Jukebox History 1934-1951

During the late thirties the public atmosphere in America was not quite as good as it could have been, mainly due to repercussions from the economic depression and with a possible war at hand. The jukebox was then indeed a welcomed source of entertainment and even at times a kind of demonstration of how to escape from reality. With nothing but a nickel in ones pocket, some popular music, and a little light effect, one could dream away for a brief moment in the ordinary daily life, and the jukebox could or should expect better times as a cultural phenomenon.

In the early thirties, however, the modern automatic phonograph was not yet considered a housetrained piece of machinery, and today it might be right with a popular expression to call the following period the hobbledehoy stage of the jukebox. Today we know it more correctly as the Golden Age. The latter half of the thirties was definitely a period with circumstances important for the development of the jukebox towards the hey-days of design in the years 1941/42. Circumstances like the difficult economic situation, the war that might come, the invention of new techniques, and certainly the public yearning for musical entertainment. All considered one cannot expect that a similar breathtaking era will ever be possible in the future history of the jukebox concept.

The period prior to the Golden Age gave birth indeed to a growing demand for music machines, and in the years 1934-36 there was a perceptible competition among the relatively few manufacturers to operate automatic phonographs in diners, saloons, and other small locations of entertainment. The production of jukeboxes in large numbers was no longer tantamount to a safe increase in earnings. An effective marketing with a steady release of new models became more and more important for the survival of the manufacturing companies, and the production year gradually became of great importance, when the owner of a saloon or diner should be talked into accepting a new piece of furniture.

Even though the manufacturers had consulted industrial designers during the development of new models for years it was not until 1938, when the J. P. Seeburg Corporation intensely started to put catalin-plastics into the wooden cabinets, it was understood how important the designers were for the expected success of the jukebox business. The first design patents of the golden era covering jukebox cabinets were filed in 1934 by Theodore E. Samuelson. The two design patents were both assigned to The John Gabel Manufacturing Company of Chicago, and the related models with good Webster amplifiers got the official names Gabel Entertainer, a name used by the company for many years, and Gabel Junior De Luxe Modern, a name which had not been used by the company before. After that came in 1935 important design patents by Charles Nairn Deverall, who had worked for The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company since the early twenties, and John William Wilson, who was working for The John Gabel Manufacturing Company. The design by Charles Nairn Deverall got the official name Wurlitzer P-12. John William Wilson, however, assigned a series of three designs to The John Gabel Manufacturing Company, and the 24-selection models are known today as the Gabel Aristocrat, the Cardinal, and the Commander (late 1935 through 1936). The Gabel company, by the way, used some very special yellow light bulbs in the mid thirties with the text Music by Gabel inside to attract the patrons. Those big Gabel light bulbs used in for example the model Junior Elite might be considered a kind of forerunners of the illuminated pilastres introduced in late 1936. The first modern jukebox with illuminated plastics (after the Electramuse of 1926/27 with back lit panel at the top), the Gabel Starlite of 1936, was as far as it is known today not design patented, but it was probably designed by a team at the factory, unlike the last and special Art Deco model Gabel Kuro designed by Clifford Brooks Stevens in 1940. The name of the model was an amalgam of the names of John Gabel's two sons Kurt and Robert. Clifford Brooks Stevens, by the way, also designed the Gabel Twilight model for 1938. The John Gabel Manufacturing Company was finally bought by David C. Rockola in 1949.

The year after Charles Nairn Deverall assigned the design patent for the Wurlitzer P-12 with illuminated dial to the manufacturer, the noted designer Paul M. Fuller was employed by The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company as a kind of design consultant. Paul M. Fuller is today considered to be the most important designer in the history of jukeboxes, and it seems that the combination of the two energetic, cigar-smoking gentlemen of the same age (both born in 1897), sales manager Homer Earl Capehart and designer Paul M. Fuller, kept the Wurlitzer company alive as a producer of coin-op pre-recorded music machines after the coin-operated organ and piano business died out as one of the consequences of the Depression 1929-1934. The employment of Paul M. Fuller in fact gave the company a leading position on the market during the early years of the forties, the hey-days, and one might state for sure that the team led by Paul M. Fuller made a line of jukeboxes superior to those of the competitors.

