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The H. Kirkus Dugdale Company, Inc.

"Isn't it natural that under such fine working conditions we simply must produce best work?"

Located at "Fourteenth and You Streets, N.W." in our nation's capital, The H. (for "Horace") Kirkus Dugdale Company, Inc. was one of the first of the song-poem music factories. Spinning off from Dugdale & Corbett in 1908, the company quickly rose to prominence within the industry, and by 1911 or so they dominated it. The Dugdale fare was typical for the song-poem genre of the day, featuring such representative titles as "If There Ain't No Chicken In Heaven, I Don't Want To Go There," "My Aviation Bride," and "Oh Bill Bryan," the latter a tribute to President Wilson's Secretary of State and future Scopes trial prosecutor, William Jennings Bryan.

But the Dugdale fortunes fell almost as swiftly as they had risen, when the officers of the company were indicted for mail fraud in a 1913-1914 government sting of song-poem companies. The disposition of the case is not known, but by July of 1915 they had filed for bankruptcy.

In 1913 the Dugdale company produced a bizarre promotional brochure, which we reproduce below. What's so striking about this booklet is that it is almost entirely geared towards impressing the impressionable prospective customer on the merits of Dugdale's new office space, yet says next to nothing about the quality of their actual music. They do make a circumstantial case that good working conditions inevitably lead to good work, but that argument is circumspect.

Thanks to Wayne Shirley of the Music Division of the Library of Congress for this exciting discovery.

Bonus materials:
1912 sheet music cover || 1913 fraud inquiries || 1914 Dugdale ad || "Musical Building" triptych

The Musical Building
A Little Story of a Big Success

Souvenir Edition

© 1913 by The H. Kirkus Dugdale Company, Inc.

An Invitation
At the outset, I realize the impossibility of receiving actual visits from all of our patrons and friends, scattered as they are all over the world. I need scarcely say that it would afford me the greatest pleasure to show any of you through this new building -- to point out its equipment, and to indicate the many new appliances and methods by which our service will be keyed up to a much more effective pitch in the future than ever we have been able to attain before.

Realizing that you all cannot come here I have prepared the story of the building in this Souvenir Book, and I shall try in its pages to give you some slight idea of what this building is like and what it means to you.

I have taken great pleasure in preparing the story of our new building, because I have written it just as though you were here and I was taking you personally through our offices, explaining each department, its work and its purposes.

A Truly Musical Building
Ours is the only building in the city of Washington that is devoted entirely to the publication and sale of sheet music, and it is one of the very few in this whole country that was planned and erected as the home of a music publishing business. As you will agree after reading the description and arrangement of the various departments, the distribution of light and ventilation, as well as modern office conveniences, make this building ideal for handling the kind and volume of business we do.

Let us start our trip at the street entrance. A short flight of steps brings us to the reception room for visitors -- song writers, professionals and others. Here are comfortable chairs for those whose business requires any length of time. A low rail divides this reception room from the office of the Secretary and General Manager of the Company. One side of this office overlooks the entire floor space. This large, comfortable and well lighted office means that work may be produced here under the best possible conditions. An inter-communicating telephone system connects this office with every other department by the simple pressing of a button, so that no time need be lost in going from place to place. Arrangements have also been made so that several may talk or listen at the same time, thus instructions can be given to a number of departments without the necessity of the manager leaving the office.

Where Musical Progress Is Edited
Directly behind this office is another that is practically similar in every way. In this office the Editor of Musical Progress prepares each month's issue and at the same time keeps in direct touch with hundreds of professional singers, theatrical musicians and others who are interested in new songs. Through this magazine we report to song writers everywhere the progress that is being made in their profession. Our position in the music publishing field brings us information that is valuable to every song writer, and we use Musical Progress as a means for circulating this news.

The third and last office in the front of the building is mine, and I want you to come in here and sit down with me and realize just how complete our service is to you since we have moved into this new home.

All of the letters that you write me personally come to my desk every morning and receive the most prompt and careful attention I can give them. Just for a moment -- look out of this window. Across the street there is the new Post Office Sub-station and from this office we receive two or three bags of mail every morning. Naturally a large portion of this is intended for my personal attention and I cannot always answer your letters immediately on their receipt, but, as you know by past experience, I do my very best.

With this post office so convenient you can understand that we have the best possible mailing facilities both for incoming and outgoing matter.

Our Most Important Office Fixture
On this piano new compositions are tried over and approved. Of course in this business it is one of our most important office fixtures, as the composers and professional singers who call, as well as our regular staff of writers, require the use of a good piano. One of the features of our business is our liberality in providing professional musicians with copies of our publications. We only require proof of the fact that a caller is really a professional before we supply him or her with all the music needed to improve his act. These professionals who leave our office with some of our new publications tucked under their arms, and also those who receive our latest publications by mail, boost our goods not only by singing and playing the music, but by talking it up as well in the cities and towns where they play.

