Fisher, Dorothy B.

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This page presents a biography of Dorothy Button Fisher, founding member (with Vories Fisher) of the Chicago Gramophone Society.

It is part of the site Classical 'Society' Records by Nick Morgan.

Her husband Vories was an avid collector of music on record. Dorothy Fisher came to share his interest, and at their home in Chicago they hosted meetings of a private circle from which the Society emerged in 1926.

The Society published two issues, the first records financed and sold by subscription in the USA.

Dorothy Fisher's exact role in these productions has not been determined.

For dates of creation and latest update, please see 'Page information' in left sidebar.


Born Dorothy M. Button, 27 July 1897, Buffalo, New York, USA[1]

Married 28 October 1924, to Vories Fisher, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Divorced date unknown

Died 26 May 1965, Tulsa, Oklahoma


In 1902, Dorothy Button lost her father Frank Howard Button (b. 1868), a lawyer, to tuberculosis.[2] She and her mother Maud, née Sultzbach (c.1870-1940s?), apparently returned to live hear her mother's parents, in the rural community of Patterson, in Harvey County, Kansas. In 1905, her mother married Thomas Smith Hunt (1865-1940); the 1910 US Census recorded the family as living in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Not long afterwards, they were apparently back in Harvey County.

Dorothy Button attended high school in Wichita, Kansas, and boarded there.[3] In 1915, the Wichita High School yearbook called her 'As merry as the day is long', listed her as a member of the Girls' Glee Club, and disclosed her 'noble ambition' as 'to be a movie actress.'[4] (She had previously appeared in at least one production of the High School's Junior Dramatic club.[5]) That year, she graduated from the High School, having taken the Latin-German Course.[6]

From 1915 to 1919, Dorothy Button attended the University of Kansas at Lawrence, where she followed the Liberal Arts and Science course.[7] She appeared in many student musical theatre productions, singing both chorus and solo numbers, and was an alto in the Glee Club.[8] She was local Secretary of the Women's Pan-Hellenic Association, an inter-sorority organization.[9] In June 1919, Dorothy Button obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in the University's School of Education.[10]

Dorothy Button had little formal musical training, and later described herself, apparently deprecating her many appearances on stage, as

'one whose musical education consisted of a few half-hearted piano lessons during vacations, whose musical experience in a western university consisted of two symphony concerts and one opera during four years.'[11]

Early employment

In 1918, Dorothy Button was employed by the Board of County Commissioners of Harvey County, Kansas, as a clerk in the primary election held on 6 August 1918.[12]

By September 1919, Dorothy Button was teaching French at the High School in Yates Center, Kansas.[13] Although her appointment was renewed for 1920,[14] in late August she was appointed instructor in foreign languages at the High School in Girard, Kansas,[15] an appointment renewed in 1921.[16]

A year later, Dorothy Button was living in Chicago, and working in the Publicity Department of the Byllesby Investment Co., financial arm of the Byllesby Corporation, a large and successful group of, mainly, utility companies;[17] she would remain in this employment for several years (see below).

Chicago Gramophone Society

In October 1924, Dorothy Button married Vories Fisher in Chicago.[18] It seems she had already started to explore the city's classical concert scene; now, her musical life took a new turn.

In October 1926, the first issue of a new Boston-based magazine, the Phonograph Monthly Review, introduced Mr. Fisher as its 'Chicago representative';[19] he would become a prolific contributor. The same issue printed a letter from Dorothy Fisher, protesting at the claim, made a few months previously in the British magazine The Gramophone,[20]

'that women, due to their inherent desire to see and be seen [i.e. at concerts], were not interested in music on the phonograph. That letter rankled me considerably at the time and I was glad to see that at least two English women took enough interest in this assertion to reply to [t]his somewhat presumptuous statement.'

