Jukebox History 1914-1933

In the second era of the phonograph history following the first 25 years, in which both the electric and spring-driven coin-op phonographs had been made more reliable, the big multi-selection machines took over most of the market in the States. In Europe, however, most of the acoustic phonograph productions were at a standstill due to World War I. In the States the very nice Hexaphones, Style 101 through Style 104, made by the Regina Music Box Company, were produced from 1909 until 1921 in a number of at least 6,000 units. Many moving companies and delivery trucks were needed to transport these early phonographs across the country. The 6-selection Regina models were very popular and competitive against the Cailophone models made by the Caille Brothers Co. in Detroit, and the Mills Automatic Phonographs made by the Mills Novelty Co. in Chicago. The Mills company was founded in 1891 as the M.B.M. Cigar Vending Machine Co. by Mortimer Birdsul Mills (born in 1845 in Ontario, Canada), and the company name changed in 1897/98 when the controlling share was transferred to his son Herbert Stephen Mills. Both phonograph types, the Cailophone and the Mills Automatic Phonograph, had very typical oak wood cabinet designs of the era, but both were non-selective. The bigger selective type, the Gabel's Entertainer multi-selection phonographs, patented and made by the John Gabel owned company (Gabel's Entertainer Co., 210 North Ann Street, Chicago, previously known as The Automatic Machine & Tool Co.) came out in most of the big cities, and they had a good reputation for reliability although they were extremely complicated machines. Most of John Gabel's phonographs were in fact distributed nationwide by a section of The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company headed by Howard Eugene Wurlitzer. John Gabel had four patents granted during the acoustic era of the automatic phonographs including the classic one for the original Automatic Entertainer of 1905/06 with exposed 40 inch horn on top, and his firm even used the name Gabelola as a trademark for a non-select home unit around 1917-1918. After the 1909-1928 era of the enclosed horn models (exposed brass horns were considered to be old-fashioned), John Gabel had another patent granted for the mechanism of the new 'modern' 12-selection Entertainer of 1934 with cabinet design by Theodore E. Samuelson. John Gabel died in December, 1955, at the age of 83 (born in 1872 in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy), and it is estimated today that a total of about 7,300 Entertainer models (300 exposed horn models and 7,000 enclosed horn models) left the factory in the pre-modern period 1905-1928.

One or two of the other manufacturers of the era between 1914 and the early twenties deserve to be mentioned here. The engineer John L. Vaughn of San Francisco had a few designs assigned to the well-known slot-machine inventor and manufacturer Charles A. Fey. The 20-selection Fey machines were actually produced in series and operated on the West Coast until the mid twenties, and there was in fact a special San Francisco style of machines designed by Vaughn, Nelson, and Briggs & Jenkins. Later at least one of John L. Vaughn's automatic phonograph patents was assigned by mesne assignments to The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company (filed for patent in April, 1929, and used on license by the Bussoz Frères company in Paris, France, for a line of Phonolux jukeboxes late in the thirties). Around 1916 Cyrus C. Shigley started the production of the Kalamazoo Electric Coin-op Phonograph (named after the city). Cyrus C. Shigley had before that, and after he had started out in Hart, Michigan, been involved in the production of the ornate Multiphone selective phonograph designed by William H. Pritchard. The new six feet tall square cabinet Kalamazoo still had the 24-selection cylinder playing ferris wheel mechanism (four-minute Blue Amberols). The Kalamazoo was produced for two years until late in 1918, and in this connection it can be mentioned that the last cylinder phonographs were produced ten years later, in 1929, when the Edison firm went out of the phonograph business. There were of course many other minor local phonograph manufacturers in the States, but most of them are rather unknown today. Only one person, the noted historian Richard M. Bueschel, have tried to shed light on all the minor productions in America, but unfortunately Dick passed away on the 19th April, 1998, and a lot of valuable information may still be in the files he left behind. Especially in the unpublished manuscript entitled "Let the Other Guy Play It!", an illustrated history of automatic music and jukeboxes written in 1996/97 (in fact, only a few pages of the last chapter 12 were missing when Dick died).

