Jukebox Production in Denmark

The history of  'modern' jukebox production in Denmark started in 1945, shortly after the German occupation during World War II had come to an end. The very early years were difficult, and two modern style American jukeboxes imported only a few months before the occupation forces came on the 9th April, 1940, had a certain importance in connection with the first Danish productions in the area of Copenhagen. The two American coin-op phonographs in question, either model 712 or model 612 designed by Paul M. Fuller and manufactured by The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company in North Tonawanda, were imported to Esbjerg, Jutland, by Leo Dragomir Jensen, the owner of Esbjerg Automat Fabrik, who had a brother living in New York.

Now, looking back at the period of the forties and fifties, it is obvious that many local artists and musicians had advantages derived from music boxes. As an example one particular artist in Copenhagen sold more than 100,000 records for jukeboxes in the period from 1954 until 1956. If the Danish market is compared to the American market around 1954 the following figures might be correct: In America about 500,000 jukeboxes were operated, which meant an estimated market for about 64 million records annually, and at the same time only about 1,000 jukeboxes were operated in Denmark, and that would bring about a market for some 120,000 records per year. In connection with those figures it is also important to mention that the Danish organisation of music box manufacturers and operators, Foreningen af Fabrikanter og Opstillere af Musikautomater i Danmark, had an agreement with the organisation of composers named KODA (abbreviation of KOmponister i DAnmark founded in 1926), that no music boxes (juke-boxes) were allowed in bars, dance parlors, or restaurants, where musicians normally played live in the evenings. The agreement had a certain effect and many musicians still had the chance to find jobs. Very few jukebox operators defied the agreement, and if it happened it was only those operators, who did not have a production of their own. The organisation of jukebox manufacturers and operators (F.F.O.M.D.), founded in the autumn 1953, was active as an organization for only a few years until the members joined the new and more powerful trade association, Dansk Automat Brancheforening (D.A.B.), founded on the 23rd November, 1957 (same birthday as that of the coin-op phonograph concept). The new organisation also included manufacturers and operators of amusement and vending machines.

As mentioned previously two American jukeboxes were the first electrically amplified 'modern' music boxes in Denmark. However, the editor of this site does not consider the early coin operated automatic phonographs, but it is important to remember that the first officially known nickel-in-the-slot machine (an electric Edison Class M Phonograph with coin slot attachment) was presented to the press in Copenhagen on the 9th February, 1894, only about four years after the first coin-op phonograph was demonstrated in the States.

A major slot-machine operator in Tivoli in Copenhagen, Hans Lauritz Magdalus Ziirsen, and his foreman, Valdemar Mathiasen, started a small production of music boxes, which looked somewhat like the 12-selection Wurlitzers in design. The production of a total of ten red lacquered 16-selection music boxes, officially named Musik-Automat, took place during the winter months of 1946 and 1947 at a factory named Maskinfabrikken Rapid. The wonderful red lacquered 16-selection music boxes were all operated by a small company owned by Ziirsen in the centre of Copenhagen, but unfortunately no surviving Musik-Automat jukeboxes have been found as far as the editor knows today.

However, Ziirsen was not the first to get the idea of producing music boxes locally. An engineer, Edvard Agner Køj Petersen, had become aware of music boxes a few years before. It might well have been a short sequence in a film during the war that gave him the idea, and late in the evenings he made the drawings for a cabinet and a complete 40-selection mechanism for a jukebox later to be called Lytrofon Musikautomat. The machine could, however, not be produced until after 1947/48 due to the lack of tools and the rationing of various material as a consequence of the war. The last of the three known Lytrofon music box designs called Bluebird was produced around 1956. The total number of Lytrofon-boxes produced is unknown, and only very few have been preserved by collectors.

Most productions in Denmark took place in the area of Copenhagen, and another engineer, Tage Engbæk, who became quite important to the early Danish jukebox history, made a music box called Atofon in the latter half of the forties. The 12-selection Atofon with a copy of an imported D. T. N. Williamson amplifier was made for the slot-machine operator Knud Petersen, who was related to the engineer Edvard Agner Køj Petersen mentioned before. The total number of Atofon-boxes made is unknown today, but fortunately a few have been preserved by collectors.

After the development of Atofon, which was very typical maybe even American in design of the era, Tage Engbæk tried to develop a very unique mechanism driven by hydraulic pressure. It was no immediate success, and Tage Engbæk waited a few years before he tried again. Then he managed in cooperation with engineer Niels Overgaard to develop a stable hydraulic mechanism, which has never been seen before or after in the history of jukeboxes. Both Tage Engbæk and Niels Overgaard, who for years had been working in a firm owned by Kai Ginge Nielsen, were experts in the use of hydraulic pressure. The 48-selection Superno Automat-Grammofon with an amplifier built by Johannes Jacobsen was made in the very early fifties in the small town Kirke-Værløse outside Copenhagen, and it was certainly unique in both design and mode of operation. About thirty machines were made and operated locally, but today none of the machines have been preserved. The company Superno A/S later changed its name to Ginge Brand & Elektronik A/S, and the company had no further connection with the jukebox trade.

