This label was manufactured in the U.S. by the American Graphophone Company (Columbia) between 1905-07. The name was first applied to inexpensive external-horn phonographs the company manufactured that were sold through Sears Roebuck & Co, and the record label was produced to match the phonograph name. Both 7″ and 10″ pressings were released, containing material recorded as early as 1902.
The earliest releases were 7″ discs bearing plain light-blue labels. Later issues were 10″ pressings with orange on gray labels bearing a college-pennant trademark. All pressings were single-sided.
Catalog numbers of Harvard releases were identical to those of corresponding Columbia records, but were anonymous.
Sears Roebuck & Co discontinued the label in early 1907, in favor of the Oxford Disc Record.
Dr. Frederick B. Exner was a Seattle-based radiologist who had lectured on medical ethics and economics at the UW Medical School. In addition, he loved jazz and was a dedicated record collector.
Exner was known to invite local jazz players into his home where they could rehearse, and in 1944 he formed his own namesake record company in order to issue discs by some of his favorite bands.
Exner launched the label with recordings by the John Wittwer Trio featuring the famed jazz clarinetist, Joe Darensbourg — who soon informed him that he knew Edward “Kid” Ory, trombone legend and one of the fathers of jazz. Ory was still alive and in Los Angeles, where in 1945 Exner sent Darensbourg and Wittwer to help on some sessions with Ory. The liner notes by Howard Rye for the Kid Ory: The Complete Sunshine, Exner, Decca Recordings 1922-45 CD reveal that Ory: “has the distinction of having led the first African-American band from New Orleans to make it on to record, surprisingly enough on the West Coast, where he had moved in 1919.”
In his autobiography Telling It Like It Is, Darensbourg relates the difficulties he had in clearing the session with the Los Angeles colored local of the AFM, difficulties which, reading between the lines, may not have been unconnected with Joe having been a member at various times of both the white and the colored locals! Exner himself came down from Seattle to C. P. McGregor’s studio for the session.”
[NOTE: it seems likely that the Kid Ory songs issued on Linden Records #124 may have been Dr. Exner’s first attempt to get something released by that band. The Stamper codes on each side begin with an “EX.” Exner may have just decided to form his own label after dealing with Linden, which was perhaps Seattle’s first well-established label.]
Source: NW Musicarchives
The record company AQUA — whose motto was “Waves of Fun” — was active throughout the 1950s.
Jack Riley was born in Maytown Thurston County,(Washington). He grew up in Carnation (King County, Washington) where his father held jobs with the railroads and the county. Mr. Riley attended the University of Washington and worked as a boat builder. He also taught social-recreation activities, such as dancing, at Seattle Catholic schools. He served as an Army paratrooper in the Pacific theater during and after World War II.
Back in Seattle, he bought a barge, moored it on the west side of Lake Union and turned it into a floating dance hall with a western theme: the original Aqua Barn. He met his future wife while teaching square-dance lessons. In 1951, the couple moved the Aqua Barn business to her family’s property on old Renton-Maple Valley Road (Renton King County, Washington) and began holding square dances.
They added rental horses, campgrounds, a pool and train tracks, pressing existing buildings into service. Mr. Riley was in his element, later saying he considered it more a playground than a business. ‘We really prevailed,’ he said, recalling the 1960s heyday when his Renton business had 240 horses on more than 100 acres and a barn full of people country dancing every night. During the 1950s, when children’s shows were big on local television, Mr. Riley enjoyed a brief fling on the small screen. He was ‘Happy Jack,’ comedic sidekick of KING-TV’s western-movie emcee, Sheriff Tex” [Jim Lewis]. The ranch in Renton, replete with a restaurant that remained open for decades, was finally sold to developers in 1998.