LABEL TYPES OF BLUEBIRD RECORDS

with particular reference to differences in Canadian and American issues.
by Colin J. Bray and Jack Litchfield

[This article appeared in the "International Discographer" and the CAPS newsletter (to join CAPS contact Bill Pratt, 122 Major St., Toronto, Ont., M5S 2L2 or tel. (416) 924-8207.)

Bluebird records were issued in both Canada and the U.S.A., using several label types. The various types were not used at the same time in Canada and the U.S.A. This article is an attempt to pin down more accurately when they were used. More specifically it concerns the 10" popular series which ran from 1933 to 1945, although other series will be mentioned later in this article. There was another Blue Bird label (note spelling) which was a Paramount derivative from the 1921-22 period but this is not part of our study. We are concerned only with the Bluebird label derived from the Victor company.

The popular series began in August 1932 at serial number 1800. These were 8" records which changed to 10" at 1810 and continued to 1853 by May 1933. The colour of the label was dark blue and black. In May 1933 the numbering system changed to B-5000. In November 1938 it jumped from B-7875 to B-10000. In September 1942 it reached B-11594 and then changed to 30-0801. It reached 30-0834 in March 1945, at which time the Bluebird label ended. From 1946 to 1950 some Bluebird recordings were re-released using the original Bluebird serial number on the RCA Victor label. The notation "Bluebird Series" appeared around the rim of the label. In July 1949 the Bluebird label was revived at 31-0001, and a handful were issued over the next few months.

Figure 1 demonstrates that Bluebird used a buff label, a staff label, and a dog label in Canada. In the U.S.A. Bluebird had two varieties of dog label which we call "dog 3" (because it had three lines of type around the bottom of the label) and "dog 2" (two lines). We must stress that the dates shown in Figure 1 are approximate having been interpolated from data in Barr.

The bar chart shows the latest date on which a specific type of label was being used. This is based on the highest serial number of that type we have found. There may well be records of that type which bear slightly higher numbers. For example, the vertical line at the beginning of the staff bar shows the approximate date when the staff label was introduced. When a record from an earlier era was re-released, it would bear the label that was being used at the time of re-release instead of the original label. Thus, we can find a record bearing a serial number from 1934, the buff era, which was re-released in 1942 bearing the then current "dog 2" label.

In Canada, the buff label was used for the popular series until October 1939, and the highest number we have found is B-10423. Two varieties of the Canadian buff label have been identified. In 1929 RCA announced the purchase of Victor in the U.S.A. in a deal which included the Victor Talking Machine Company of Canada. The company is shown as such around the bottom of the early buff Bluebird label variety, the highest number we have found is B-5663 (circa November 1934). No reference whatsoever is made to RCA at this time. The later buff label has printed around the bottom "RCA Victor Company Limited, Montreal, Canada". The first issue we have found is B-5795 (circa February 1935). It appears the change was made around December 1934/January 1935. In the U.S.A. the buff label was used until September 1937, and the highest number we have found is B-7101. Interestingly, the Canadian buff label is a slightly lighter yellow than it's American counterpart and also differs in that they have a larger outer ring. The Canadian label could better be described yellow rather than buff.

The staff label was used in Canada from October 1939 until April 1940 (highest number B-10666) and the "dog 2" label was used from April 1940 until circa January 1945 (highest number 30-0833). Conversely in the U.S.A. the staff label was used until November 1938 (highest number in the popular series is B-7875), the "dog 3" label until circa January 1943 (highest number B-11587) and the "dog 2" label until circa January 1945 (highest number 30-0831).

Although the dates are approximate, Figure 1 shows that the buff label was used for a longer period in Canada than in the U.S.A.. The staff label was used in Canada for a shorter period and at a later date than in the U.S.A.. Today the staff label is the rarest of the three Canadian types.

There were several other series which are not included in Figure 1. They are:

In November 1942 Bluebird altered its numerical system to four-figure serials prefixed by a two-figure category code (Rust). Those so far identified are as follows:

In addition there was also a series of Children's records. These were issued with serial numbers ranging from 1 to 1000 with prefixes which included BK and BY from May 1936 to the early 1950's.


The authors wish to thank Ross Brethour, Gene Miller and Keith Miller for making their record collections available to us, and to Ken Crawford for supplying information from his collection.
The following references were consulted during the preparation of this article, as well as several catalogues in the authors' collections:

Barr, Steven C., "The Almost Complete 78 rpm Record Dating Guide II", (Huntington Beach, CA: Yesterday Once Again, 1992).
Rust, Brian, "The American Record Label Book", (New Rochelle,.N.Y.: Arlington House, 1978).
, "The Collector's Guide to Victor Records", (Dallas: Monarch Record Enterprises, 1992).