This story has of course to deal with the most important of the Danish jukebox productions. The Jensen Music Box produced by the company Jensen & Hoffmann A/S in Copenhagen is well-known today by collectors all over the world. The production was initiated a few years after the war, when the engineer Edwin Karl Jensen got in touch again with engineer Jørgen Mølkier and other people that he had known in the thirties. They had all been interested in audio equipment for many years. Who would have believed then in the late forties, that the production in Copenhagen would turn out to be the largest of its kind in Europe less than ten years later, and that music machines with the name Jensen Music Box would be exported worldwide, at least to more than thirty countries.

The first model A from Jensen & Hoffmann A/S, which was a hide-away model, was only produced as a prototype in a number of two or three. One of them is preserved today by a collector in Sweden. The next models J-20-B and -C were nicknamed Linie 4 due to red and green lights on the front. The combination of red and green lights was used on tramcars on line 4 in Copenhagen. The design and the mechanism of model J-20 with red/clear perspex top was made in 1949 by Jørgen Mølkier, who became a very able production manager of the company, and about hundred machines were made during the next two years. Jørgen Mølkier had in the late forties an imported Mills Throne-of-Music to operate, and he became quite familiar with the function of American jukeboxes. It was easy for the Linie 4-models to compete on the local market due to the 20 selections. Only the Lytrofon-models had more, and the Jensen music boxes became rather popular. The J-20-B and -C-models also became the basis of a jukebox production in Esbjerg on the west coast of Jutland, unintentionally of course. The production started, when Richart Egholm and Erik Bøgh Mathiasen (1928-1975) had a kind of lease on Jensen music boxes in 1950/51. The Bøgh & Egholm production in Esbjerg was small in number but interesting. The first 32-selection BE-1 jukebox was to some extent made of components from Jensen Music System, and the prototype was operated in a bar in the centre of Esbjerg. The second coin-op phonograph type with only 20 selections called the BE-2 jukebox was not only a special but indeed also a quite nicely designed music machine. The cabinet was made of dark veneer (Brazilian rosewood), and according to a reliable source the cabinet was designed by the noted architect Arne Jacobsen (1902-1971), who was also at the time, as far as the editor knows, connected if only a little to the well-known Bang & Olufsen audio equipment factory in Struer, Jutland. A prototype of a very fine BE-3 jukebox was also made, but never produced in serial. The BE-2 jukeboxes were the only Danish music machines at the time, that could be converted without the use of tools to play either 33, 45, or 78rpm records. The other Danish music boxes normally played 78rpm records only until around 1954/55. The Bøgh & Egholm company in Esbjerg was in fact also the only one in Denmark to use the term or product name Juke-Box on the machines. The other manufacturers used terms like Musik-Automat, Automat-Grammofon, Music Box, or Grammofon-Automat. A few of the nice BE-2 jukeboxes from Bøgh & Egholm in Esbjerg have survived until this day in private collections.

The Jensen company, better known today as IMA/AMI, which indeed was the most important manufacturer during the Danish jukebox era, made the following full size jukeboxes from 1951 until the end of 1955: J-40-A, J-40-B, J-80, and the rather impressive J-120 Music Box.

Especially the Jensen IMA/AMI J-120 Music Box was a very nice machine with corner plastics and rotating colour cylinders. All the Jensen models from 1951 until 1955 had cabinets of zebrano veneer, and the mechanisms did look very much like the AMI 'model 500 record changer', They were all produced at the same time, but the total number of machines produced at the factory is unknown today as the serial number registrations were destroyed in the late sixties.

The illuminated Jensen IMA/AMI J-120 Music Box and Lytrofon Bluebird produced during the same period (1955/56) were the aces among Danish jukeboxes. Both of them had cabinets of zebrano veneer, corner plastics, and rotating colour cylinders, and they brought with them a very cosy atmosphere in the local bars and restaurants.

Later in the fifties Jensen Music Automates A/S, which was the official name of the company during the heydays, the period between 1954 and 1958, produced the following models: J-40-G, J-80-G, and J-80-H. They all had a certain resemblance to the American G- and H-models from Automatic Musical Instruments Inc. (AMI). The managers of the two companies in question, Edwin Karl Jensen and John W. Haddock, had signed a kind of license agreement in the year 1954. AMI was together with Seeburg, Rock-Ola, and of course Wurlitzer called the 'big four' among jukebox manufacturers worldwide. Jensen Music Automates A/S could then very well be called the 'big one' on the European market for a short period in the mid fifties.