The automatic phonographs had suddenly become a real financial success for several companies like The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company, the J. P. Seeburg Corporation, the Rock-Ola Manufacturing Corporation (David C. Rockola delivered one of the new 12-selection phonographs to the decks of the luxury liner Queen Mary on her maiden voyage from New York in 1936), and the Automatic Musical Instrument Company, also called AMI. The big four mentioned here were of course not the only ones to produce classic designs. A relatively large number of design patents is today proof of the presence of many hard-working industrial designers.

As mentioned previously the J. P. Seeburg Corporation used catalin-plastics in the music machines around 1938. Two industrial designers were connected to the company, and they worked hard to create successful designs. One of them, Henry T. Roberts, also designed radios, and the other, Nels A. Miller, became a noted designer after the war with the rather special Trash Can models. The official names were of course Seeburg Symphonola P-146, P-147, and P-148. Using the word catalin, 'the gem of plastics', it is important to mention that the product name was a registered trademark of the Catalin Corporation in New York.

In connection with the designer names it is interesting also to observe that David C. Rockola, the president of the Rock-Ola Manufacturing Corporation, assigned all design patents to the company. No other top manager in  the early forties was a designer, as far as the editor knows. One of the other important industrial designers was the engineer Lloyd J. Andres, who worked near the top of AMI together with engineer Clifford H. Green. The two engineers had been authorized by the management to develop a new line of improved coin-op phonographs after the depression. Lloyd J. Andres has not previously been mentioned, as he deserves, in the literature about jukebox history. His first patented full size jukebox design of 1937 got the official name AMI Top Flight, but he had prior to that designed the casing for a special remote control selector in 1936. Later he also designed most of the interesting AMI Singing Tower models in the early forties. However, it ought to be mentioned that Henry T. Roberts, who normally worked for the J. P. Seeburg Corporation, assigned one remarkable Singing Tower design patent to the Automatic Musical Instrument Company (Lloyd J. Andres) in 1941. The talents of industrial designers became an important asset of the big jukebox manufacturers in Chicago, Grand Rapids, and North Tonawanda.

The J. P. Seeburg Corporation seriously introduced transparent plastics in the cabinets in 1938, as mentioned before, and also other new design effects like for example the use of nickel-plated castings had a certain influence on the marketing possibilities. The nickel-plated parts of the models from The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company, especially of the models Wurlitzer 500, 600 and the counter-top model 61, and the introduction of colour cylinders in model 500, made the Wurlitzer jukeboxes very popular. Now it was not only a matter of an illuminated jukebox, but the idea of changing colours had come to stay. The other big manufacturing companies had to find new ways in order to compete, and as an example the Rock-Ola Manufacturing Corporation used big areas of catalin-plastics in the models Rock-Ola Standard 20 and Deluxe 20 of 1939, and the year after in all models Rock-Ola Master 20 and Super 20 Luxury Lightup. Another competitor, the Mills Novelty Company of Chicago, produced the nice Lawrence B. Burnham styled Throne of Music and Everett B. Eckland styled Empress full-size jukeboxes in 1939-1941 with big cabinet areas of transparent plastics (different colour combinations were available). According to the manager Arthur V. Cooley, Everett B. Eckland also designed the previous Do-Re-Mi, Swing King, Studio, and Zephyr models of 1936-1938, but unfortunately none of the designs were filed for patent. The special Art Deco design of the Empress model makes it in great demand among collectors today, and talking about Art Deco design of those years one cannot forget the AMI Streamliner designed by Lloyd J. Andres and produced by the Automatic Musical Instruments Company. Lloyd J. Andres had several Streamliner designs patented, but they were never manufactured. They were together with many other remarkable designs published for the first time in the editor's book entitled "Golden Age Juke-Box Design 1934-1951".

