Back in time – Retro Jukeboxes

Retro Outlet

Crosley iJuke Bluetooth Deluxe Full Size JukeboxThe Jukebox of today has never lost its mystique and ability to bring back happy memories. Firmly rooted in the past, with its beginning in 1877 with Thomas Edison’s invention of the phonograph, its popularity has never waned. 

It gained in popularity in 1890 when Louis Glass and William Arnold took the idea and created the nickel in the slot phonograph, a machine that once your nickel was deposited you would hand crank the device and be able to listen to a song. These machines were capable of only playing one song so many different machines were needed if a variety of music was to be available.

In 1918, Hobart Niblack designed a turntable that was capable of handling multiple records which lead to the first selective jukebox being available in 1927. Over time, more improvements were made with the quality of music being played as well as the ability to hear the music more clearly. This was truly when the popularity and demand of the jukebox started to rise.

Rocket 80 CD Bluetooth Full-Size JukeboxIn the 1940’s the term Jukebox came to be used in the U.S. stemming from the “juke joint” which was a place people would gather and drink, play music and generally be rabblerousing. Within these jukeboxes were automated counters which would allow the owners of the machine to see what songs were popular with guests and to change out the less popular selections.

With all the popularity and demand of the full sized jukeboxes came the need to devise a method of making a machine that would sit on the table of a booth and allow patrons to select their own music. These boxes had built in speakers and offered diners an experience that was all their own.

In the 1950’s is when the Jukebox really came into its own. This is when the 45 rpm vinyl records were introduced and used, giving a great variety of options for owners and diners alike.  The 45’s were small and light weight and many were able to be put into a machine giving a much wider choice for many listening styles. The jukebox’s history has gone through many changes and improvements and has followed the wave of technology with improvements in reproduction and distribution. With the improvement in speakers, offering a much higher quality of sound than many people could even have at home, the low frequency rhythm and large amplifiers,  the machines were said to play music with a “beat.”

Jukeboxes were most popular between the 1940’s and 1960’s with the 1950’s being the most popular time. In the 40’s, three quarters of the records being made were made for use in jukeboxes. Originally they were used for Classical music, Opera and Swing music although the 50’s Rock and Roll made its popularity sore.

Styling also progressed over the years from the wooden frame machines to the psychedelic light shows while the music plays. They started off offering visual attractions, waves, bubbles, circles of changing colors, all aligned with the beat of the music, stimulating both the ears and eyes. Machines made later on have become much less ornate because of the need for extra space to hold more records.

Slimline Bluetooth Full-Size JukeBoxIn the late 1950’s the invention of the transistor would prove to be the most important factor of the jukeboxes demise. The transistor made it possible to make radios and people could have music with them at all times.

While jukeboxes remained popular in bars, they lost their popularity in places like diners, restaurants, military bases, Laundromats and video arcades.

In 1995, the U.S. Postal service issued a commemorative 25 cent stamp to forever recognize the popularity of the jukebox.

Today, retro jukeboxes are becoming increasingly hard to find. Retro Outlet takes great pride in restoring these icons to their former beauty. If you have one that you would like restored or if you would like to sell a  jukebox for restoration, please give us a call! The quality of the restoration can’t be beat!


Ryan Brew
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