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North York: Albany – The last remaining giant Nipper

We stumbled upon this giant statue of a dog sitting atop a storage building in a neighbourhood of Albany, New York. It turned out to be a four-tonne, 28-foot tall steel and fibreglass statue of Nipper, the canine mascot of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), the now-defunct consumer electronics company.

According to the Albany Institute of History and Art, Nipper arrived here in 1958 following the renovation of the dilapidated concrete warehouse for use by RTA Corporation, an appliance distributor specialising in products by RCA. The statue was made in Chicago, shipped in five sections by rail, and attached to a metal frame on the roof with the aid of a 10-story crane.

Nipper is the largest of the four huge terriers that once sat atop RTA’s distribution centres, and is the last that exists on the building upon which he was originally installed. There were once enormous Nippers peering over the skylines of Chicago and Los Angeles, but those have since been demolished or removed.

Nipper is based on a real 19th-century terrier owned by Francis Barraud, a painter residing in Liverpool. The dog was named for his tendency to nip at visitors’ heels. One day Barraud saw the terrier listening intently to a windup cylinder phonograph and captured the moment in a painting. He then attempted to sell the rights to a number of companies, though none took any initial interest.

However, Barraud finally found an interested buyer. He was intending to borrow a brass horn from The Gramophone Company upon which to model a new version of the painting when the store’s manager mentioned that if he replaced the machine with a Berliner disc gramophone the company would purchase the rights. The image went on to become one of the most successful trademarks in merchandise history, known under the title, “His Master’s Voice.” It has since been used by a long succession of companies, including RCA.

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