The Zonophone Model A was introduced in late 1899 by Frank Seaman, marketing
agent for Berliner and owner of the National Gramophone Co. Frustrated by Berliner's
failure to live up to the terms of his contract, Seaman set up his own manufacturing
and sales company, Universal Talking Machine, making disc machines in direct competition
with Berliner. It was a complex situation with many twists and turns, but ultimately
Berliner was driven out of the US market and Seaman's Zonophone was the only legal
disc talking machine in the market up until Victor Talking Machine Company was formed
in 1901. (Ultimately Victor used the Zonophone brand as a secondary label.)
The Universal Talking Machine initially produced five models, all using the same motor designed by Louis Valiquet. The Concert Grand was top of the line at $40, with 9" turntable; the remaining machines, Models A through D, had 7" turntables. The A was the most elaborate of the smaller models, with two beveled glass panels on the sides to show off the motor, and priced at a substantial $25. It remains one of the most popular early phonographs among collectors today.
Way back in 1964 I bought a Zonophone A at a country auction for $27 -- a very high price for that time. It was one of my favorite machines, but I foolishly gave it up in a very misguided trade in 1979. It took me over 30 years to find a replacement that met my standards for condition and originality. (Although the Zonophone A is certainly scarce, they can be found with some regularity. However pristine originals are few and far between.)
This one survived the past century in incredible condition due to the fact that it was stored for many decades in its very rare original carrying case. It is totally original, including the turntable felt and leather elbow. It features the early V reproducer with covered front. Many, if not most, original owners upgraded to the V Concert reproducer at $5 additional, making the early style very scarce today.
The special carrying case was cleverly designed to hold the various parts, with soft felt cushioning and carefully positioned blocks to keep everything securely in place. Bolts on the sides allowed for storage of records, held by record hold-down clamps from Berliner Gramophones. Few of these cases survive today.
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