Sunday, March 1, 2015

Post 24

Let the battle begin!

Yes. It was inevitable. Zenith tried, but there was no possible way that it could compete with Japanese cartel on the basis of a television product alone. As expert witness Vito Brugleria learned on this trip to Japan--Japanese television sets in Japan priced at $700, were sold in American for $300. And it was impossible to sell Zenith television sets in Japan. As Philip Curtis had pointed out, prices in Japan were supported by the Japanese government. It was a classic case of "dumping"'--dumping forbidden by America's anti-Dumping Act of 1916.  --and the American government did nothing to enforce the law! Neither did the Supreme Court for as one justice said-- "...the amount of evidence of dumping--70 volumes! was  ' . . . too much to consider.'"  Was there ever such a breakdown in long-established law in the history of America? 

But Zenith was a fighter. That fact had been proved over and over in the story of its two Wars, both against  a criminal cartel. So let the battle begin!

The first priority was to supplement its television product with another winning product--perhaps two or three such  products.  Zenith  had several in the works--Zenith watches, the Zenith data system, the pager,  medical electronics, the low-light amplifier, cable products, the products of the Government and Special Products Division, and television.  Television?--yes! in spite of the miserable profit margins--television could continue to sell and sell big--if Zenith's reputation for quality  could be properly exploited. 

--and its loyal staff of engineers and production workers were unmatched   the world.  And Zenith was regarded and loved by the American people as an "All-American company!"

 And now, let's look at some attempts to diversify--to "replace television" as the prime source of revenue.

An Attempt to Diversify:  The Zenith Watch Company
Not much is known about this subsidiary of Zenith except that its acquisition was apparently one of Zenith’s attempts to diversify. That the  company  already had the name Zenith was a welcome coincidence. And Zenith's reputation was enhanced by the fact that the company made superbly beautiful watches. An example--

However, the existence of the watch company in the history  of Zenith was short, as indicated in the record--
1          1971.  The American ZENITH RADIO CORPORATION took a majority stake in the MONDIA-ZENITH-MOVADO group.

      1978. The group returned to the hands of Swiss investors, with DIXI, the financial and mechanical constructions group, as major shareholder.

--a mere seven years of existence under the aegis of Zenith Radio Corporation!   

Since Zenith was a manufacturer of relatively simple electronics gear, it could hardly expect to participate  the manufacture of mechanical watches such as this one—

 The skill in the design and manufacture of such watches dates back hundreds of years and the clock makers comprises a kind of  community of families. 

The writer’s experience with the Zenith watch was occasioned by his 25th year with Zenith,  
at which time I was presented with a watch  by the then-president Jerry Pearlman—

It  was a beautiful watch. (I wish I could find  it, but when one moves, one loses things, especially this one!)) 

(Now, a digression--the date shown, "10  after 10" on the watch,  is said to commemorate the date of the beheading of Charles I of England in 1650 by Cromwell and his Puritans. Another version is that it commemorates the time  of assassination of Abraham Lincoln in Ford's in Washington by Edwin Booth.  [Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, did you enjoy the play?]

The Zenith  manager of the watch company was Charles Sindelar.  I have been trying to find him to get more information. Does anyone know where he is, and how to contact him?
Or, perhaps you know more about Zenith Watch Company than what is shown in the foregoing.  If so, please let me know and we can write up a more comprehensive description.

                                                                            * * * * * * * * 
As described in the foregoing, Zenith had "many arrows in its bow" in its attempts to diversify--to find a product that would provide  sales and profit equivalent of Zenith  television before the loss of the Second  War.   The unfair competition from the Japanese television product had proved to be  ferocious, and as described, had wiped out the other American television set manufacturers., leaving Zenith as the sole contender for the television market.  

The "arrows" in Zenith's bow for the struggle were these:  the  data system, the pager,  cable products, and the video disk. etc.  It will require time to write these up, so there will be no details until future Posts.     That is why the writer of this weblog could use help.  No one person could know all there is to know about these products.  

Now let's go on to other items of interest.  

                                                         * * * * * * * * 

Everyone is familiar with the much-head-lined recalls of the automobile industry.  A tiny component such as  an ignition switch gives trouble: causes a fire . . .  makes car start when it shouldn’t, and the car runs over someone, etc.  The problem comes to light, and the agency of the Federal Government called the CPSC--Consumer Products Safety Commission--takes action.  The role of the Commission is to estimate the danger and potential loss of life, and it may rule  that that model must recalled, and the defective part replaced.   For an automobile company, the cost can run into millions of dollars, and a recall is damaging to  the company’s reputation.    


Again, it was a tiny component, one apparently inadequately tested—a capacitor with four leads. (Or perhaps someone in production had  disabled it by dabbling it with silicone grease) The capacitor was a component of the television set power supply-- one that controlled the high voltage of the picture tube. In the 27-inch picture tube, the nominal high voltage is set at predetermined 30,000.  If the voltage strays below that number, the quality of the picture is degraded, but if the voltage goes higher, let’s say in the 40,000-volt plus range, there is the danger of a fire.  Or so it was thought by Safety Commission.