In France, after World War I had come to an end, there was a market for new phonographs with coin-op mechanisms, and one of the best and well-known machines, often referred to as the Bussophone, was introduced by the company Société des Phonographes Automatiques Bussoz Frères & de Vère in Paris. The full patent for the machine, the Phonographe perfectionné à magazin, was applied for on the 8th April, 1921, and finally granted on the 22nd December, 1921. Before that Cyril de Vère filed four patents of his own. The last of them in fact granted on the 6th April, 1921, and when he came into the company owned by the Bussoz brothers, Michel and Pierre Joseph Bussoz, the four patents could be incorporated in the complete Bussophone patent. The Bussoz Frères company in Paris had been a manufacturer of slot-machines for many years and some of their finest wall-mounted slot- and arcade-machines were made in the period from 1915 until 1920. The 20-selection mechanism for the Bussophone was a very nice construction, and it is known today that some of these phonographs have survived in museums and collections. Only recently, in the summer of 1998, one of them was taken over by the noted Gauselmann Collection in Germany together with one of the rare Phonolux models. Another extremely nice acoustic multi-selection phonograph of European origin was produced in Italy. The 16-selection Fonografo Giacardi Automatico was made and patented by Enea Flavio Giacardi in Milan. The Italian patent was granted on the 5th June, 1922, and later Giacardi also registered the patent in England. That particular patent much later formed the basis of a wonderful Silver Age jukebox in the States, namely the last Ristaucrat built by the Atlas Manufacturing Company in Wisconsin (1956/57). A very nice machine made in a limited number of 50 especially for the European market. Ristaucrat was another interesting name at the beginning of the thirties.

The acoustic era finally came to an end in 1925/26 with the introduction of electrically recorded 78rpm records. H. C. Harrison of the Western Electric Company (the manufacturing subsidiary of the American Telephone & Telegraph Co.) had a patent granted for electrical recording in May, 1924, but the first commercial electrical recording session took place in February, 1925. After that, the first real electrical recording was released on the market in April same year. Electrical amplification of the sound was of course important to the manufacturers of phonographs because many of the different amplification methods used during the acoustic era were very expensive and after all not too successful on location. One of the rare automatic phonographs of the intermediate phase between the acoustic era and the electric era was known as the Daily Automatic Phonograph constructed and patented by William H. Daily in Chicago in the mid twenties. The Daily phonograph, having a square three-window cabinet and four turntables and a tone arm from the center, was short lived like many other constructions due to the fact, that only four successive plays were not enough for the patrons.

The era of the modern electrically amplified phonographs, often described as pieces of Americana, really started after 1926/27, when the Electramuse based on an original patent by James E. Stout was introduced by the Holcomb & Hoke Manufacturing Company in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Electramuse had a square cabinet with front window and the cabinet was design patented in 1927 by Frank J. Hoke. According to the unpublished story "Two Heads Are Better" written by Frank J. Hoke in 1958, the company lost more than half a million dollars during the four years it was active in the automatic phonograph business. That is quite an interesting and honest statement from a pioneer in the business. Frank J. Hoke also states in the story that there was only one thing wrong with the machine: It was not selective, but the 1926/27 Electramuse was in fact the first ‘light up’ coin-op music machine with back lit artistic panel at the top (the Concert Grand model even had animation in that panel)! The Electramuse later came out in a very nice cabinet called the The Auditorium Model for use mainly in clubs and hotels. About the same time, early in 1927, another nice coin-op phonograph, the National Automatic Selective Phonograph, was introduced by the Automatic Musical Instrument Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The company was known then for its main product, a special 8-selection coin-operated piano that looked like a normal upright piano, but had no keyboard installed in the usual place. The cabinet housed an 8-roll changer including a selective mechanism with 8 coin slots that played National coin-piano rolls (according to recent information from the historian Arthur A. Reblitz the National rolls had their own musical layout). The company was in fact since 1910, although founded in 1909, until late1925 two separate companies. The manufacturing section was known as National Piano Manufacturing Company and the operating section was known as National Automatic Music Company. Both companies moved to 1500 Union Avenue (a former horse-drawn hearse plant) in 1922, and finally merged into Automatic Musical Instrument Company (AMI) on the 9th November, 1925. As a result of that it is often mentioned in history books, that AMI introduced the first coin-operated, electrically amplified, 20-selection phonograph with a mechanical ten-record system that played on both sides. The record changing mechanism, the pick-up arm, and the coin chute for the National Automatic Selective Phonograph were based on inventions by Bertram C. Kenyon and Wilmur W. Boa, Harry A. Yeider, and finally Clifford H. Green, all patents acquired by AMI (filed in 1925 and in July, 1927), and the modern jukebox was born.

