Pathé Frères was founded in France by two brothers, Charles and Émile Pathé. The phonograph portion of the company was established in 1894 and the cinema division was created in 1896. The Pathé brothers, former restaurateurs, used a distinctive rooster as their trademark for their "talking machine" and 'Le Coq' served as a reference to their culinary origins. In later years Le Coq would also refer to a figure in their company newsreels.
In 1898, a small phonograph cylinder factory was built at Chatou near Paris, and Pathé Frères began producing recordings on cylinders. By 1909 their recordings were produced on discs. The company released their first complete opera - Carmen - in 1910. Early in 1914 the company set up distribution centres with J.A. Hurteau and Co Ltd, Montréal, and M.W. Glendon, Toronto. Four years later the Pathé Frères Phonograph Co of Canada Ltd opened a sales office in Toronto. It was listed in city directories until 1921. By 1919 branches existed also in Paris, London, Moscow, Brussels, Milan, and New York.
The music division of the company recorded some of the earliest performances by several Canadian-born musicians. Pathé did not record in Canada but made 78s of performances by such expatriates as Emma Albani, Henry Burr (as Harry McClaskey), Craig Campbell, Kathleen Howard, Frank Oldfield, and Cora Tracey, in studios in New York and London. The Cherniavskys and Gitz Rice also recorded for Pathé. Pathé, France, was purchased in 1927 by English Columbia; English Pathé, later, by Decca. The name Pathé has survived in France on labels belonging to IME (EMI) and Pathé-Marconi.