The special version of jukeboxes to be used in small locations, often called counter-top or miniature jukeboxes, was a well-known type around 1938/39, and the leading manufacturer, The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company, marketed until 1941/42 the nice models Wurlitzer 41, 51, 61, 71, and 81. The Rock-Ola Manufacturing Corporation had to compete with them only the model Rock-Ola CM-39 of 1939 and later in 1941 the model Rock-Ola 1409, also called JR-12. There were a few others of the same type on the market, but as a phenomenon they had no chance to compete with the hide-away units connected to remote controls, which were introduced for real in 1939 by the Automatic Musical Instruments Company in the form of Mighty Midget units, and in the form of Wall-O-Matic and Bar-O-Matic remote controls produced by the J. P. Seeburg Corporation. The small counter-top jukeboxes could not survive the hey-days of design and the competition during the years 1940-42, but the hide-away units did survive because they could be used in very small locations in the big cities. The impressive AMI Singing Tower models also survived during the war, operated by an affiliation of AMI, Singing Towers Inc. in Chicago, until the Automatic Musical Instruments Company of Grand Rapids introduced the AMI Model A, also called Mother of Plastic. The AMI Model A was designed by the industrial designer Jean Otis Reinecke, who assigned the design patent to the company in 1946.

In the year 1940 the hey-days of design really started with the full-size models Wurlitzer 700 and 800, and the counter-top model Wurlitzer 41 made by the company in North Tonawanda. The Victory line model 41 was the first jukebox with plastic pilastres in all four corners. Especially the big model 800 with three coloured pilastres, catalin-plastics, extensive use of nickel-plated parts, and for the first time the use of bubble tubes, was simply all one could expect from a classic jukebox in those days. The bubble tubes, which were delivered by Biolite Incorporated in New York, contained methylene chloride (CH2Cl2), which was animated in a glass tube by heating to a low boiling-point. In connection with the contact between Biolite Incorporated and Paul M. Fuller at The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company another name turn up that has much too often been neglected. The name is Edward Merle Colegrove, who initially brought about the contact between the two companies. He had at a meeting with Paul M. Fuller in the autumn 1938 presented a champaign sign with bubble effect, and Paul M. Fuller mentioned that he would like to try to transfer the effect to the cabinets in the next line of jukeboxes. Development and testing took some time, but the bubble tubes were in the years after used frequently by the Paul M. Fuller team as an eye appealing effect. The fact that tubes at a value of not less than $25,000 were used during the first year of the cooperation from autumn 1939 until autumn 1940/spring 1941 shows great success, and Edward Merle Colegrove was if any the reason that The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company could use a term like 'the winner in play appeal' in sales leaflets for the new Wurlitzer 800. The model 800 was also the first mass produced full-size jukebox to have a rounded top, a detail that turned out to be of comfort to the sales team for several years. A special flame-like effect in the pilastres of the Wurlitzer 800 was made by using zebra striped plastics in front of the colour cylinders.

At the J. P. Seeburg Corporation, the designers choose not to use extreme visual effects, but some unique automatic phonographs were manufactured in 1940. The Square Top series, namely Seeburg Cadet, Commander, and Concert Master (nicknamed Faces) with matching Seeburg Top Spot speaker unit, was indeed something special, but unfortunately that series with Rainbo-Glo illumination was not design patented. However, it is possible that Nels A. Miller was responsible for the Square Top series. The year before Henry T. Roberts designed and patented nearly all models with Marbl-Glo illumination for the company, but there are so distinct differences in details, that it seems correct to assume that Nels A. Miller designed the model line of 1940. Henry T. Roberts also design patented the following Hitone Symphonola series of 1941/42 equipped with the new sliding-tray mechanism invented by Carl Freborg. The sales department at Seeburg dubbed this model their Minute Man model to promote the sale of defence bonds. After the Hitone series the production was stopped for a short period until after the war, when the new and interesting Trash Can models were design patented by Nels A. Miller, as mentioned before.

The model line of the years 1941/42 from the Rock-Ola Manufacturing Corporation shows some of the most remarkable cabinets of the Golden Age, the ToneColumn series, which in fact represented big combined remote control and speaker units. The today well-known representative of the series was Rock-Ola Spectravox 1801/1802 with a dial instead of push buttons. All ToneColumn models with selector unit could be used in connection with the newly introduced Playmaster hide-away mechanism. During the war year 1942 before the factory production stopped the models Rock-Ola Commando, Premier 1413 and President 1414 with top speaker unit made by the American Jensen company, were made in limited numbers. They were a natural continuation of the ToneColumn principle, but they now had a complete mechanism and amplifier in the lower part of the cabinet. The Rock-Ola Commando was the basic model built in two variations, the common one using glass panels and the other using catalin-plastics, and the Premier 1413 and President 1414 were only made in very limited numbers. Caused by war restrictions the limited series had glass pilastres, and maybe due to the size and the fact that they did not look like ordinary jukeboxes with push buttons they were never considered a real success among operators. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note from the indication of the design patents, sound reproducing apparatus, that they were not meant for built-in mechanisms in the first place. The following production obviously went in another direction, and it is also confusing that David C. Rockola a few years later used the same indication sound reproducing apparatus for two design patents for the Rock-Ola 1420 series.

