Nipper was born in 1884 in Bristol, England, and died in September 1895. It has been claimed in various sources that he was a Jack Russell Terrier, a Fox Terrier, a Rat Terrier, or an American Pit Bull Terrier. He was named Nipper because he tried to bite visitors in the leg.
Nipper’s original owner, Mark Henry Barraud, died in 1887, leaving his brothers Philip and Francis to care for the dog. Nipper himself died in 1895 and was buried in Kingston upon Thames, London, in a small park surrounded by Magnolia trees. As time progressed the area was built upon, a branch of Lloyds TSB now occupies the site. On the wall of the bank, just inside the entrance, a brass plaque is displayed on the wall commemorating the famous terrier which lies beneath the building.
Nipper used to live with his owner in the Prince's Theatre in Bristol. There is a small model of Nipper above a doorway of a building at the junction of Park Row and Woodland Road in Bristol, UK, opposite where the theatre stood.
In 1898, three years after Nipper’s death, Francis painted a picture of Nipper listening intently to a wind-up Edison-Bell cylinder phonograph. On February 11, 1899, Francis filed an application for copyright of his picture “Dog Looking At and Listening to a Phonograph.” Thinking the Edison-Bell Company might find it useful, he presented it to James E. Hough who (displaying the kind of thinking that would eventually doom the Edison Records company itself) promptly said, “Dogs don’t listen to phonographs.” On May 31, 1899, Francis went to the Maiden Lane offices of The Gramophone Company with the intention of borrowing a brass horn to replace the original black horn on the painting. Manager, William Barry Owen suggested that if the artist replaced the entire machine with a Berliner disc gramophone, the Company would buy the painting. A modified form of the painting became the successful trademark of Victor and HMV records, HMV music stores, and RCA. (See HMV for a complete history of the brands based on Nipper.)
The slogan “His Master’s Voice” along with the painting were sold to The Gramophone Company for 100 pounds sterling. As Francis Barraud stated about this famous painting: “It is difficult to say how the idea came to me beyond that fact that it suddenly occurred to me that to have my dog listening to the Phonograph, with an intelligent and rather puzzled expression, and call it “His Master’s Voice” would make an excellent subject. We had a phonograph and I often noticed how puzzled he was to make out where the voice came from. It certainly was the happiest thought I ever had.”
Nipper continues to be the mascot of HMV Group plc stores in countries where the entertainment retailer has the rights to him. Both RCA Records and EMI have deemphasized Nipper in the global music market due to the fragmented ownership of the trademark.
A huge, four-ton Nipper can be seen on the roof of the old RTA (former RCA distributor) building on Broadway in Albany, New York. A second one is now located in Baltimore, Maryland, after spending many years perched over Lee Highway (US Route 29) in Merrifield, Virginia, on private property. The land where Nipper once stood was sold to developers and currently is the location of a group of townhomes. The street leading to the development is named Nipper Way.