BELFORD GRANT ROYAL was born in Paulsboro NJ on October 18, 1865 to James and Emma Royal. His father was a tobacconist.
Belford Royal had moved to Camden by the mid-1880s. He lived at 427 Beckett Street, and worked as a machinist. He soon became the foreman of the Standard Machine Shop, at 108 North front Street. In 1886 he hired a young apprentice named Eldridge Johnson. By 1894 Eldridge Johnson owned what was left of the Standard Machine Shop, with Belford Royal in his employ.
Fate took a great hand when he was asked by an associate of Emile Berliner to develop a motor-driven talking machine. He took it to Eldridge Johnson. The device intrigued Johnson, who developed his own talking machine, thus the birth of the Victor Talking Machine Company. Belford Royal would become an executive with the Victor Talking Machine Company, and remained involved with the business the rest of his life. An early associate of Eldridge R. Johnson, he became vice-president and general manager of the Victor Talking Machine Company. He was sent to England in 1897 to oversee Victor operations there, and remained through at least 1906. He held the following posts at Victor- General Superintendent, 1912-1919; Vice President and General Superintendent, 1920-1922; Vice President, 1923-1925; and Chairman of Board, 1926-1928. Although retired, he was still on the Board of Directors when he passed away.
By 1910 Belford G. Royal had returned to the United States. He made his home at 618 Cooper Street, next door to lumber merchant Charles Stockham. Belford Royal and his wife Mary became actively involved with the Camden Home for Friendless Children. He served on the Public Safety Committee in Camden during World War I. The Royals remained at 618 Cooper Street until the early 1920s, when the property was purchased to facilitate access to the Delaware River Bridge Plaza. They then moved to Wenonah. Mrs. Royal died around 1927
Belford G. Royal died of a heart ailment on June 24, 1933.
Camden Courier-Post - June 25, 1933
G. ROYAL DIES AT WENONAH
Stricken with a heart ailment a week ago, Belford G. Royal, 68, formerly vice president and general manager of the Victor Talking Machine Company, died yesterday at his home.
He was one of the original group of workers in Eldridge R. Johnson's shop where the talking machine was perfected. Mr. Royal purchased a motor-driven talking machine in a Filbert Street shop in Philadelphia when he first entered the employment of Mr. Johnson. When Mr. Royal, then a young man took the machine to the shop, Mr. Johnson seized upon the idea of manufacturing machines along those lines. He invented the disc record and made several improvements to the machine with the aid of Mr. Royal. .
From this small beginning grew the Victor Talking Machine Company now the RCA Victor Company. Mr. Royal became vice president and general manager of the company and remained in that capacity until the merger of the RCA and Victor. He was still chairman of the board of directors of the old company at the time of his death.
Mr. Royal was sent to London in 1897 to become manager of the Gramophone Company, Ltd., of London. While he was there Mr. Johnson purchased the patent rights of the of the famous trademark, "His Master's Voice."
Mr. Royal's death follows closely that of Walter J. Staats, vice president and treasurer of the company for a number of years.
Born in Paulsboro October 18, 1864, Mr. Royal moved to Camden when a young man. He resided for years on Cooper Street near Sixth. He moved to Wenonah when his house was taken for the opening of Broadway from Market to the Bridge plaza.
He manifested keen interest in the Camden Home for Friendless Children, and was a member of the board of managers. His wife, who died six years ago, was president of the board for years.
Mr. Royal is survived by two daughters, Mrs. D. Clifford Ruth, of Wayne, Pa., and Mrs. Romain Hassrick, of Overbrook, Pa., and a sister, Mrs. Jane V. Griffith, of Wenonah.
The funeral will be held at 2 p. m., Wednesday. Burial will be private.
Article on Belford Royal from
Belford G. Royal
The great granddaughter of Belford G. Royal contacted me recently and inspired me to give information here about this remarkable man. He lived in Camden, New Jersey, and as early as the 1880s worked with a very young Eldridge R. Johnson in fix-it shops. Fresh from serving an apprenticeship elsewhere, Johnson was hired around 1886 by Royal, shop foreman of the Standard Machine Shop at 108 N. Front Street in Camden. That shop on Front street changed hands within years, during which time Johnson worked various jobs. In 1894 Johnson owned his own shop (what was left of the Standard Machine Shop), and Royal worked for Johnson.
Royal's claim to fame is that he was the man who introduced Johnson to Emile Berliner. It was through Royal that Johnson worked on--and improved--Berliner's gramophone, which evolved into the Victor machine and later the Victrola.
A history of the Victor Talking Machine Company penned by Benjamin L. Aldridge opens with these sentences: "Sometime during February of 1896, Belford Royal brought a man named Whitaker to see Mr. Johnson. At that time Johnson was operating a small machine shop in Camden where he did fine work in metal. He made and repaired machine tools, home appliances, models for inventions, and so forth. Mr. Royal, a workman in Mr. Johnson's shop, spent part of his time drumming up business." Mr. Whitaker had been approached by Emile Berliner to develop a spring motor to replace the hand-powered motors then installed in disc machines made by the Berliner Gramophone Company of Philadelphia. Mr. Whitaker turned to Royal for help, who in turn brought Whitaker to Johnson for help. In drumming up business for Johnson's fix-it shop, Royal brought about a series of events that made history!
When Johnson took out his first phonograph-related patent on January 9, 1897, one witness was Royal. Co-inventor was Alfred C. Clark, who was Johnson's roommate and an ex-Edison employee.
Although associated with Johnson in early years, Royal was not involved in forming the Consolidated Talking Machine Company, soon renamed the Victor Talking Machine Company. Royal resided in England during these years. It had been his job to supervise the assembly of machines to be sold in England--parts were made in Camden and shipped over. When recording was done in London, Royal supervised, with Fred Gaisberg giving assistance. Phonograph-related patents taked out by Royal (there are three such patents) show that he resided in England from as early as November 1899 to as late as February 1901. Fred Gaisberg mentions Royal in journal entries dated as late as August 1903. Royal was not in America when Johnson's important company was formed. He was too busy promoting Johnson's product overseas!
An early Victor model was named the "Royal," which may have been a pun. Other royal names were used for Victor machines, such as the Monarch, but "royal" also alludes to the Belford Royal, with only company insiders aware of the pun.
Royal was not among the company's first staff of officers (they were Johnson, Douglass, Thomas S. Parvin as Treasurer, A.C. Middleton as Secretary, and Horace Pettit as General Counsel), but eventually he rose to the top of the company, with formal titles including the following:
--General Superindendent from 1912-1919
--Vice President and General Superintendent 1920-1922
--Vice President 1923-1925
--Chairman of Board 1926-1928
In 1923 he authorized the construction of a new pressing plant--in Oakland, California.
B.G. Royal became fairly wealthy. He owned an estate though details are not known by his great granddaughter (the estate was possibly called Overbrook, near Ocean City, N.J.). Royal's eldest grandson, born in 1917 (now deceased), told many stories of visiting the estate and finding Victor records everywhere. Royal evidently received a free copy of every Victor record ever made. There were many he liked, but he had a whole room of the ones he did not like. The grandkids were allowed to go into that room and do whatever they wanted with those records. Mostly, they took stacks of them and skipped them into the manmade lake on the property. They probably also did some skeet shooting. Somewhere in New Jersey is a dried up lake filled with original Victor recordings.
There is still one living granddaughter of Belford G. Royal (I do not now what the "G." stands for). She is the aunt of Anne Hassrick Armijo, who is Royal's great granddaughter.
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