Paul M. Fuller, 1897-1951

It has over the years been believed that Paul Max Fuller was born in Switzerland on the 5th January, 1897. Actually, if family information is correct, he was born on the island Corsica (born name Paul Colland), and then still an infant brought to Interlaken in Switzerland by his French mother, maiden name Sophie Colland, who married a Swiss citizen Edwin Furler (Paul Fuller stated once that he was born in Interlaken on the 5th June, as stated officially on the birth certificate, but celebrated birthdays on the 5th January). As a young man, on his honeymoon with his first wife Friedel Schaer, he went to Omaha in Nebraska to visit his wife’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 four or five 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 Hofstetter 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 was also the son of August Hofstetter, the founder of Möbelfabrik Aug. Hofstetter in Basel, and Paul Fuller served a four year apprenticeship at the furniture factory. According to the U.S. Naturalization forms Paul (Furler) Fuller arrived in New York on the 21st August 1920. In 1925 he designed his own house ‘Twin Oaks’ on Sunset Lane in Deerfield, and also rebuilt the Presbytarian school in Deerfield/Bannockburn. Later Paul M. Fuller went to Chicago and worked 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 chief designer in charge of interior decorating. 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 (after separation from Friedel) 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 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 established his own design engineering company in Oneida, the Paul M. Fuller Co., designing mainly silver display boxes, but he also continued working with wonderful furniture and piano designs. Years before, in 1937, Paul M. Fuller also assigned a very nice desk design to the Chicago based The Clemetsen Co. (Clemco Desk Mfg. Co.), and after his employment at The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company he was vice-president in charge of design and production of the SuperVend Sales Corp. based in Chicago. 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 only 54 years of age, and died at the Millard Fillmore Hospital in Buffalo on the 29th March, 1951, 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, the nurse Ruby Helen Rudd Fuller (second wife, but marriage certificate not found), his son Paul Norman Fuller, and also by his brother Hans Furler in Zürich in Switzerland. Paul M. Fuller’s first wife Friedel died in 1985 (born in December, 1896) and his son Paul Norman died in 1999 (born in September, 1927). Unfortunately, his second son Charles Frederick (born in December, 1929) died only eight years of age in 1938.

Gert J. Almind