Zonophone Goes to China (1905)

All of the major American companies sent “recording expeditions” to exotic locations in the early 1900s, but none of those trips was better-publicized than Zonophone’s. In July 1905 Zonophone engineer George Cheney sailed for Asia after a gala send-off by Fred Hager and members of the house  band.

Cheney’s trip was a rare example of a joint venture between the Victor Talking Machine Company and the Universal Talking Machine Company (American Zonophone). The latter was never actually owned by Victor, contrary to prevailing myth — Victor president Eldridge Johnson had purchased Universal Talking Machine with personal funds, and it was operated as a separate independent company, kept at arms’-length from Victor for legal and financial purposes. In this instance, however, Cheney’s masters were shared by both companies (and were not made “exclusively” for Victor, as the report below claims).

For more information on the Victor-Johnson-Zonophone connection, and other early foreign recording expeditions, check out The American Zonophone Discography and A Phonograph in Every Home, both available from Mainspring Press and many major libraries.

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