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Zon-o-phone (1899-1903)
Universal Talking Machine Co.

Universal Talking Machine Co. was founded in 1899 in Camden, New Jersey by Frank Seaman.

The existence of Frank Seaman's Zonophone was short lived and riden with lawsuits. Seaman and his company worked for Emile Berliner as the sole USA retailer of the Berliner line.

While acting as the distributor, Seaman decided to start his own company to produce disc records and phonographs. He called his creation, Zon-O-Phone.

He stoled the flat disc record design from Berliner and machines similar to the design of Eldridge Johnson’s Consolidated Talking Machine Co. phonographs. Seaman turns around and sues both Berliner and Johnson for violating “his” technologies.

Teaming up with lawyer, Phillip Mauro, Seaman joins forces with Columbia Records. Columbia Records, at this time, were only producing cylinder records so they saw the benefits in joining forces with Seaman.

Zonophone would pay royalties if Columbia helped drive Berliner out of business by producing flat disc records. Columbia produce flat disc records under the Columbia name.

In 1900 Seaman and Mauro succeeded in getting a judge to file an injunction that Berliner and Johnson stop making their records and phonographs. Now with legal court behind him, Seaman hits production of his Zon-O-Phone phonograph and records into overdrive.

Soon after the injunction, Berliner and Johnson counter-sued. Session lasted 3 years and they emerged victorious in court—prompting to join forces and combine their companies into, The Victor Talking Machine Co.

The life of Zon-O-Phone was short lived and lasted 3 years, making the Zon-O-Phone phonograph a bit more rare than other phonographs of this time.

In 1903, when all of the United States and South American assets of Zon-O-Phone were rewarded to Victor, and the Europe/British Commonwealth assets to the Gramophone & Typewriter Company (which would later become the Gramophone Company and launch the His Master's Voice record label).

Victor Talking Machine continued to use the "Zonophone" name to market cheaper records that were not of the technical standard of the Victor label. They retired the label in the USA in 1912.

In the United Kingdom, Australia and other British colonies, Zon-o-phone was the cheaper label for Gramophone Company issues.

There’s a heck of a lot more infomation that’s on going with this label company but I wanted to list what I think is the most important information in Phonograph History. Without Seaman being a greedy individual, one can say that Victor may have never come to be born?

 

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