Jukeboxes: A Dance Through the Years of the Jukebox

 (Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/dancing-jukebox-music-retro-3925606/)

Jukeboxes were the first thing you would notice upon entering a bar during the Prohibition Era.

This revolution is an automated machine with a vast selection of music for one to play. It is operated through inserting a coin.

It provided a series of letters and numbers, which the user would press in order to choose a song.

In later history, restaurants and diners started including jukeboxes from speakeasies as well.

The jukebox became a popular machine in every establishment, playing its music to entertain those who came by.

Eager to know more about this old-time classic machine?

Read about the years of the jukebox evolution below.

(Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:EdisonPhonograph.jpg)

The Origins of the Jukeboxes

The jukebox can be traced from the earliest form of a listening device, the phonograph.

Thomas Edison created the Edison phonograph in 1877. This was his first invention before his creation of light bulbs.

It was the only mechanism before that had the ability to record any sound and play it back to the listeners.

(Source: Infrogmation http://www.flickr.com/photos/29350288@N06/49124920071 Pleasure and the Edison Phonograph via http://photopin.com)

Upon entering a store with phonographs, a recording called “I am the Edison Phonograph” was played. The purpose was catering to those who were astonished by it as it described its features to the customers.

With this marketing strategy, sales were at an all-time high. 

It was said to be a staple in each household as these were one of the primary sources of entertainment then.

You may listen to the recording here.

(Source: https://www.open.edu/openlearn/ocw/pluginfile.php/75923/mod_oucontent/oucontent/647/none/none/ta212_3_006i.jpg)
Afterward, inspired by this, a coin-operated music playing device was made. The nickel-in-the-slot phonograph is known to be “the first jukebox”.

Created by William Arnold and Louis Glass in the late 1880s, the Edison Class M Electric Phonograph (the first of its kind) was placed in a saloon in San Francisco and delighted many.

This phonograph had a listening tube (similar to headphones) for the user to be able to hear the music solely. Aside from that, it had a crank that had to be turned in order for the stylus to follow the groove. 

(Source: https://www.pinterest.ph/pin/445152744398356060/)

The electric phonograph became more prolific in the late 1880s. 

With this, businessmen would build “phonograph parlors” for the people to privately listen to their selected tunes. By the mid-1890s, every establishment had the machine for their own restaurants and stores.

Almost all types of music from hit tunes to orchestral audios in the early 1900s were made to be played on this electric phonograph.

Post-electric phonograph

Wurlitzer 1015 (1946); (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wurlitzer_1015.jpg)

Hobert Niblack changed the game when he was able to create a mechanism within the phonograph that would automatically change records in 1918. This was a new feature that none of the earlier inventions had.

This was introduced much later in the late 1920s as the Automated Musical Instrument Company, or what is more popularly known as AMI.

On the other hand, during 1928, Justus Seeburg made a coin-operated machine with a combination of both. A record player and a loudspeaker allowed eight records to be selected.

Among these new and improved jukeboxes, the 1930s period was all over the Rock Ola company’s products.

Seeburg Select-o-matic (1949); (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Seeburg_Select-o-matic_jukebox_detail_01A.jpg)

Radios in the 1920s

The invention of the radio in the 1920s caused the phonograph industry to decline. This was due to the channels that would offer music with no expense.

This all changed in the 1930s, during the Great Depression, as people needed a source of entertainment that was cheap and available.

Thus, after the release of digital jukeboxes, they emerged once more in the 1940s.

(Source: https://hips.hearstapps.com/pop.h-cdn.co/assets/16/22/1024×670/gallery-1464878904-gettyimages-73994216.jpg?resize=768:*)

The term “jukebox” was only coined in the ‘40s and even the shortened word “juke” was prevalent then.

The novel digital jukeboxes transitioned from using 45-rpm records to compact disks. This was seen to be more efficient. 

From a cultural perspective, adults frowned upon jukeboxes. They considered them to be a distraction to the youth.

Nonetheless, these machines provided entertainment that was unparalleled to other forms available during those years.

The Recession of the Jukebox

(Source: https://farm66.staticflickr.com/65535/48122508522_c1663b7ace.jpg)

Jukeboxes were the main source of income for record producers during its golden years.

In fact, they were used in testing the success of each song, observing customers’ likability towards it. 

Multiple factors contributed to the start of the deviation of the market from buying the famous jukeboxes.

The first of which was in the 1940s, which was the era when portable radios were invented.

Secondly, in the ‘50s, easy-to-carry cassette tape players appeared. This shifted the jukebox consumers to buying a more convenient listening device to have.

Companies attempted to revive the machine with the invention of CD-playing jukeboxes in the 1980s. Eventually, these continued to fade away as better devices for personal use entered the entertainment industry.

Jukeboxes Today

(Source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-wearing-blue-shirt-and-red-track-pants-sitting-beside-of-jukebox-3007333/)

Jukeboxes are more commonly known now as a great decoration material. Mainly establishments that implement a nostalgic atmosphere or design use them. 

Moreover, many companies have also created modernized jukeboxes.

Features of these would include USB ports, Bluetooth connections, as well as a CD player, an FM/AM radio, and even color-changing LED lights.

With the vast number of platforms and applications we can use to listen to music wherever we go, we tend to take what we have for granted.

By learning more about the history of things, we learn more about where we started from. Not only that, but we also learn how we can continue to improve and invent objects for a brighter future.

Scroll to Top