A recall of a million television sets for a rewiring of the power supply would be immensely expensive for Zenith. It could also be deadly to the bottom line of Zenith, which was already in chancy territory  due to the loss of its  Second War.  Management was in a panic state. What to do? A cost study was initiated. One of the tools selected was a PERT chart—an acronym for “Product Evaluation and Review Technique.”  The procurement agencies of the U.S. Government used it for control of the procurement of very  large military vehicles, such as the procurement of a  new tank.

Such projects will involve several major  contractors and perhaps dozens  of subcontractors as many as a dozen  tiers down.  The PERT program is designed to keep tabs on all of them. If for example,  if a minor contractor way down on the list fails to make a delivery,  it may affect  the delivery dates of all contractors up through the  chain, and eventually,  the timely delivery of a critically needed  end item--the tank. The PERT system guarantees and early warning of the problem so it can be remedied on time. 
Zenith's recall PERT chart was several times this size
John Roberts, who had had experience with procurement contracts, built a PERT chart for Zenith. It covered all the Zenith suppliers and sub-suppliers and the responsibilities of each in a potential recall. It was so extensive that covered a good part of  the wall of his office.       


WHY NOT?  Robert Adler went to Washington to explain that there was actually no problem—that the high voltage of the television set would not run  away due to  the problematic capacitor.  Because of Adler's eminence as a scientist and engineer, the CPSC accepted Adler’s  explanation, and no recall was ordered.

So Bob Adler saved Zenith several million dollars. 

Finally!  A victory for Zenith in dealing with the government!

                                                                                   * * * * * * * * * 
The legend of the name “Zenith”

Zenith’s original and widely-recognized  name was Zenith Radio Corporation. In 1980, the name was changed to Zenith Electronics Corporation. Why? Because Zenith  was no longer a seller of radios, but   more of a “manufacturing generalist,” selling not only television sets, but also such products cable boxes, video disk players as it strove to diversify into profitable  products. 

Zenith’s long-time rival, Radio Corporation of American, had done much the same thing:  RCA  was no longer only  a “radio company” so it changed its name and logo to RCA Corporation.   And so RCA  could no longer display its trademark—the  beloved little dog  named “Nipper” for its record line.  Nipper is shown listening to his master’s voice on a “phonograph” that reproduced the  sound impressed on  a wax cylinder.   The original is an old and much-loved trademark that  dates back to the early 1900’s. RCA had acquired it from Victor Talking Machine Company.
His Master's Voice
I recall my father recounting the first time he  heard “the box that made voices.”  He was a kid then, and the date was about 1888.  Some Bluff Spring villagers in Illinois had acquired an “amazing device,” and played it in the village square for the edification of the residents.  It was  Edison’s first phonograph.

"Nipper”became wildly popular, and still is! You can obtain reproductions of Nipper in drawings, paintings, statues, figurines, stuffed animals, bobble-headed figures, and tin  signs, as supplied by Amazon.com. For access, click on  Amazon.com 

Here is an up-dating of Nipper--

                                                       * * * * * * * * 

Now, more about Zenith’s trademark--

Above is the original of what became known as Zenith's “the lightning bolt trademark.”

The final Zenith Trademark, established in 1939, is shown below.  (It is documented as Serial No. 71422164; Registration No. 0373400; filing date 7-31-1939.)

It was often shown with the Trade Mark  indicator in the lower right corner with the superscript .

If you have a registered  trademark, you must protect it.   John Pedersen, head of the Zenith Patent Department, was constantly writing “cease and desist” letters to upstarts who advertised Zenith Hair Dryers, Zenith vacuum cleaners,  and other stuff alien to Zenith Radio Corporation. 

The magic of the name Zenith is gone now

--gone in the sense that Zenith we knew no longer exists.  Once  upon a time, you could begin the slogan “The Quality Goes in . . .” and a listener would finish it  “. . . before the name goes on!” These days, , the name “Zenith” that once denoted a product such as a radio or television has been forgotten. Rather, it is  unknown by those under age  30-35, and its memory will disappear as those who knew it so well will themselves fade in memory.

If this Zenith Book weblog ever gains a publisher, "our Zenith"  will be at least remembered  in print.  And it will be last manifestation of the company we all knew and loved.

                                                                              * * * * * * *  
  PART ONE  of the McDonald story was started in the previous post with these words--                                 
 “Many  words are needed to describe McDonald's  eminence in the field of electronics and its management: a self-made man . . . a sterling leader . .  a pioneer in enhancing quality . . . and a kind benefactor not only to his employees, but to all men and women. Little is generally known about his personal life,  but perhaps that oversight can be remedied by the words that follow.”
Eugene F. McDonald, Jr. 
The account continued with a review of his early life and his struggles to support his three sisters after leaving school and going to work at the age of 14 . . .  his employment by the early automobile company Franklin Manufacturing  Company, and his eventual success in selling early Franklin automobiles . . .  his discovery of the early radio company  of  Hassel and  Matthews,  and his founding  of Zenith Radio Corporation. 
                                                                                        * * * * * * *
Part Two of The McDonald Story

Zenith had become a success by the mid-1920’s, and McDonald had apparently decided to give up his bachelor life. He married  Elba Inez Riddle, who was born in Shawnee, Oklahoma. She was as journalist and also an accomplished pianist and composer, had studied at the Chicago Musical College, and her music was performed by the Chicago symphony Orchestra. She spoke five languages fluently.  And she was beautiful!