Another line of automatic phonographs that had a kind of relation to the Electramuse would of course be the Capehart Orchestrope models 28G, 28GB, and 28F with 18, 24, or 28 records, respectively, played in chronological order without choice. The first of the series of Capehart Orchestrope models styled by the furniture designer David L. Evans was released in the spring 1928 by the Capehart Automatic Phonograph Corporation in Huntington, Indiana. The company was founded by a former Holcomb & Hoke salesman, Homer Earl Capehart (1897-1979), who lived at 709 Packard Avenue in Fort Wayne (named after the Packard Piano & Organ Company founded in 1872). The name Packard would certainly be known in the jukebox industry about two decades later, in the late forties. On balance one might say, that the Orchestrope built on the basis of patents by Frank J. Seabolt was superior to the Electramuse. Not only was it the first apparatus to play both sides of its capacity of up to 28 records (56 selections), but it could also be supplied with remote control units (wall-boxes) for use in restaurants. That feature was indeed far-sighted, although it was not a new idea. In 1916 James W. Bryce assigned a patent concerning a remote control for phonographs to The Aeolian Company, but without a coin rejector. The Capehart models, both the Orchestrope and the Amperion, were marketed by the use of the following phrase: You are listening to The Capehart Orchestrope, faithfully recreating the world's finest music for your entertainment. Important men in the Capehart firm were Edward E. Collison (former employee at Holcomb & Hoke) and Ernest Degenhart, who had several patents granted and assigned to The Capehart Corporation. About the same time came also Paul U. Lannerd and Thomas W. Small into the firm with several important phonograph mechanism patents. Thomas W. Small initially invented the record turner-changer and sold the invention to Homer Earl Capehart. A new style turner-changer was invented by Ralph R. Erbe, who had been working for the Columbia Graphophone Company, and also that one was bought and used by the Capehart firm. The Capehart Corporation even produced a line of table-top phonographs around 1930/31. The Capehart Model 1 through Model 4 were design patented by Arvid Dahlstrom, a Swedish immigrant, who had three designs, each with a special mechanism, filed for patent in 1929, 1930, and 1931. It is interesting, however, that the mechanism actually used in the table-top Capehart phonographs was constructed and patented by Edward E. Collison and Paul U. Lannerd (filed for patent in November, 1930, and granted in 1933). Also, it is interesting to note that one-third of the rights to the first two patents filed by Arvid Dahlstrom was assigned to Justus P. Seeburg before the patents were granted in 1933/34, and in this connection it is also important to mention that the 8-selection two-layer mechanism developed by Arvid Dahlstrom (1930) was used in the Seeburg Audiophone E made in 1930/31. The noted pioneer in the business, Homer Earl Capehart, finally left The Capehart Corporation in 1932 after some disagreements with the other directors and investors, and started to work as head of the sales department at The Rudolph Wurlitzer Manufacturing Company in June 1933.

Around 1928 several other companies released automatic phonographs, jukeboxes, and among them was the J. P. Seeburg Piano Company, 1510 Dayton Street, Chicago, headed by the founder, Justus Percival Seeburg (1871-1958), and his only son Noel Marshall Seeburg (1897-1972). The J. P. Seeburg Piano Company had in 1927, when the management heard news about the Electramuse model, tried to introduce a Melatone phonograph on the market. It was no success, and in fact all about hundred manufactured Melatone machines were recalled. However, in 1928 and 1929 the J. P. Seeburg Piano Company tried again (name changed to J. P. Seeburg Company around July, 1928), and had more success on the market with the Autophone (presented to the public at the Chicago Commodore Hotel music trade convention in June, 1928) and certainly with the following line of 8-selection Audiophone Senior and Audiophone Junior pneumatic coin-op phonographs. Showing their nickelodeon ancestry the Audiophones were equipped with electric motors that in turn operated a suction pump. The pump was used to turn the ferris wheel type mechanism for record selection. The pump also supplied suction for rubber tubing that went to pneumatic operated valves that controlled the operation of several smaller pneumatics. Those pneumatics operated various functions of the mechanism. Then, in 1930, the J. P. Seeburg Company (name changed to The J. P. Seeburg Corporation around September, 1929) presented the all mechanically operated 8-selection phonograph called the Audiophone E (mechanism developed by Arvid Dahlstrom), of which the first version looked very much like the Electramuse made before 1929 by the Holcomb & Hoke Manufacturing Company.

