The Golden Age of the Jukebox – Music from Automatons
by Museum für Musikautomaten Seewen
With their sound reproduction inventions, pioneers such as Thomas A. Edison in the USA and Emile Berliner in Germany made the whole jukebox phenomenon possible. Its actual inventor is generally accepted to be Louis T. Glass. On 23 November 1889 he and his business partner, William S. Arnold, launched their Nickel-in-the-Slot Player in a San Francisco restaurant, the Palais Royal Saloon.
The golden age of the coin-operated phonograph began in the USA in the 1930s. The term “jukebox” first appeared during the 1940s and quickly spread. Famous American makes including Wurlitzer, Seeburg, Rock-Ola, Mills and Automatic Musical Instrument (AMI) vied for attention, propelling the jukebox to unimaginable popularity.
American soldiers stationed in Germany during the 1950s helped popularise the jukebox on the European continent. However, the boom years proper began with the advent of rock ‘n’ roll and hits from Bill Haley and Elvis Presley.
Swiss companies, keen for a slice of the lucrative action, joined the fray with products such as the Music-Boy, the Star-o-Mat and the Chantal Panoramic.
The new special exhibition at the Museum of Music Automatons in Seewen, Canton Solothurn, shows jukeboxes not just from the major US manufacturers but also from European makers, including Switzerland’s first jukebox, the 1953-54 “Music Boy”.
The exhibition continues until 30 August 2015. www.bundesmuseen.ch/musikautomaten