Now we can go into the general offices. This door opens right into them. This big room has a surface of nearly three thousand square feet and I want to call your attention to the practical way in which it is divided before we walk around. Along this wall on the right hand side, right by the windows, are eight booths which are occupied by those in charge of the more important work. The booths are so constructed as to help deaden the sound of the numerous typewriters that are clicking all day long answering our correspondence.

Where a Quarter of a Million Letters Are Filed
Just here to our left are the filing cabinets where all correspondence is kept in a modern system that enables me to have on my desk any of your letters within half a minute after I ask for them. There are more than 240,000 letters on file in our offices, and yet the system is so perfect that I can obtain any one of them without the least delay.

You will notice here a four-drawer letter file that stands off by itself marked "Testimonials." That is one of the most valuable assets we have, for it represents, in writing, the good will and satisfaction of hundreds of song writers whose work we have published. We have often wished there was some way to send that file cabinet and its contents around the world to preach a sermon on what honest effort directed along the right lines will do. When you come to make your inspection of the Dugdale Building (which I hope will be soon) I want you to spend part of your time reading some of the letters in our testimonial file.

Protecting Our Royalty Records
In one of those big steel safes against the side of the wall are kept our regular record books and our entire royalty record system. We have always thought that absolute protection from fire was as necessary for these important records as was accuracy in making them. Our system for recording all royalties due and paid was recently examined by an expert accountant who complimented us on our thoroughness and on our desire to protect others from loss by fire as well as ourselves. The safe we use for this purpose was especially constructed for us and is not only fire-proof but heat-proof as well.

Of course with so perfect a system of keeping correspondence and other records you can imagine that we require a very large clerical force and all these girls you see at the desks in the center of the room are here for that purpose. I want to call your attention again to the fine light and air we get in this room. Isn't it natural that under such fine working conditions we simply must produce best work?

Packing and Shipping Small Orders
The large table in the rear of this room is what we call our shipping table. Here our mail is folded, sealed, stamped and sacked ready for the mail wagon when it calls. Here also retail and small wholesale orders for sheet music are assembled and packed ready for the express wagon which calls to take away our shipments. Large wholesale orders for five hundred copies or more are filled and shipped from our music printing department.

Near the middle of this left side wall you will see a small door. This opens on a steel constructed stairway and also serves as our receiving station. Let us go over there and look down. You can now see the entrance from the side street. Here our mail bags and other packages are received and are hauled up to this platform by the pulley hung right over the door.

This immense section of shelving you see here is necessary to carry our immense stock of sheet music. For the convenience of those who fill the orders from these shelves, they have been planned in two sections. A lower section from the floor up to a balcony built around the upper section. It has always been our aim to fill every sheet music order the day it is received and these roomy, extensive shelves make it possible for us to locate any publication in our catalog easily and quickly.

Our Office Planned to "Save Steps"
We have now made the entire round of the offices, and I want you to notice how efficiently this floor has been planned. There is no room for lost motion -- no wasted effort -- and the work progresses step by step through each department without retracing any of its paths. I believe you can appreciate now just what I mean when I say that we are in a better position than ever before to serve you and serve you well. Indeed our facilities surpass those of any similar concern in America. We have added to our already high ideals, the facilities and equipment which will enable us to even more than live up to them.

And All This in a Little Over Five Years
Let us sit here in the reception room a moment before we go down stairs as another surprise awaits you there. While we are here I want to tell you something about this business.

Early in 1908, without the slightest idea that I was laying the foundation of a big music publishing house, I determined to capitalize my ability as a composer and opened a manuscript-writing studio. My first clients were local song writers who brought me their verses to which I composed original music for a regular fee. These manuscripts were always placed with various music publishers all over the country for publication. When my business grew and I had written music to many good songs, in addition to my own publications, I began to realize that I could serve my clients further by publishing their work after the manuscript was written.

Past experience as an employee of one of the largest music stores in this part of the country had taught me much about the production and sale of sheet music, so I went into the publishing business fairly well equipped with a knowledge of its problems and with a demand for my services and a reputation as a composer already established.

Since then the business has grown by leaps and bounds and in January, 1912, was incorporated under government and state laws with a capital stock of $250,000. Each year our sheet music sales have steadily increased, each season bringing greater popularity for our publications. In 1912 we sold three times as much sheet music as in 1911, yet 1913 has already (July 15, 1913) passed the record of sales for 1912. This is certainly a record to be proud of and I expect in this new building to far surpass it in the next five years.

Now let us go down stairs.

