Zonophone Records
1899-1912

The Universal Talking Machine Company was founded in 1899 by Frank Seaman, Berliner's sales agent, in response to a breach of contract case he brought against Berliner's Gramophone Company. Berliner had promised to consider a better and cheaper phonograph motor for manufacture should Seaman produce one. He did but the design was ignored, possibly due to factory retooling costs and the close friendship between Berliner and Eldridge R. Johnson, chief machinist for his company who had designed the ones in use. Seaman brought suit and Berliner retaliated by terminating the supply of phonographs and records to Seaman's marketing arm, the National Gramophone Corporation. Seaman countered by establishing the abovementioned company to manufacture his own products under the simpler trade name of "Zon-O-Phone".

After selling off his existing supply of Berliner products, Seaman simply electroplated and pirated copies of Berliner discs with the top half of the labels erased until his own recording studio could be established. The bottom half retained the same information, including catalog numbers, so identification of their original source is obvious. Such practice continued well into 1900, even after the new studio was operational. Later that year, Seaman won the case and Berliner's U.S. operations were shut down. Columbia Records (The American Graphophone Company) had been a co-plaintiff with Seaman as a way to quickly enter the disc market by marketing his products and protecting them with its patents. Columbia had their own manufacturing operations ready by late 1901 and terminated the agreement at that time. Universal was reorganized on December 19, 1901 as The Universal Talking Machine Manufacturing Company to avoid Columbia's likely litigation should they continue to produce as a competitor. Columbia filed suit the following year for patent infringement and had Zon-O-Phone production halted on November 25, 1902.

In 1903, Zon-O-Phone's international assets were sold off to the Gramophone and Typewriter Company, Ltd. of England while Eldridge R. Johnson's Victor Talking Machine Company bought the U.S. rights to the label. He allowed the company to continue on with little interference as a somewhat independent operation in recording and pressing until 1909. From 1905 it was also marketed as a budget label. That independence ended in 1909 when its operations were moved to Victor's own facilities and most of its staff was let go. The label's own end came in 1912 when Columbia was able to invoke its old 1900 licensing agreement with Zon-O-Phone, which did not extend to Victor, to have it shut down.

Encoded Speed: 192 Kbps

Minstrel 1st Part, No. 4
The Gramophone Minstrels
S. H. Dudley & William F. Hooley
Berliner 01137 (V)
Take Unknown
March 28, 1900
Recording Location Unknown (NY or PA)
Note: A Berliner with the top of its label erased and thus pirated by Zon-O-Phone. Therefore for this website, this one counts towards Berliner's total and not Zon-O-Phone's.

Jolly Coppersmith March (Blank)
Zon-O-Phone Orchestra
Zon-O-Phone B9175; 3, Plate 1
1899-1901
Camden, New Jersey
Note: Grooves closer together towards end.

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