Dorothy Fisher easily demonstrated its absurdity:

'The predominance of women over men at all our schools of music, in the galleries at concerts, recitals and the opera indicates anything but indifference to music. Having tried out every gallery [i.e. in musical venues, presumably with the cheapest seats] in the city of Chicago, I should say that only a very urgent desire to hear would bring them there.'

But, Dorothy Fisher went on, despite this discomfort-defying desire, her professed lack of musical training (see above) had made it

'almost impossible to acquire enough musical experience or understanding to be able to really enjoy or have any appreciation of a Brahms Symphony or one of the operas of the Ring without the help of the phonograph [...] Just as I was beginning to realize that not until I had heard a symphony several times, which takes several years, did it begin to take on any meaning or form for me, which is the case I imagine with most people without a musically trained ear, I suddenly married a record collection – I mean collector.'

In a few deft sentences, Dorothy Fisher perceptively summed up the new kind and degree of musical pleasure and understanding which recording opened up to untrained listeners like herself and her husband.[21]

In the following, November 1926 issue of the magazine, a further report from Dorothy Fisher vividly described the couple's attempts to share and spread this pleasure. The article did not state whose idea it was to give gramophone concerts at their home. Mr. Fisher was an early contributor to The Gramophone, which reported the activities of British gramophone societies in great detail; clearly, Mrs. Fisher read the magazine too, and the infectious enthusiasm with which she described the preparations for one of these meetings suggests they might have been her initiative and her domain:

'Whom shall we invite to the concert? Let me see. There is Mr. Green, who is inclined to favor the classics more than the moderns. A Beethoven symphony, perhaps? There is an excellent Odeon recording of the Second. What say? But we must consider how many record [sic] it takes, for we must not make the concert too long. There must be time for encores; sixteen faces will be about right. The Beethoven Second in eight faces [i.e. sides]. That will be fine. But Harry and Bob will be there, too, and they favor the modern, the more unusual. What shall we have to please them? How would it be if we opened the concert with that little record of the Strawinsky Fireworks made by Victor? Good. That should be enough for the first part of the program. The intermission had best come next. But then what? Aunt Marion, Uncle Will and Julian will want to hear some Wagner. Why not make the whole second half Wagnerian? We could give the very fine new records from Parsival [sic] made by Columbia, conducted by Bruno Walter and the Fire Music and Siegfried's Journey to the Rhine that Victor has just put out. That should please them, and make the concert just about the right length. The Parsival is in four faces and the other two take up about the same amount of space. Do you think that will do? Good.'[22]

Out of these domestic concerts, as Mr. Fisher explained, grew the Chicago Gramophone Society.[23]

Unfortunately, further references to Dorothy Fisher's role in the Society are few and extremely brief. She was not one of the three officers elected at the new Society's first open meeting, held in November 1926.[24] Yet in the July 1927 issue of The Phonograph Monthly Review, the Editor wrote of the Society's first issue,

'We must trust that the labors of Mr. and Mrs. Fisher and the Chicago Gramophone Society will result in many more contributions to recorded music as notable as the Franck Prelude, Choral and Fugue.'[25]

In the same number, a review of this issue (unsigned, but probably written by Robert Donaldson Darrell) explained:

'Under the leadership of Mr. and Mrs. Vories Fisher and with the assistance of other members of the Chicago Society the recording was made and has recently been issued and distributed to the subscribers. [...] To Mr. and Mrs. Fisher goes a large part of the credit for the issue of this set, which may truly be said to mark the beginning of a new epoch in recorded music in this country.'[26]

These two tributes to both the Fishers together could simply have been politesse. Vories Fisher seems not to have credited his wife with playing any part in producing the Society's records, but rather claimed that fellow-member Robert Pollak 'did in reality more work than myself.'[27] It is argued elsewhere that Mr. Fisher probably shouldered the administrative work involved (canvassing subscribers, gathering and banking payments, dealing with Columbia's Personal Record Department, etc.), while the musically-trained Pollak negotiated with artists and had some hand in auditioning and 'passing' (or rejecting) the resultant tests. Pollak is also most likely to have commissioned the design of the Society's disc label. But the possibility remains that Dorothy Fisher did some or most of the administrative work attributed to her husband, who was increasingly preoccupied with his business. It is also possible that Dorothy, by then employed in advertising for some five years, commissioned the Society's label design.