The Olympic Theatre
Here we are in a fine modern theatre with not a single pillar or any other obstruction no matter where you sit down. This is made possible by the steel construction of the building. Have I told you before that this building is constructed throughout of fire-proof material? The tremendous steel beams that support this structure enable us to hang the ceiling of this room from the roof of the building instead of supporting it from below.

Select any seat you wish and you will find that you have a clear and unobstructed view. Just sit in the back here while I go up and play a few notes on the piano. I want you to appreciate how well the sound carrying properties have been arranged, how clearly every note is heard in all parts of the auditorium. Music published by The H. Kirkus Dugdale Company will be played and featured in this theatre and, as the attendance will be considerably more than three hundred thousand people a year, you can see what a splendid means this affords us of popularizing our productions and those of the song writers whose work is placed in our hands. The fact is that this service we will render is a most exceptional one; a service that is not available from any other music publisher anywhere.

While you are in back there I want you to notice those two large ventilating draughts -- they are inlets for air which is forced in by a powerful electric fan. Down in front there are two similar draughts which are outlets for clearing out the hot and bad air, and these also are operated by electric suction fans.

Thus this theatre also has perfect ventilation and with its three fire exits is one of the most modern, model theatres of its type.

An Ideal Location
Now that you have seen all there is in the building, let us view it from another angle -- that of location -- for besides being wonderfully equipped the Dugdale Building is also wisely located in the city. One feature of our location here is our close proximity to the United States Copyright Bureau. The copyrighting of all publications in the United States must, as you know, be handled in Washington and the fact that our of office is only a fifteen minute ride from the copyright office is a valuable thing in favor of song writers whose work we protect.

The public copyright records are available to us whenever we wish to see them and we are well known in the Bureau where prompt and careful attention is given to all of our work. Being thoroughly familiar with the regulations and methods of the Copyright Bureau, and being located so close to it is of great importance to us in serving song writers and protecting their work.

Out of all the manuscripts and published songs we have handled we have never had one case of copyright infringement or the loss of any rights before application was filed and here, with the added privacy of a building of our own, this protection is greatly increased.

Separating the Mental Work from the Mechanical
Perhaps a word is necessary here to explain why our printing department is not located in the Dugdale Building. We don't print our music in this building preferring to separate the mental, clerical work from the mechanical part of song publishing. This leaves our offices free from the noise and confusion of a busy printing plant and leaves these details in the hands of experts who have none of the other work to contend with. Yet our system is so well planned and followed that our music printing is the best work of its kind on the market, and gotten out without loss of time.

There is very little more I can tell you. Every time I go through this building myself or show any of my friends through I become more and and more impressed with its deep meaning, and I hope my enthusiasm and pride in the Dugdale Building have not made me exaggerate its size nor its costliness. The Dugdale Building is not a metropolitan sky-scraper nor a marble palace. What money was spent on it went to buy a substantial, healthful and convenient office building to house a substantial and growing enterprise. If the Dugdale Building continues to do this, it will have fulfilled its mission.

The ability to do our work under ideal conditions has been more to us than the desire to make an impression by the wasteful spending of money for useless decoration.

A Monument to Music and Art
In reality this is a building dedicated to music in its highest sense. This is a building which, through your belief in us, you have helped to build. It is a building founded on faith that was justified, on confidence that was deserved, on patronage that was earned by honest effort. Only five years ago our business was founded, yet in this remarkably short time we have so grown that we require an entire building of our own. We have always made it our special aim to assist the amateur as well as the professional. We have been looking more for merit in the work we published than for past experience and reputation.

It has been our purpose to encourage unknown beginners to write music and song poems. We have realized the tremendous demand that exists in this country for musical productions of every kind. This demand has never been adequately supplied. Right now the country is song hungry and there is room for many good songs to score big hits and enjoy big sales.

The Building's Meaning and Message
As we take our last look at the building, all I have to add is, that beside the fact that it is a monument to music and music lovers -- a monument to our efforts and your confidence in us, it is also substantial proof of the truth that doing the right thing in the right way is bound to pay in the long run.

You can understand that we have had many discouragements. We have seen competitors making exaggerated claims and winning patronage on false statements. The fact that some have not lived up to these statements has deterred many writers, who otherwise might have been successful, from venturing a second trial of their work, but we have kept always to our original purpose to give the best assistance and workmanship in our power to all who place their efforts in our charge.

Our steady growth -- our sincerity of purpose -- your confidence in us -- the thousands of friends we have won and held -- and last, but by no means least, this splendid building and all it stands for -- these things are only an added endorsement of the old axiom that has always been uppermost in our minds in all of our transactions --

Honesty is the best policy.

"The largest successful concern in the United States or England specializing in publishing and promoting throughout the entire world the work of unknown song writers and composers."

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