In 1941 there were at least five totally unknown design patents by David C. Rockola for ToneColumn auxiliary speakers without selector units, but they were most probably never produced. The Rock-Ola Manufacturing Corporation had after that, like the other big companies in the business, a period of three or four years where no new models were produced.

Considering the line of jukeboxes from The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company made during the years before the war stop between 1943 and 1945 one can easily get the impression that nothing could stop the Paul M. Fuller team from making nice play appealing models. The team was in fact way ahead of the other designer teams in the business, and it is surprising that Paul M. Fuller never design patented the Victory line models: the Wurlitzer 750, the Wurlitzer 780 also called Wagon Wheel, the Wurlitzer 850 generally known as the Peacock, and finally the Wurlitzer 950 of 1942 often referred to as Pipes of Pan, which was the last in direct series. The company celebrated the National Wurlitzer Days, the 5th and 6th January, 1941, by introducing the Victory line of three console and two counter-top models (750, 780, 850, 41, and 81). However, the war took longer than expected and the model 950 was not referred to as part of the Victory line. It is interesting that the previous models Wurlitzer 700 and 800 of 1940 were not design patented, and also that the same can be said about the successive model in colonial style officially named Victory by the company. It may therefore be reasonable to assume that the models made in those few years in the early forties at The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company were designed by the team at the factory and not by one particular person (Paul M. Fuller did not want to take all the credit), although it is stated once by general sales manager Milton G. Hammergren in "The Billboard" magazine that the Victory line was designed by Paul M. Fuller.

A new detail in the design of the Wurlitzer 850 was that it had illuminated push buttons that turned dark when selection had been made. The feature in question was not quite easy to combine with another operational detail, namely the electric selection mechanism. In the earlier years of mechanical selection the customers could see which records had been selected, and therefore they avoided selecting the same record again. With the new electric selection mechanism the same record could be selected several times, but normally only played once. In short, the new electric selector gave the operator(s) an opportunity to earn more due to the motto that the customer would be satisfied if only he heard the tune he had paid for. The Wurlitzer 750 was the first jukebox from the company with an electric selection mechanism. The last model in the series, the Wurlitzer 950 of 1942, was originally produced with glass pilastres and not as the previous models with catalin-plastics, and the use of many wooden parts in the cabinet combined with a very limited production number makes it very popular among collectors today.

As mentioned before there was a production stop among jukebox manufacturers in the years from 1943 until 1945/46 mainly due to lack of metal and other material, and a few of the factories built military equipment instead of music machines. Another reason was of course that jukeboxes were 'non-important' products officially during the armament, and thus it was necessary to wait until autumn 1945 before new design patents could see the light of day.

After the war, towards the end of the golden era, all four big companies and a few others introduced new cabinet types for automatic phonographs, and Paul M. Fuller again had several cabinet designs patented and assigned to The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company, which was still the leading firm in the business. The post-war models were produced in large numbers followed by very effective marketing, and the models in mind were of course the famous Wurlitzer 1015, the following model 1080 and finally the Wurlitzer 1100 with a well designed Encore program selector. The last of the three models was nicknamed Bullet or Bomber Nose by the public, and all three models were design patented by Paul M. Fuller in the period 1946 until 1948. With direct reference to the Wurlitzer 1015 design there was a special cabinet named Ambassador to be produced in 1948 by a small firm in Kansas City. It was not as expected designed by Paul M. Fuller, but another industrial designer Thomas A. Schwartz in Topeka was responsible for the rather nice conversion design. The Ambassador was the last of the cabinet types belonging to the Golden Age in America, and the Wurlitzer 1015 should in time be known as the one and only classic jukebox followed by the most comprehensive national advertising campaign ever. The official and now famous company logo for Wurlitzer Phonograph Music, the Sign of the Musical Note, nicknamed the Johnny-One-Note since the early forties, was so widely publicized during the campaign that it was recognized by most people of the time meaning Wurlitzer is Music. The unofficial name of the Sign of the Musical Note featuring a trumpet-playing musical note with top hat in front of a spinning record came in fact from the song "Johnny One Note" by Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers introduced by Wynn Murray in 1937 in the Broadway musical 'Babes in Arms'. A decade later, in the fifties, the logo was renewed in red colour to advertise Wurlitzer Stereophonic Music with twin trumpet-playing notes. Stereo recording, by the way, was not for real used commercially until around 1958, and it ought to be mentioned that the stereo recordings using a single 45° groove with one channel recorded on each side of the groove were based on the inventions and patents of Alan Dower Blumlein (1903-1942). Another of many inventors that have never received the credit they so richly deserve.

