1939 - 1940
Varsity Records was one of two labels that comprised the United States Record Company; Royale Records was the other. Eli Oberstein created the USRC in the summer of 1939, shortly after he left an executive position at RCA Victor. Varsity was considered a "budget" label, specializing in popular music and selling records for 35 cents each. Royale was more expensive, at 75 cents a record, and specialized in classical music.
Though the company headquarters was located in Manhattan, the shellac records for these two labels were pressed at the revamped facilities of the Scranton Button Company in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Oberstein cut corners for the Varsity label by reissuing published material from other companies, and using pseudonyms for the performers as a way to conceal the recordings’ origins. He was eventually able to gather some artists to record original material for Varsity, but his use of unlicensed, copyrighted material resulted in a number of lawsuits that ultimately caused bankruptcy for the USRC in 1940.
Making Records in Scranton, Pennsylvania, circa 1940