Another line of automatic phonographs, that was introduced on the market around 1927, were the Selectraphone, and Mechanic-Dynamic models, which to some extent looked like and certainly operated like the early Autophone and Audiophone models made by the Seeburg company. This other line of phonographs was introduced by Western Electric Piano Co., a company founded in 1924 by Axel F. Larson, Byron C. Waters, and Russell I. Wilcox. In fact it was based on the A. F. Larson Piano Co., and the founders knew each other from previous employment at the Marquette Piano Co., maker of the first and famous coin-operated Cremona 10-roll rewind piano. Also Axel F. Larson knew Justus P. Seeburg as a member of the Swedish immigrant industrialist circle, and Justus P. Seeburg bought a controlling part of the company very soon after it was founded. According to Noel Marshall Seeburg his father Justus Percival really wanted to stimulate competition among his dealers, who had exclusive territories, and he could do it that way by introducing highly competitive instruments. The fact that the J. P. Seeburg Corp. controlled Western Electric Piano Co. was kept a secret for many years. In July 1926 Western Electric Piano Co. moved the manufacturing facilities from 429 West Superior Street to 900-912 Blackhawk Street (side entrance of the Seeburg factory in Chicago) to get more space due to a real success with the 1925 Selectra 10-tune orchestrion and the new Derby model with built-in horse race (in fact a new gaming device) developed by Axel F. Larson, who was still leading executive in the company, and a good friend of Justus P. Seeburg. At the same time, in 1926, the company introduced its first (prototype) amplified selective phonograph called the Electraphone to be followed in 1927 by the known Selectraphone model housing the new 8-selection Selectra ferris wheel mechanism developed, refined, and patented by Axel F. Larson and Charlie W. Anderson (filed 1927 and granted 1932).  In fact the company also used the simple 12-record push and slide mechanism patented by Arthur W. Wilson (filed 1921 and granted 1926) for the Junior alias Mechanic-Dynamic phonograph models around 1927 to gain a foothold on the market for coin-op phonographs. These models were not selective but played the records in sequence, first all the A-sides and then all B-sides. The records were pushed from the bottom and then flipped on top of the stack. These models with Mechanic-Dynamic mechanisms were cheaper to produce, and therefore very competitive on the market against among others the Seeburg Autophone and Audiophone models. Some of the cheaper Mechanic-Dynamic models were called in for service and operated again in rural areas by new dealers for the J. P. Seeburg Corp., even after the Western Electric Piano Co. went bankrupt in 1933 due to the difficult times for the whole mechanical music instrument business after the Wallstreet Crash in 1929. The executive offices of Western Electric Piano Co. were still located at the address 429 West Superior Street for several years, probably until the company closed in 1933. According to information from the historian Arthur A. Reblitz, the amplifiers of both the early Seeburg Audiophone and the Western Electric Selectraphone had the brand name of the portable radio manufacturing company Operadio founded in 1922 by J. McWilliams Stone Sr. (known today as the Dukane Corporation). A few of the Selectraphone models and at least two Mechanic-Dynamic phonographs have been preserved today by collectors.

One of the most amazing phonographs introduced in the late twenties was without doubt the Link Autovox. It was a very interesting coin-selective machine released by the Link Piano Company Inc., 183-185 Water Street, Binghamton, New York. A wonderful description of the talking machine designed by Edwin A. Link Jr. can be found in the book "Encyclopedia of Automatic Musical Instruments" by Q. David Bowers. The book contains a transcript of an original tape recording (Arthur A. Reblitz, 6th November, 1965) of a talk between Harvey Roehl of Vestal Press, Murray Clark, Q. David Bowers, and of course Edwin A. Link Jr.. The big 10-selection Link Autovox was purely mechanical, and it had two stacks of five records each on two spindles. The spindles were divided in the middle and you could raise the spindles and slip the records in, and then later select any one of the ten by push button. Despite the fact, that there were ten turntables and ten reproducers, the Autovox was reasonable successful on the local market according to Edwin A. Link Jr.. Quite a few were made, but unfortunately the production took place just before the 1929 crash on Wall Street, and after that the Link Piano Company went out of existence. If the editor is not mistaken, all cabinets for the Link machines were built by the Haddorff Piano Company of Rockford, Illinois, and that may also have been the case with the cabinets for the short lived experiment, the Link Autovox. Today it is known, by the way, that the Autovox company in Binghamton also marketed a nice, but much smaller, coin-op phonograph around 1928, with a cabinet much like that of the 1927 Automatic Orthophonic Victrola and other typical phonographs with coin attachment of the era. The history of the Link (Autovox) production sure is interesting and deserves more research if possible in the future.