In the period 1946 until 1948 the Rock-Ola Manufacturing Corporation produced three cabinet types: the Rock-Ola 1422, the 1426, and finally the 1428 also named Magic-Glo, and there are in fact three design patents related to that series, all officially made by David C. Rockola. Two of them can be related directly to the models Rock-Ola 1422 and 1428, but the last of the three relates to details on both the 1422 and the 1426. In the design patents David C. Rockola refers as one of the very few to old designs for radios, vending machines, and automobile head lights etc., in which he had found details of interest. David Colin (Cullen) Rockola was indeed one of the pioneers in the business, and he died 96 years of age on the 26th January, 1993. A well written biography of David C. Rockola, who was born on the 23rd January, 1897, in Virden, Manitoba, can be found in the March, 1993, issue of the American "RePlay" magazine.

In Grand Rapids a new AMI Model B was introduced in 1948 by the Automatic Musical Instruments Company to follow the Mother of Plastic designed by Jean Otis Reinecke. The next model, the AMI Model C was made in 1949, and it is normally not considered to belong to the Golden Age of American jukeboxes. Both models were not design patented. The name of the company was officially changed to AMI Inc. in 1946, and it was finally sold to Automatic Canteen Company of America in the spring of 1959 (the first president was Clarence W. Clark of Chicago, Illinois). The Automatic Canteen Company of America, a big vending machine operating company, also owned Rowe International, a vending machine manufacturing company, and the two subsidiaries were brought together as Rowe/AMI.

The last of the four big companies, the J. P. Seeburg Corporation, produced as mentioned earlier three Trash Can models designed by Nels A. Miller in the period 1946 until 1948. Nels A. Miller and the all aluminum Symphonola P- boxes led the company to the end of the Golden Age. The era ended in fact with the well-known Mahlon W. Kenney styled Seeburg M-100-A with Select-O-Matic mechanism invented by Edward F. Andrews around 1941. The new model was introduced in 1948/49 as the first jukebox with 100 selections in 78rpm, but many of the M-100-A's were in fact converted to play 45rpm records in the years to come. In connection with the use of 78rpm vs. 45rpm format in jukeboxes it is rather interesting to note the comments sent to the editor by Morgan Wright, who wrote the following facts: "...Black people preferred the 78rpm format until the late 50's even in their jukeboxes, because they were living in poverty, and when the 78rpm jukeboxes in white neighborhoods were being replaced by 45rpm jukeboxes, the operators (all of whom were white) had to use the old 78rpm jukeboxes for something. They couldn't just throw them away, so they stuck them in black neighborhoods and also hillbilly juke-joints, while the people with money used the 45rpm jukeboxes. One will notice that many R&B and C&W records were still being pressed in 78rpm until as late as 1957-58, but it's very rare to find 78rpm recordings of popular white 'pop' music later than 1952-53...". Those are, whether we like it or not, true and interesting historic comments.

A rather special phenomenon in the history of jukeboxes was remote control via telephone lines, or more correctly music ordering via phone. The idea of big central music libraries was not something new as there had been such libraries in the early years of the 20th century, but they had not been connected to restaurants, saloons, or diners. In the forties several music ordering systems were used around in America, for example the Rock-Ola Mystic Music, the Jennings Telephone Music first known as Magic Music in Columbus, Ohio, the Scotto Melody Master mainly used in Sacramento, California, and not to forget the Shyvers' Multiphone system designed, introduced, and operated for more than a decade by Kenneth C. Shyvers, and his wife Lois, in the cities Olympia, Seattle, and Tacoma, in Washington.

