This November 22nd, the day before Thanksgiving, we celebrate the second annual National Jukebox Day. Begun by TouchTunes, the largest interactive music network, Jukebox Day is an occasion to celebrate one of the most iconic of music players ever made.
In case you’re wondering why the day before Thanksgiving was appointed as National Jukebox Day, the people at TouchTunes reportedly chose the day for two reasons. The first reason is that the 23rd of November 1889 was the day the first jukebox was demonstrated in the Palais Royale Saloon in San Francisco by Louis Glass, general manager of the Edison General Electric Company of San Fransisco. The original jukebox was very different from the machines that typically come to mind when mentioned today. It was made by the Pacific Phonograph Company using an Edison Class M electric phonograph with several tubes attached to accommodate multiple listeners. Each tube was activated when a nickel was inserted, allowing everyone who paid to hear the same song that was playing on the phonograph record. The second reason the day before Thanksgiving was chosen is historically it is the busiest night of the year at bars. The holiday allows people to get together with friends and family to catch up, enjoy a drink and listen to the jukebox.
Technology improved and records playing on-demand became a new craze for people at the turn of the century. To meet increasing interest and leverage big profits, the great jukebox companies to be formed in the following years were the J.P. Seeburg Company, Wurlitzer, Rock-Ola and AMI.
Founded as a piano making company in 1902, J.P. Seeburg Company introduced the “Audiophone” in 1928. It was a coin-operated, 8-selection phonograph that played 78-rpm shellac records. It had 8 individual turntables that were mounted on a “Ferris-wheel” mechanism turned by a pneumatic pump. The large wheel with turntables would spin, allowing the customer to choose their songs. The cabinet for this phonograph was rather wide, to allow for the “Ferris-Wheel” within.
Wurlitzer entered the jukebox market in 1933 when they convinced Homer Capehart of Simplex Manufacturing Company to join them and bring along the rights to the Multi-Selector record changing system. This device allowed customers to insert a nickel and select a particular record to listen to on a phonograph, rather than only being able to listen to records play in the order in which they were stacked. The Wurlitzer Company knew that Prohibition would soon be coming to an end and there would be a huge demand for coin-operated music in saloons and bars. By 1937 Wurlitzer had sold over 100,000 phonographs and they dominated the phonograph market. The jukebox became known as the “small man’s concert hall” and today the Wurlitzer jukebox will always be associated with the Big Band Era due to its great success during that time period from the 1930s to the late 1940s. This is referred to today as the Golden Age of jukeboxes.
Wurlitzer lost their edge in the jukebox market with the creation of the 45-rpm record. Their chief competitor, Seeburg, released a phonograph that was able to hold 50 records as opposed to Wurlitzer’s 24. Also, Seeburg’s jukebox was capable of playing both sides of a record, making it the first 100-selection juke. Wurlitzer was not able to come out with a competitive mechanism and Seeburg succeeded in dominating the jukebox market throughout the 1950s.
This year you can celebrate National Jukebox Day by reading our blog called “4 Awesome Vintage Jukeboxes” about some of the great vintage jukebox models manufactured in the ’40s and ’50s. You can also take a look at our jukebox inspired products, including neon clocks, salt and pepper shakers, mini and life-size reproduction jukeboxes, and a cool collage of a 1955 Seeburg V200 printed on a metal sign, wall decal and sticker.
If you have any jukebox memories you’d like to share, please comment below.