The Mills Novelty Company at Fullerton Avenue, Chicago, entered the market for coin-operated radios and multi-selection phonographs in 1928, and became a very important competitor against other manufacturers in the years to come. The brothers Frank W. Mills and Bert E. Mills (sons of Herbert Stephen Mills, 1872-1929) had a lot of patents for coin-detectors and phonograph mechanisms granted through the twenties and early thirties. The ferris wheel mechanism for the full size phonographs and the MCP Series remote controls (the models MCP-1830-CSP through MCP-1835-CSP) were filed for patent by Bert E. Mills in 1928 and 1930/31. The first non-selective, full size phonograph, the Mills Hi-Boy 800, and the following 12-selection phonographs Hi-Boy 801 and Hi-Boy 802 (with radio unit) came out in the same cabinet style in 1928 and 1929. The following models, the Mills Troubadour series covering the models 811 (one coin), 870 (three coin), and 871 with radio (three coin), were made until 1933. The last model in the Troubadour series was the less expensive 875 Compact phonograph (three coin device). The Troubadour 875 Compact was in fact introduced in 1931 when sales were slow at the height of the Great Depression. The new era after the depression started with the Everett B. Eckland styled Mills Dance Master 876 (green/silver, one coin) of 1934, introduced late in October, 1933, and the following Dance Master models 877 (black/silver, one coin), 878 (open colour, one coin), 879 (green/silver, three coin), 880 (black/silver, three coin), and finally the model 881 (open colour, three coin).

One of the minor manufacturers mentioned before, the Ristaucrat Inc. in Kaukauna, Wisconsin, came out into the open with the first Ristaucrat Console A in 1931. The same construction was also marketed as one of the very first 24-selection table models with nice butt walnut/mahogany cabinet. A little later, in 1932, RCA Victor's coin-operated Automatic Victrola CE-29 was announced in a letter to the company's dealers. The letter also stated that RCA Victor was returning to the field of coin-operated musical instruments with the model CE-29, but in fact some of the 1927 Automatic Orthophonic Victrola models had been fitted with coin attachments for commercial use by dealers and probably not by the factory itself. It must, however, be mentioned that the introduction of the model was not very successful, and Raymond Rosen & Co. in Philadelphia soon announced that the company had purchased the entire factory stock of the model CE-29 jukebox. Finally, in this line of minor manufacturers, it can be mentioned that the Deca-Disc Phonograph Company of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, produced a combination of automatic phonograph and advertising device for years. It was design patented by Paul D. Bodwell and Henry W. Bellows in the late twenties, and the patent was granted in December, 1931. The combination-model was followed by the nice Model E Coin-Op Phonograph (ten records, continuous play). The name Deca-Disc was registered as a trademark in 1922, but most of the phonograph inventory was bought by the Ristau family around 1928, and formed a basis for the coin-operated Ristaucrat phonographs of the early thirties.

The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company, established in 1856, started out in the automatic phonograph business by introducing the 10-selection Debutante in 1933, a copy of the Ampliphone made by the Mid-West Automatic Phonograph Company late in 1932. It is important to mention here that the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company had been active in the coin-op phonograph business years before (1927-1929) when the firm produced semi-automatic Victrola models with a 5 cent coin-box mounted on the side. Not many Debutante models were actually produced in 1933, and it may have been considered a trial production by the management of the mighty house of WurliTzer before it was decided to go at full steam into the business. Homer Earl Capehart was again an important man, as he introduced the Simplex mechanism to the Wurlitzer company. The Simplex was an old construction, but Russell I. Wilcox had filed an improved patent for the mechanism construction in 1931 (used in the Ampliphone) and assigned it by mesne assignments to The Rudolph Wurlitzer Manufacturing Company in 1934/35. The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company became in the era to come, the Golden Age of jukeboxes, a very important player with cabinets designed by Charles N. Deverall, Model P-12 of 1935, and by the famous Paul M. Fuller, Model 312 of 1936 plus 16 additional patented designs for classics until 1948, when he decided to leave the company. The noted industrial designer Paul M. Fuller was born on the island Corsica on the 5th January, 1897, and he died at the Millard Fillmore Hospital in Buffalo on the 29th March, 1951, only 54 years of age.

One of the major European counterparts to the American automatic phonographs of the very early thirties was produced in Belgium by the Pierre Eich piano manufacturing company. The first two versions of the Radio-Discophone came out in 1930 and 1931, and as a matter of fact the Pierre Eich company received a special prize for the phonographs at the 1931 autumn trade fair in Paris. The two machines represented an interesting type of mixed radio- and phonograph-units often used in cafés in Belgium, and they initiated the famous production of the David- and Goliath-Discophones in the late thirties. The Goliath-Discophone made by the Pierre Eich company was, if the editor is not mistaken, the largest 'modern style' jukebox ever produced.

Gert J. Almind