Nothing is known of Dorothy Fisher's interest in or involvement with recorded music, if any, after the Society disappeared from view in 1928.

Later employment

In mid-1928, Dorothy Fisher was still working in the in-house advertising department of H.M. Byllesby and Co., apparently a successor to the Byllesby Investment Co.[28] It is not known how long she remained with this employer.

The Fishers divorced at an unknown date. Vories Fisher remarried in 1943; Dorothy Fisher is not known to have remarried, and kept her married name until the end of her life.

No reference to Dorothy Fisher's later employments has been located prior to her brief obituary in the Chicago Tribune, which stated that she had been business manager and registrar of Chicago's Institute for Psychoanalysis for more than 25 years, i.e. since at least 1940. She died in Tulsa, Oklahoma, just weeks after moving from Chicago, presumably to join her brother, who lived in the city.[29]


No images of Dorothy Fisher were located in the course of research for this page.


Note The Phonograph Monthly Review underwent various name changes, detailed here, but on this page and elsewhere on this site, the magazine is referred to in the text and footnotes as The Phonograph Monthly Review or, where appropriate, the Review.

  1. Biographical data retrieved from birth, death, census, travel and other documents, accessed via, except where noted
  2. Obituary Record of Graduates of Yale University Deceased from June, 1900, to June, 1910. Presented at the Annual Meetings of the Alumni, 1900-1910, New Haven: The Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor Co., 1910, pp.264-65
  3. Wichita City Directory, Wichita, Kansas: Polk-McAvoy Directory Company, 1914, p.119
  4. The Wichitan, Senior Class, Wichita High School, 1915, pp.36, 132
  5. 'Thief Play at High School', The Wichita Eagle [Wichita, Kansas], Friday 5 December 1913, p.6
  6. 'H.S. Turns Out a King Bee Class', The Wichita Sunday Eagle [Wichita, Kansas], 23 May 1915, p.6
  7. 'Patterson', Evening Kansan-Republican [Newton, Kansas], Wednesday 8 September 1915, p.3; 'Nine Wichitans Finish At K.U.', The Wichita Eagle [Wichita, Kansas], Sunday 8 June 1919, section [2], p.[6]
  8. 'Society', Lawrence Daily Journal-World [Lawrence, Kansas], Wednesday 5 April 1916, p.5; 'Name Women Singers', University Daily Kansan [Lawrence, Kansas], Monday 2 October, 1916, p.[1]; 'K.U. Follies Score Big Hit Last Night', ibid., Friday 15 March 1918, p.3
  9. Bowlby, Alice 'Phi, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas', in 'Chapter Letters', The Lyre of Alpha Chi Omega, Vol.XXI No.2, January 1918, pp.137-76 (on p.164); 'Dim Light At K.U.', The Kansas City Kansan [Kansas City, Kansas], Wednesday 19 June 1918, p.[1]
  10. 'School of Education', The University of Kansas Lawrence Annual Catalogue, 1919-20, pp.445-47 (on p.445); 'Three Hundred And Forty-Six Get Diplomas From University', Lawrence Daily Journal-World [Lawrence, Kansas], Tuesday 17 June 1919, p.[7]
  11. Fisher, Dorothy B. 'Women and the Phonograph' (letter), The Phonograph Monthly Review, Vol.1 No.1, October 1926, pp.30-31
  12. 'Commissioners' Proceedings', Evening Kansan-Republican [Newton, Kansas], Saturday 17 August 1918, p.5
