NMSAT :: Networked Music & SoundArt Timeline

1889 __ Coin Operated Phonograph — Jukebox
Louis T. Glass (1845-1924)
Comment : Louis Glass develops the coin operated phonograph.Louis T. Glass was what these days you'd call an early adopter. In 1879, he had apparently gotten sick of working with old technologies, so he left his job as a telegraph operator for Western Union. The winds of change were blowing, after all: There was this newfangled contraption called the telephone around, and damned if Glass wasn't going to get in on the ground floor. So he invested in telephone companies in Oakland and San Diego, and by the turn of the century he was the general manager of the Pacific States Telephone and Telegraph Co. Glass didn't stop with the telephone. In 1889, about a decade after Thomas Edison had introduced the phonograph, Glass became the general manager of the San Francisco-based Pacific Phonograph Co. He also ran phonograph companies in Washington and Oregon, but it was in this city that Glass conceived his wildest idea. The 44-year-old Glass and a partner of his, William S. Arnold, presented a device that would play a song from a wax cylinder phonograph, but only if you inserted a nickel in a slot attached to the machine. In other words, Louis Glass invented the jukebox. He introduced his machine -- cunningly named the nickel-in-the-slot phonograph -- 110 years ago last week, on Nov. 23, 1889. The scene of the crime (there is crime involved -- read on) was the Palais Royal Saloon at 303 Sutter St. Many details about the Palais Royal are lost to history, but Allen Koenigsberg is fastidiously trying to piece the story together. As one of the country's leading scholars on phonograph history, the Brooklyn-based Koenigsberg has a special interest in figuring out exactly what might have happened back then. "It's a tough one, I'll tell you," he says. But we know this much: The Palais Royal Saloon was owned by one Frederick Mergenthaler, who'd quit his job as a restaurant cook the year before to go into business for himself, though apparently he moved on quickly -- according to Koenigsberg's research, the saloon was gone by 1890. The jukebox that Glass installed at the Palais Royal bore little resemblance to the jukebox as we know it today. For one thing, you weren't offered much in the way of musical options, since the machine could only play one wax cylinder at the time -- the song would be changed every day or so. And what was on the hit parade of November 1889? Koenigsberg consults a copy of Edison Cylinder Records 1889-1912, which he wrote. "Some of the titles you would not want to repeat today," he says -- many of the popular saloon songs were heavy into religious and racial stereotypes. However, you might have had the opportunity to listen to "New York at Night," "The Men of Wall Street," "Down Went McGinty," "Pretty as the Butterfly," or something called "The Rip Van Winkle Polka." There may also have been plugs for the bar itself on the cylinder. Not that you could actually dance to any of the selections available on Glass' invention. Amplification was years away, so patrons -- no more than four at a time -- had to listen to the song on stethoscope-styled earphones. "Your toe might be tapping, but the rest of your body would have to be pretty still," says Koenigsberg. Regardless, San Francisco went bonkers for the thing: These were the days before radio and movies, and by May the following year there were 15 jukeboxes installed either in local bars or on Oakland-San Francisco ferries. Glass got a patent, and at Chicago's first annual Convention of Local Phonograph Companies of the United States, he announced that he had made just over $4,000. In nickels. Do the math: In 1913 -- as far back as the Federal Reserve Bank's online calculator goes -- $4,000 would be worth about $67,000 today. "[Glass] was the first person to exploit the beginning of the music industry," says Koenigsberg. "Gentlemen, there is money in the nickel-in-the-slot phonograph," Glass told the Chicago crowd. "If you will look over the income that we have had there you will see that where you furnish interesting material, the receipts do not materially drop off." 303 Sutter, like much of downtown San Francisco, was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake. Glass, in his capacity as general manager of the Pacific States Telephone and Telegraph Co., was eager to make sure that his company made phone service available to the city as soon as possible. Perhaps too eager: The following year, Glass was indicted for bribing members of the Board of Supervisors to maintain PST&T's monopoly on local phone service. Still, Glass remained with the company, and laterdiversified into handling phone service in the Philippines. (Mark Athitakis)Already in 1890, frustated phonograph merchants were turning away from business uses and toward the growing coin-in-the-slot business. By the mid-1890s, this was one of the main areas in which money could be made. David Nasaw locates the boom in the coin-in-the-slot business as part of a larger, emergent, middle-class culture of public and semi-public entertainments. Coin-in-the-slot machines, where a user could hear a song for a fee, were located in hotel lobbies, train stations, and arcades. As cities grew more spread out, a well-placed arcade could entertain commuters with a few minutes to kill and a few cents in their pockets. The boom period fro this business lasted only a few years. Between the erosion of phonography’s novelty to coin-in-the-slot users and a bottleneck in the manufacture and distribution of new recordings, the potential of arcade-style listening to support the industry died off in the first decade of the twentieth century. Coin-in-the-slot machines persisted into the 1910s and 1920s, when new developments allowed the invention of the first machine that would be called a “jukebox” in 1927. The industry’s changing attitude toward marketing the phonograph could perhaps be best illustrated by the shift in content among three major publications, the “Phonogram” (1891-1893), the “Phonoscope” (1896-1900), and a second “Phonogram” (1900-1902). While the first “Phonogram” focused almost exclusively on business use, the “Phonoscope” focused on entertainment uss in public places, and the second “Phonogram” treated the phonograph largely as a means of domestic entertainment. (Jonathan Sterne, pp. 201-202)Le terme “juke-box “apparaît dans les années 1930 aux États-Unis, dérivé du mot argotique “juke-joints” (ou “jook-joints”) qui désigne dans le Sud des États-Unis un bar où l'on danse. À cette époque, on utilise également “juke-bands” pour désigner les groupes de musique qui s'y produisent. Le terme “juke” est dérivé du mot créole afro-américain “joog”, qui signifie “chahuté”, “désordonné”. (Source: Wikipedia)
Source : Sterne, Jonathan (2003), “The Audible Past - Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction”, Durham & London : Duke University Press, pp. 201-202.
Source : Nasaw, David (1993), “Going Out : The Rise and the Fall of Public Amusements”, Basic Books.
Urls : http://graylocke.tripod.com/tsclarke/id22.html (last visited ) http://juke-box.dk/gert-glass.htm (last visited )

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