Another line in the jukebox history led to the big audio/visual machines, which mainly the Mills Novelty Company of Chicago tried to make popular in the forties. The problem of the film machines had since the idea was formed first time before 1910 to get reliable reel operating mechanisms. After decades of experiments the Mills company finally got a reliable mechanism using RCA-projectors at the end of the thirties, which could be used for 16mm film with sound tracks officially called Soundies (one reel with 8 film clips released per week). The film for the Mills Panoram machines were mainly produced by RCM Productions named after the three involved men: the founder James Roosevelt, songwriter Sam Coslow, and of course Fred L. Mills, and distributed by The Soundies Corporation of America. To contain the mechanism the Mills Novelty Company needed a nice cabinet, and the industrial designer Everett B. Eckland of Oak Park, Illinois, who had been consulted by the company through the thirties, came up with the design for it. The remote control unit for the Panoram, however, was design patented by Arthur H. Bouterious, who also constructed the electrical remote system. In 1942/43 there were around 10,000 machines operated nationwide, but in 1946 only about 2,000 machines were still on location due to war time restrictions and trouble with the cinema film projectionists' union. Today several of the Mills (Model MI-1340) Panoram machines are known among collectors and museums, and they are certainly not as unpopular today as they were among film projectionists in the mid forties. Everett B. Eckland filed another design patent for an audio/visual machine in 1945, but it was never assigned to the Mills Novelty Company, but the pictured machine was in fact produced in 1947 as a Sono-Vision model without coin operation. There are several other registered American design patents related to audio/visual machines, but the editor has so far been unable to find exact and official model names for all of them.

Towards the end of this short American design history some manufacturer and designer names, that had a certain importance, ought to be mentioned. At the end of the war a company that originally made radar equipment and electronics went into the jukebox business. The first jukebox series from the Aireon Manufacturing Corporation headed by Randolph C. Walker was designed and patented by Ernest F. Thomson in 1946. The box was officially named Aireon Super De Luxe, but also nicknamed Airliner because of the size. The following Aireon Fiesta series was also design patented by Ernest F. Thomson, and the auxiliary speakers, the Impressario, the Melodeon, and the Carilleon, were all designed by Jay B. Doblin. All patents were assigned to the independent federal agency Reconstruction Finance Corporation, which had become responsible for the production of Aireon coin-op phonographs due to financial difficulties in the Aireon Manufacturing Corporation founded in 1937. The following phonograph model of 1948 officially named Aireon Coronet was unfortunately not design patented, but it is possible that the design of the cabinet is part of a functional patent. However, this particular patent has not been located yet.

Another production shortly after the war was the Packard line made by the Packard Manufacturing Company (founded in 1932 and named after Packard Avenue in Fort Wayne). Another company, also founded by Homer Earl Capehart (1928), had been active with several Orchestrope models for years before the war, but the new company was not active until the mid forties. Homer Earl Capehart was also for years in the thirties (late 1932 through 1939) connected to The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company as general sales manager. After the war, when Homer Earl Capehart had become senator of Indiana (served in the Senate 1944 through 1962), the Packard company was revived and headed by the founder's son, Thomas Capehart, and the jukebox series Packard 7 Pla-Mor (pronounced play more) and Packard Manhattan with matching speakers was produced until the spring of 1949. The Packard Manufacturing Company was taken over by The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company early in September, 1951. The Packard 7 Pla-Mor was design patented by Robert L. Ardner, and Russell E. Brandenburger Sr. was responsible for the design of the Packard Manhattan introduced in January, 1948. Edward E. Collison, who constructed most of the mechanical parts for Packard jukeboxes together with Paul U. Lannerd, assigned several nicely designed speakers and remote controls to Homer Earl Capehart as early as 1941, and among them was the Packard Butler remote control unit. The design of the Butler is in fact part of a complete functional patent.

