There's a beautiful history behind this.

Basically, Artin and Hecke were working on different sides of this "dihedral modularity conjecture" at the same time (the 20s) and at the same place (Hamburg), but apparently they never discussed this aspect of their research.

So they had the tools to prove this instance of what would become the Langlands program by 1927, but they didn't know it!

There is a brief account of this in Tate's paper "The general reciprocity law" (note that he was Artin's doctoral student), and a more extended historical survey of Artin and Hecke's work during that time on Cogdell's article "On Artin L-functions".

I think this is how the proof would have looked like back in 1927 (although in modern notation, and not in german!)

**Arithmetic side (Artin)**

Let $\rho:\mathrm{Gal}(L/K)\to \mathrm{GL}_2(\mathbb{C})$ be 2-dimensional dihedral complex representation. From representation theory we know that $\rho$ is monomial, that is, induced from a 1-dimensional representation.

Artin had proved in 1923 that his L-functions behave well under representation theoretic operations and, in particular, induction. Therefore, there is an L-function $L(\varrho,s)=L(\rho,s)$, with $\varrho$ one-dimensional (abelian).

From Artin reciprocity (1927) we have that $L(\varrho,s)=L(\chi,s)$, with $L(\chi,s)$ a Hecke L-function.

The last step is Hecke's proof from 1917 that abelian L-functions are meromorphic for non-trivial characters. Since $\varrho \neq 1$, the original L-function $L(\rho,s)$ is meromorphic on the complex plane, and we have proved the Artin conjecture for dihedral representations.

**Automorphic side (Hecke)**

Hecke had been studying theta series, and in particular in 1927 he constructed a cusp form $f_\theta$ of weight $1$ as a linear combination of $\theta$-series of binary quadratic forms attached to $K$.

He had alredy proved the basic properties of the L-functions of arbitrary modular forms and Hecke characters, so he knew their functional equation.

In the case of his $f_\theta$ the gamma-factor was very simple, just $\Gamma(s)$.

So, according to Tate, he listed all the Hecke L-functions that shared that same gamma-factor. After weeding out the one coming from Eisenstein series (which in turn correspond to cylic (reducible) two-dimensional representations), he was left with a correspondence $L(\chi,s)=L(f_\theta,s)$.

**Arithmetic side revisited**

This would have been an easy step for either one of them, if they had known what the other one was up to.

A quick inspection of the gamma-factor of the Artin L-function shows that the only representations for which it equals $\Gamma(s)$ are the ones odd and two-dimensional. Since the other two-dimensional odd representations are irreducible (except the cyclic, which we have alredy mentioned correspond to Eisenstein series), we have showed:

$$L(\rho,s)=L(f_\theta,s)$$

**Jacquet-Langlands proof**

The first actual proof of the result follows from the converse theorem for $\mathrm{GL}_2$ in "Automorphic forms on GL(2)" (1971). But I don't think they mention the dihedral case in particular. Langlands does, saying that it is implicit in the works of Hecke and Maass, in his 1975 book "Base change for GL(2)".

A different proof follows from the results by Deligne and Serre in "Formes modulaires de poids 1" (1974).

I'm not sure of what relevance Maass' work has in this case. The same goes for some attributions to Brauer, since his induction theorem isn't really needed here.

To answer the actual question, no, there's no direct reference for this result before 1971. That said, technically Artin's 1927 paper implies this case of the (weak) Artin conjecture, and we now know (by a result of Booker, 2003) that this "weak" case implies the strong Artin conjecture.

`$\rho = \mathrm{Ind}_{G_K}^{G_{\mathbf{Q}}}\chi$`

for $K$ imag quad and $\chi$ a char of $G_K$ with finite image into`$\mathbf{C}^{\times}$`

. CFT says $\chi$ a char. on frac. ideals of`$\mathcal{O}_K$`

prime to some ideal`$\mathfrak{f}_{\chi}$`

, mod princ. ideals gen. by elts.`$\equiv 1 \; \mathrm{mod} \; \mathfrak{f}_\chi$`

. Form $\theta_{\chi}(z)=\sum_{\mathfrak{a} \subset \mathcal{O}} \chi(\mathfrak{a})e^{2 \pi i N(\mathfrak{a})z}$, split into arith. progs mod $\mathfrak{f}$, get theta series of bin quad forms. $\endgroup$ – David Hansen Jun 13 '11 at 3:58`$\mathrm{tr} \rho(\mathrm{Frob}_p)=\chi(\mathrm{Frob}_{\mathfrak{p}})+\chi(\mathrm{Frob}_{\mathfrak{\overline{p}}})$`

for $p$ split, and $\rho(\mathrm{Frob}_p)=0$ for $p$ inert. Oddness is key in the matching of $\det{\rho}$ with the nebentypus character of the twisted theta series, which has weight one and thus an odd nebentypus character. I would say that the motivation for forming the twisted theta series is...it works! :) (For even dihedral reps, you form a similar theta series which is actually a Maass form; this was Maass's original construction.) $\endgroup$ – David Hansen Jun 13 '11 at 5:27