The McDonald’s had two children: Marianne, born in 1937, and Eugene Francis III, born in 1942.  Eugene III had received the nickname “Stormy” from  Burt Massey, a friend of McDonald’s.  Massey also gave Eugene a bottle of rum, a hammock in recognition his father’s sea-faring ways, and expressed the hope that the son would follow the father; footsteps on the sea.   

Here are the children--
Eugene McDonald III and Marianne
Marianne had this to say about this photo--  “It's my brother in the picture  on the left...I'm five years older, on the right. He was dubious about the snake. Not me. I taught him to hunt them...then release them...as you can see I've broken my wrist...I was always a daredevil.”

(Marianne probably hunted snakes because their father did not want them to be afraid of snakes (or little else!)  

McDonald had acquired a 185-foot ship  which was said to be made of the components of a Navy destroyer. It became his yacht, and he named it “Mizpah.”  It was one of the largest yachts on the Great Lakes, and fully capable of travel on the oceans, and did so many times.     
The Mizpah
(Note: The name Mizpah is the Hebrew word for “Watch Tower."  It can be considered a  blessing:  The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another"  --Wikipedia. And  Mizpah is of course the farewell used in this weblog.) 

Marianne and Stormy  could be said to “have been brought up” on the Mizpah as it cruised the Great Lakes and the oceans.. They soon earned their “sea legs” and walked with the rocking gate of sailors, even on land.  Marianne nearly got sea-sick once, and her father told her “My children never get seasick!”  So she didn’t.  They cruised all of  the Great Lakes, and there is an inlet called Marianne Bay on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan, named for daughter Marianne.

Marianne wrote this about her father: I was always closest to my father, and being the oldest, he trained me as a son to shoot and fish, and he  had confidence in me. And he said, "You can have anything you want, as long as you want it hard enough." Obviously he meant ‘never give up.’ I've taken that as my motto.”

It was well she had the support of that motto, for tragedy struck.  Her brother, Stormy, died by accident in 1936. He was only 21.

So Marianne was left alone to carry on the traditions and the future of the family McDonald.  And carry on she did!  Among her other achievements, she became a noted Greek scholar, and a recognized authority  on the history and literature of  Greece. 
Recently, she sent a summary of her accomplishments in the years that followed--

Marianne McDonald, a distinguished professor of theatre and classics at UCSD and a member of the Royal Irish Academy, is a pioneer in the field of modern versions of the classics: in films, plays, and opera. She has translated all extant Greek tragedies and some comedies, and with over 250 publications to her credit, her nationally and internationally performed prize-winning translations and original plays include: Aeschylus’s Prometheus Bound; Sophocles’ Antigone; Ajax; Oedipus Tyrannus and Oedipus at Colonus; Euripides’ Hecuba, Trojan Women; Iphigenia at Aulis; Bacchae; Phoenician Women; Children of Heracles; Seneca’s Thyestes; Aristophanes’s Lysistrata; The Trojan Women; Medea, Queen of Colchester; The Ally Way; …and then he met a woodcutter; The Last Class; and Fires in Heaven; A Taste for Blood, and Peace.

(A complete list of her publications requires 89 pages.) 

Marianne’s website tells more about her and her achievements. http://mariannemcdonald.net
Marianne, a recent photo
And as if she wasn’t busy enough, Marianne had six children!

Commander McDonald  would have been very proud of her! (Or, shall we evoke intimations of immortality and say:  “He is very proud of her.”)

                                                               * * * * * * * * 
 And therein ends Post 24! In the forthcoming Post 25, the story of Zenith will continue with a description of the struggles of Zenith to survive by selling  television sets in the face of grossly unfair competition by Japan.  Many things were tried--some successful, and others  not at all, but at least the attempt was made.   

So! Mizpah until next time!

                                                              * * * * * * * * 

Here is  general conclusion worth repeating, and one  that may be said to sum up this message of this Zenith Book weblog.   It is based on the story of Zenith's Second War, in which  the U.S. Government failed to enforce the Anti-Dumping Law of 1916 in favor of a foreign country. 

Influence in Washington is for sale. If you have any kind of a business large or small, you had better be aware of what is going on in your government with regard to your business, and buy whatever influence in Washington you can afford.  For example, If you are a small hardware dealer,  join an association of hardware dealers with direct contacts in Washington. Do not go unaware and unrepresented if you want to survive. 




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