The Filben FP-300 Maestro was another jukebox of the post-war golden era, which today is reckoned to be something special by enthusiasts. The first models with the official name Filben (mechanism based on the original patent filed on the 15th July, 1937, by William Michael Filben) were made according to a license contract of September 1938 with the Rock-Ola Manufacturing Corporation, but unfortunately William Michael Filben died on the 1st May, 1940, without any company name officially registered. The rights under the license contract, however, were then vested in his widow, Berniece M. Filben, and in three minor daughters (Patricia, Rosemary, and Dolores). Later the widow assigned all rights to the newly constructed Filben Manufacturing Co. against 51% of the shares, and the production of automatic phonographs was carried out by the co-owner of the company, Leonard E. Baskfield (49% of the shares). The actual production of the mechanisms and cabinets took place at Batavia Metal Products Inc. according to a contract stating that an initial amount of 10,000 such phonographs should be produced. The contract also provided for re-designing of the cabinet at the expense of Batavia Metal Products Inc., and the distribution of all Filben phonographs, including the Mirrocle Music line with stow-a-way unit FM-S2, was carried out by the U.S. Challenge Co. in Chicago. It is interesting, by the way, that the first cabinets were named Mirro-cle Music, an amalgamation of the two words mirror and miracle. The unconventional model FP-300 Maestro was then produced during a short period in 1948 (introduced 19th-22nd January, 1948, at the Morrison Hotel in Chicago), and the classic American Streamline Movement design, which in passing could remind one of a classic American locomotive of the forties, is unfortunately not known as a design patent. Today two versions are known: one with red plastics often referred to as the FP-300 and another, rare one with green plastics referred to as the F8-300. Both models can also today among collectors be referred to as FP-305 or FE-305. In literature it is mentioned that there were several patent disputes with the Rock-Ola Manufacturing Corporation, and finally the court decision in July/August,1948, in favor of the plaintiff, the Rock-Ola Manufacturing Corporation, had to be followed by a production stop late in the autumn 1948, and the cabinet designer at Batavia Metal Products Inc. related to the fantastic Maestro’48 (the official name) is not known. However, it is important to mention in connection with Batavia and the U.S. Challenge Co. that Samuel Kresberg and Albert Cole, both known in the trade for decades, were involved in the 1946 sales promotion of the first self-contained jukebox based on the Filben patent, the Challenger’47. Samuel Kresberg left the company early in the process together with Albert Cole., and the Challenger’47 was unfortunately never produced in series. It seems only three models were actually assembled. Samuel Kresberg was involved also a decade before in the Capitol Automatic Music Co. Inc. in New York. In 1934 Victor Peterfesa and Samuel Kresberg filed a patent for a 16-selection mechanism like the John Gabel designed mechanism with Programatic Dial, and the patent was assigned to Capitol Automatic Music Co. Inc., and used in the 16-selection jukebox Sweet Sixteen made in 1934/35. The company in New York was mainly known for operating rebuilt, cut-down Gabel’s Entertainer models. Samuel Kresberg was vice-president of Drink-O-Mat Industries Inc. in New York before he came to Batavia in 1945, and he left the phonograph industry and moved back again to New York and became president of Automatic Products Co. (later known as Apco Inc.). In the mid fifties Samuel Kresberg moved to Miami in Florida.

One of the last important jukebox productions of the Golden Age took place at the Mills Novelty Company, also known as Mills Industries Incorporated in the late forties. The firm is mentioned previously, also in connection with audio/visual machines, but after the war the production of ordinary jukeboxes went on with the Mills Constellation models. The mechanism used in the last series of Mills phonographs was developed by the team headed by the technical director John P. (Midge) Ryan, and the cabinet for the Constellation was designed by the noted industrial designer Walter Lockwood Martling Jr., who was also responsible for some remarkable drafts for Mills speakers and remote controls in 1946/47. Finally, after the phonograph division of Mills Industries Inc. had been taken over by the H. C. Evans Company, the Constellation model was produced in two versions, models 950 and 951, of which the model 951 had a fully visible mechanism.

It is still possible to locate new jukebox related patents, but all the known American design patents of the Golden Age were published for the first time in the editor's book entitled "Golden Age Juke-Box Design 1934-1951". The book was printed in 1994 (limited edition).

Gert J. Almind