Paul M. Fuller, 1897-1951

It has over the years been believed that Paul Max Fuller was born on the island Corsica on the 5th January, 1897, based on reasonably reliable family information. If the latest genealogical findings are correct, he may have been born in Switzerland (born name Paul Colland), and his mother Sophie Colland (1874-*), a seamstress born in the village St. Aubin, married Erwin Furler (1877-*), a book binder born in Hüningen/Basel, on the 13th April 1899 in the village Gelterkinden. Paul Fuller stated once that he was born in Interlaken on the 5th June, as stated officially on the birth certificate, but apparently he celebrated birthdays on the 5th January. The first six months of his life in Switzerland are subject to an ongoing genealogical research. As a young man, on his honeymoon with his wife Friedel (Frida Schär), he went to Omaha in Nebraska to visit Friedel's sister Louise, and Paul Furler may have thought that he could do well in the States as an architect/designer. It is believed that Paul Furler worked as a farm hand in Nebraska for a few years, while he learned the Anglo-American language, and it is also believed that Paul Fuller took the middle name Max from a friend when he applied for American citizenship. Max Peter Hofstetter (born on the 19th May, 1899) was a good friend and fellow designer, who travelled on the ship Rotterdam from Boulogne-sur-Mer to New York with Paul and Friedel when they were on their honeymoon. Max Peter was also the son of August Hofstetter, the founder of Möbelfabrik Aug. Hofstetter in Basel, and Paul Furler served a four year apprenticeship at the Hofstetter factory plus one year at another major furniture factory. According to the U.S. Naturalization forms Paul (Furler) Fuller arrived in New York on the 21st August 1920, after the marriage to Friedel on the 7th May in Basel. In 1925 he designed and built his own house ‘Twin Oaks’ on Sunset Lane in Deerfield, and also rebuilt the Presbytarian school in Deerfield/Bannockburn. At the same time Paul M. Fuller started working for the firm Marshall Field & Co. (hundred years later the fourth largest general merchandise retailer in the States). At the Marshall Field & Co. Paul M. Fuller soon became the head of the Decorating Studios in charge of interior decorating, and at the same time he also designed new interior with hand carved ceilings for The Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. In the thirties he was the originator, designer, and principal owner of the popular Black Forest village display at the Chicago World's Fair (1933-34) and also designer of the Sun Valley alpine village at the New York World's Fair (1939-40). Late in 1935 (separated from Friedel in 1933) Paul M. Fuller, by then a noted design genius, was employed as a consultant by The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company in North Tonawanda to design jukebox cabinets, and later as head of the design department. Paul M. Fuller immediately started to explore alternatives to the conservative wood-'n'-glass cabinet styles, and discovered the shimmering, translucent depth of Catalin plastic as an explosion of art and style (Catalin, a registered trademark of the Catalin Corporation in New York). Paul M. Fuller also discovered bubble tubes (described then as liquid fire), when Edward Merle Colegrove, sales representative for Biolite Inc. in New York, presented a new advertising sign with bubble effect to him in the autumn 1938. After proper testing, the bubble tubes were used in the cabinet for the Wurlitzer Model 800, and that really was the zenith of Fuller's efforts to create eye-appealing features of jukeboxes.

During the years at The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company Paul M. Fuller had a total of 17 phonograph (jukebox) cabinet designs patented in his own name. The classic Fuller designs started with Model 312 (patent No. D:99,277 filed on the 8th February,1936) and ended with Model 1100 (patent No. D:153,675 filed on the 8th September, 1947). Among the 17 designs was one for a Model 260 Console Speaker and another for a very nice remote control unit for Model 1100 (filed the same day), but those two designs were as far as it is known today never produced at The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company in North Tonawanda. Paul M. Fuller also filed an additional patent for a remote-control selector device on the 17th August, 1945 (patent No. 2,612,710 granted on the 7th October, 1952), and he also designed electric organs and keyboard covers for The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company in 1946 and 1947. Paul M. (nickname: Malt) Fuller was together with general sales manager Milton (Mike) G. Hammergren and the famed illustrator Albert Dorne responsible for the whirlwind national Wurlitzer advertising campaign around 1947, and the dean of jukebox designers finally left the major jukebox manufacturer late in 1948 due to health problems and hospitalization, leaving behind a legacy that transcended the mere product and helped to define an age, the Golden Age of automatic coin-op phonographs. The last coin-op phonograph model Paul M. Fuller was involved with as designer at The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company was the Model 1250 introduced on the market early 1950.

In the first months of 1949, soon after leaving the jukebox trade and the Fairfax Hotel in Buffalo, where he resided during the years at The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company, Paul M. Fuller purchased a factory building at 101-107 South Warner Street in Oneida, and established his own design engineering company, the Paul M. Fuller Co. Inc., designing mainly wooden chests and silver display boxes. The company was active with up to 85 employees from the 1st April, 1949, until around the 1st April, 1954. However, from the 1st April, 1951, and the next three years the company was managed by James H. Keene and Philip V. Clonan, and the 30,000 sq.ft. production facility was finally offered for sale on the 2nd May, 1954. Paul M. Fuller was working with wonderful furniture and piano designs between 1949 and 1951, and many years before, in 1937, Paul M. Fuller assigned a very nice patented desk design to the Chicago based The Clemetsen Co. (Clemco Desk Mfg. Co.). After his employment at The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company Paul M. Fuller was also vice-president in charge of design and production at the Chicago based SuperVend Sales Corp.. The SuperVend Corp. was acquired by a group of investors headed by Milton G. Hammergren in 1950.

Paul Max Fuller suffered a fatal heart attack during a general checkup at the Millard Fillmore Hospital in Buffalo, and died at 7.30 a.m. on the 29th March, 1951, only 54 years of age, and was cremated at the Forest Lawn Chapel two days later. According to the obituary in the "Buffalo Evening News" Paul M. Fuller was survived by his widow (married in July, 1944), the nurse Ruby Helen Rudd Fuller (1907-2000), his son Paul Norman Fuller, and also by his brother Hans Furler* in Zürich in Switzerland. Paul M. Fuller's first wife Friedel (Frida Schär) died in 1985 (born on the 30th December, 1896) and his son Paul Norman died on the 5th December, 1999 (born on the 14th September, 1927). Unfortunately, his second son Charles Frederick (born on the 5th December, 1929) passed away from meningitis at Highland Park Hospital on the 15th March, 1938. According to the cremation permit (Reg. No. 5417) Paul Max Fuller's ashes were scattered, and therefore no grave marker can be found at the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo.

Gert J. Almind

* The editor needs copy of death certificates to find the correct data of Sophie Furler (☼ 15th October, 1874), Erwin Furler (☼ 26th December, 1877), brother Hans Furler (☼ 1901/1902), sister Elsa Furler (☼ 1908 in Ziefen), and probably one or two other siblings. The name of Paulˈs brother Hans was probably short for Johannes, since his uncle Walter Furler also had a son named Johannes about the same age. The name Johannes was in fact the name of Hansˈ grandfather and great grandfathers on both sides in the Furler family.