Thursday, May 17, 2018

David Rockola

Eric Baker Jane Martin, great inventions, good intentions, Chronicle Books, 1990

The jukebox owes much to Canadian-born David Rockola, who was born in Virden Manitoba in 1897. He was an inventor and entrepreneur who started working at the age of 14 and learned engineering in the oilfields in South America.  He first saw and installed a primitive fruit machine in the Chicago cigar store he was operating in 1919 and from that, in 1926 started building weighing machines and parking meter housings.
 After he lost money in the coin-operated amusement games business, he needed a scheme to repay creditors and so he convinced them to help him buy old jukebox patents and begin designing his own.
 Among the masterpieces that put him in competition with the two largest manufacturers, Wurlitzer and Seeburg, was the 1941 dial-a-song Spectravox (Des. 1 27,924), a wood-grained column with red neon bands and a deflector bowl over the speaker. It was connected to a separate record player, the Playmaster, which was usually kept out of sight behind the counter or bar.

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