarana" on Regal records. In 1925 the Hispano Americana Society in San Sebastian still continued appearing in the advertisements of Regal records4.

The recordings in this period were made by British sound engineers5 who used to travel with mobile equipment throughout the Spanish territory. Juan Inurrieta along with Jose Fernandez Grados, the artistic director of the company, chose the recordings to make. Juan, who showed all his life great commercial intuition, signed major exclusive contracts, such as the one signed with Hipólito Lázaro, a successful tenor at the time. In 1930, when Pablo Sorozabal was rehearsing "Katiuska" in Barcelona to be released, he auditioned for Juan Inurrieta and Fernández Grados. They both liked the work so much that they decided to record it in its entirety. For the role of Pedro in the play, they chose the baritone Marcos Redondo, with whom they had also signed an exclusive contract.

The record factory was becoming small and in January 1930, his brother Antonio, as “industrialist owner of the record factory", requested to occupy the space inside the block to expand the facilities of the factory and build a pavilion provisionally. According to the project written up by the town council, this space had to be conserved, so he did not get permission. The following month, in February, Antonio Inurrieta, as Chairman of the Administrative Council of the Columbia Graphophone Company, sent another request to the City Council again, this time to build up four floors to extend the factory on the ground floor in the adjoining ice factory, which belonged to him.

Juan Inurrieta relied greatly on advertising to sell their items since the beginning and he continued this policy for the promotion of Regal records as well. The catalogs of the label, both general and supplements, are known for their modern covers illustrated by the artist Rafael de Penagos. This artist also illustrated the cover of the magazine "Revista Columbia”, a publication whose mark, no. 93206, was registered on May 6th 1933 to distinguish "a magazine, newspapers and all sorts of publications"6.

In issue no. 6 of the magazine published in June/July 1933, two sets of records of a collection, which along with the Center for Historical Studies were published by Columbia firm, were advertised. It's the "Word Archive", a collection of ten records in each series that were released with such illustrious voices as Alcalá Zamora, Azorín, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Ramón del Valle Inclán, Pío Baroja and Miguel de Unamuno, among others. The works of the first series had begun to take place in 1931 and were published in May 1932. During this year the collection was increased with the second series7.

Inurrieta had also seen the possibilities of the device in teaching. In 1930 he gave a  gramophone to the Musical Circulating Library and offered them a wide catalog of records on loan that students could use in their musical training8. A few years later, at the end of the civil war, he expanded the business creating the label Poliglophone to publish records for distance language teaching, joining together with CCC, created by Victor Zabala and Juan Morera9 recently.

On the other hand, the establishment where Inurrieta brothers started their business in San Sebastian, the shop at 5 Guetaria Street, had  become property of the company. On November 4th 1933, the administrative council of the Columbia in San Sebastian empowered Prudencio Parra de Aguirre to sell it to Juan Inurrieta, who was the sole owner since that time.

On December 23rd 1934, being the manager of the company Don Gregorio González de Suso, the statutes were changed to, among other things, extend the purpose of the society, which would be since then "the manufacture and sale, in Spain and possessions, records of Regal and Columbia label, as well as talking machines, radios, grafonolas and their accessories and other items that the administrative council consider, which will have, at the same time, the power to expand the sales abroad, to create new brands and to change those mentioned above". Also at this time, the place of business was changed to "the place where the industry is located," at 10 Eustasio Amilibia Street, an industry that, at the end of that year, employed about a hundred workers.

1 This street took the name of Eustasio Amilibia in 1917 and it was renamed as Zumalacárregui Avenue in 1937. The land occupied by the factory was not affected by the expansion plan of the district of Antiguo
2 “La Acción”, 1923/11/12, p. 5
3 Some of the works appearing in the first catalog of Columbia Graphophone Company, Spanish Corporation, under the Regal label, also appeared in the catalog of Columbia in New York in c. 1916 (Opera arias sung by Celestina Bonisegna, José Mardones, Florencio Constantino, etc.)
4 In December 1924 new procedures were announced “Records without noise", with the following sentence below the logo of the two lions: “La marca preferida. Sociedad Hispano Americana. Apartado 97. San Sebastián "
5 Two were the names that appeared on the press: J.B. Holme and Sr. Machín
6 It seems that the magazine had a rather short life. It is known that on April 26th 1945 the rehabilitation of the brand of the magazine was again requested, although it is unknown if it was finally published.
7 Wide report in: El Sol (Madrid. 1917). 1932/29/05, p.2
8 “La Época” (Madrid. 1849). 1930/03/05, no. 28.188, p. 6
9 “Aprender enseñando”. In: Anuncios: semanario de la publicidad, 2011/28/03


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