  13. 'Miss Dorothy Button, of the H.S. faculty [...]', The Yates Center News [Yates Center, Kansas], Friday 26 September 1919, p.[1]; 'By the Way', University Daily Kansan [Lawrence, Kansas], Friday 26 March 1920, p.[3]
  14. 'Teachers Employed For Next Year', The Yates Center News [Yates Center, Kansas], Friday 23 April 1920, p.5
  15. 'Miss Dorothy Button, of Halstead, Kans.', The Girard Press [Girard, Kansas], Thursday 2 September 1920, p.10
  16. 'Teachers Employed for Next Year', The Girard Press [Girard, Kansas], Thursday 10 March 1921, p.1
  17. 'Class Catalogue', Bulletin of The University of Kansas Lawrence Alumni Catalogue, Vol.XXIII No.4, 15 February 1922, pp.17-206 (on p.123); 'Girard People in Chicago have Reunion', The Girard Press [Girard, Kansas], Thursday 14 June 1923, p.1; on Byllesby, see 'Securities and Exchange Commission, Washington. In the Matter of H.M. Byllesby & Co. and The Byllesby Corporation, File Nos.31-379 and 31-420. Findings and Opinion of the Commission [Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935, sections 2 (a) (7), 3 (a) (3), and 3 (a) (5)]', Monday 15 January 1940, in Investment Trusts and Investment Companies, Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1940, pp.109-14
  18. 'Weddings, Engagements', Chicago Daily Tribune, Wednesday 29 October 1924, p.23
  19. 'Is Your Favorite Work Recorded Coming Contests Conducted by Vories Fisher', The Phonograph Monthly Review, Vol.1 No.1, October 1926, p.23
  20. The letter to which Dorothy Fisher objected was from one T.A.F., a British gramophone dealer, titled 'Ladies and the Gramophone', The Gramophone, Vol.III No.3, August 1925, p.147, itself answering a letter from another dealer, 'Scrutator', titled 'Where are the Ladies?', ibid., Vol.III No.1, June 1925, p.39; it drew responses from, among others, 'Scrutatress', 'Married to a Gramophile', and Gladys M. Collin, 'Women and the Gramophone' (letter), ibid., Vol.III No.5, October 1925, pp.233 and 247, Augusta Penfold, 'Women and the Gramophone' (letter) ibid., Vol.III No.6, November 1925, p.284, and 'One of the Ladies' (from Quelimane in what was then called 'Portuguese East Africa'), 'Women and the Gramophone' (letter) ibid., Vol.III No.7, December 1925, p.329
  21. Fisher, Dorothy B. 'Women and the Phonograph' (letter), The Phonograph Monthly Review, Vol.1 No.1, October 1926, pp.30-31
  22. Fisher, Dorothy B. 'Programs', in 'Phonograph Society Reports', The Phonograph Monthly Review, Vol.1 No.2, November 1926, pp.33-35 (on pp.34-35)
  23. Fisher, Vories 'Chicago Phonograph Society', in 'Phonograph Society Reports', The Phonograph Monthly Review, Vol.1 No.1, October 1926, pp.32-34 (on p.32)
  24. Harris, L.J. 'Chicago Phonograph Society', in 'Phonograph Society Reports', The Phonograph Monthly Review, Vol.1 No.3, December 1926, pp.130-32
  25. Johnson, Axel B. 'Editorial', The Phonograph Monthly Review, Vol.1 No.10, July 1927, p.[409]
  26. 'The First Recording by an American Phonograph Society', The [Music Lovers'] Phonograph Monthly Review, Vol.1 No.10, July 1927, p.442
  27. [Fisher,] Vories 'Recorded Remnants', The [Music Lovers'] Phonograph Monthly Review, Vol.1 No.11, August 1927, pp.462-63 (on p.463)
  28. 'Schedule Of Today's Events At 'Ad' Meeting', Detroit Free Press, Tuesday 10 July 1928, p.10
  29. 'Obituaries', Chicago Tribune, Thursday 27 May 1965, Section 2, p.6