John W. Haddock had at a trade fair in Antwerp in Belgium in 1952/53 become aware of the fact, that the Danish firm made jukebox mechanisms similar to the 'model 500 record changer', but he believed that a lawsuit might not be profitable (the mechanism by AMI was based on two patents originally filed in 1946, but both patents were not internationally accepted until April 1953 and January 1954). That was, however, believed to be only one good reason for the license agreement signed by Haddock and Jensen. Another reason why John W. Haddock and AMI wanted an agreement with the Danish company was most probably that a very fine amplifier, type U-58, had been developed by Jørgen Mølkier for the J-20 and early J-40-models. The amplifier gave the Jensen music boxes a remarkably good sound, and the license agreement would be an advantage for both companies. In 1958 the production of jukeboxes came to an end, and the Jensen company changed its name to Jensen Music & Television A/S. The last four years until 1962/63 the company produced television sets mainly for the domestic market, but heavy losses on a few big customers forced the firm into liquidation at the end of the year 1962. As mentioned before the total number of jukeboxes from the Jensen company is unknown today due to the unfortunate fact, that all factory registrations were lost in the late sixties.

Next to the manufacturers Bøgh & Egholm, Superno, Lytrofon, and of course the Jensen company, there were a few other minor productions around during the fifties. Some of them made Danish cabinets for imported mechanisms, and among those productions in the area of Copenhagen were music boxes made by Svend Jarlstrøm, who imported mechanisms through foreign amusement park connections. Another manufacturer was Bent Hansen, who made boxes for the local operator Sigv. Hufeldt.

Bent Hansen, who was indeed a very good furniture maker, made the boxes called Luna-Box in the basement under a restaurant owned by Sigv. Hufeldt. The number of boxes produced is unknown today, but they were according to reliable information to be found in Copenhagen in the early years of the sixties. The boxes made by the company owned by Svend Jarlstrøm are also reasonably unknown today. The editor does know, however, that the firm was registered for many years within the slot-machine and jukebox trade.

In this line of minor productions the editor has to mention the Derby production near Aarhus, Jutland. The company wanted to make a total of thirty jukeboxes with the Derby-emblem on the front, but only one prototype was made and used in the canteen at the factory itself. The promoter of the production was Willy Johannsen, who was a well-known owner of restaurants and manufacturer of mopeds in the fifties and sixties. In addition, he also produced television sets, and people at that particular factory unit a little north of the city Aarhus developed and designed the prototype Derby-jukebox in 1956. Unfortunately the box is no longer around, but a few retired employees still remember the box in the corner of the canteen.

Finally, in the year 1960 towards the end of the era of Danish music boxes another small production of cabinets took place in Copenhagen. The manufacturer was the company Nordisk Automat Service A/S, which made cabinets only for model 1475 on license from Rock-Ola in America. The company imported the original Rock-Ola 200-selection mechanisms from Nova Apparate GmbH in Hamburg, Germany, with approval of David C. Rock-Ola. A total of forty cabinets were made, and today some of the 1475s are still around in Scandinavia with original Danish N.A.S. identification plates. The firm also made a number of hide-away units with the same 200-selection mechanism using original Rock-Ola 1555 remote controls. The firm N.A.S. was, however, taken over in 1964 by a sister company to Jensen Music Automates A/S named Dansk Automat Grammofon A/S, and a few years later the company was liquidated. The firm Dansk Automat Grammofon A/S, founded in 1954, had been taking care of the domestic distribution of Jensen music boxes, whereas the export of boxes during the most active years had been taken care of by another well-known company in Copenhagen called Oscar Siesbye A/S. Indeed a company with very good connections worldwide through imports of coffee. Both company names related to the distribution of Jensen music boxes are still to be found today, but the Siesbye family is no longer connected to the music box trade.

Unfortunately, most pioneers related to the jukebox era in Denmark are no longer with us in the late nineties, and therefore much information of importance has been lost. Jørgen Mølkier, who had been production manager of Jensen Music Automates A/S in the fifties, passed away on the 26th December, 1997, and John W. Haddock, former president of AMI Inc., passed away only a few months later on the 28th March, 1998. He had retired from the jukebox business back in 1961, but until he died 93 years of age he was still an active man in the San Diego area in California.

The Danish jukebox history is interesting, but of course only a part of the European history dealing with hundreds of manufacturers. They were all in the fifties and sixties and certainly since then important to the European cultural heritage, and today books and trade newsletters deal worldwide with both the American and the European history in order to preserve information for future generations. Unfortunately, one of the leading historians, Richard M. Bueschel, passed away on the 19th April, 1998, and left behind an unpublished 343 page manuscript entitled "Let the Other Guy Play It!". It is the hope of the editor that Dick's daughter(s) and a publishing company in the States will finish Dick Bueschel's fantastic work.

Gert J. Almind