Sitting atop a storage building in the North End neighborhood of Albany, New York, is a four-ton, 28-foot tall steel and fiberglass statue of Nipper, the canine mascot of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), the now-defunct consumer electronics behemoth.
According to the Albany Institute of History and Art, Nipper came to be perched atop the crenellated parapet in 1958 following renovation of the dilapidated concrete warehouse for use by RTA Corporation, an appliance distributor specializing 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 monumental terriers that once sat atop RTA’s distribution centers, and he’s the last dog to still exist 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.
The colossal canine is based on a real 19th-century terrier owned by Francis Barraud, a painter residing in Liverpool, England. 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.
Unlike his Baltimore lookalike, the Albany Nipper never had his head cocked to the bell of a gramophone. He has always been listening to the wind. Since the RTA facility closed its doors in the 1980s, affection for the oversized terrier has grown among local residents, who have adopted him as the city’s de facto mascot.
Know Before You Go
Take I-90 to I-787 South, get off at Exit 4B and take a right on Broadway. The Arnoff Moving and Storage building will be on the right in about 10 blocks. The building as at the corner of Broadway and Loudonville Road.