Emerson was founded by Victor H. Emerson, who had worked for Columbia Records since the 1890s. In 1916 he started his namesake company, producing 7 inch disc records selling for 25 cents each, and 5 & 1/2 inch discs selling for 10 cents. Early fare included popular tunes, dance numbers, and patriotic marches, mostly recorded by small groups of unnamed musicians hired in New York City credited as the "Emerson Orchestra" or sometimes grandly "The Emerson Symphony Orchestra". In January of 1918 Emerson added a line of 9 inch records selling for 75 cents. After World War I Emerson started ambitious expansions of the business, and in 1919 finally introduced a line of 10 inch discs (the common industry standard) retailing for 85 cents, which went up to $1 each the following year. At the same more popular "big name" artists were hired to record for the label, including Wilber Sweatman, Eddie Cantor, the Six Brown Brothers, and the Louisiana Five. Somewhat later the label also recorded Lizzy Miles, Eubie Blake, Fletcher Henderson, and the Original Memphis Five. 1919 also saw the debut of a series of 12 inch Emerson discs, mostly of Classical music, retailing for $1.25.
In May of 1920 Emerson opened a second recording studio in Los Angeles, California.
See also: List of record labels