By Christine Herman
This is Nipper. He has been a highlight of trips to the Main Library for many children over many years. But he has a much more storied history than most people realize.
The original Nipper was a real terrier born in Bristol, England, in 1884. He lived the sort of obscure life you might expect of a small dog, until his owner passed away, and he was adopted by his brother, a painter named Francis Barraud. Barraud used Nipper as a model when he painted the picture “His Master’s Voice.” That picture became the symbol of the Victor Talking Machine Company, the maker of the Victrola. The company later became RCA-Victor, and eventually just RCA. Nipper became so well known as their mascot that they built a 26’ tall, 4-ton model on top of their Albany, New York headquarters. There are also stained glass windows showing Nipper in their New Jersey building, and many other versions around the world. Nipper statues became popular in the early 20th century as display pieces for shops selling RCA products and music and have been seen around the world ever since.
This is where Nipper’s story becomes part of our local history. One of the leading creators of advertising displays was The Old King Cole Company, right here in Canton. They created displays for store windows, statues of famous advertising figures like Mr. Peanut, amusement park animatronics like the famous Laffing Sal (the laughing lady from Meyers Lake Park), and even the masks for Disney characters who greet you in the parks today.
The Old King Cole Company primarily worked in paper maché. In the 1950’s they became pioneers in rotational plastic molding. One of the very first products they converted to plastics was the Nipper statue. Our 36” tall Nipper is one of these molded plastic products. The Old King Cole Company eventually became part of Trilogy Plastics, which still operates out of Stark County.
In 1990, RCA added to Nipper’s family by introducing a puppy, Chipper. He represented the next generation of technology and equipment, while Nipper now portrayed the endurance and reliability of the company.
Plastic Nipper statues came in many sizes. We also have an 18” version on display. We have named him Chipper, in honor of the modern pup, and because he is just the right size for a puppy when sitting next to our grand old 36” Nipper. Be sure to say hello when you visit the Main Library!