Julius Seeburg

J.P. Seeburg, part two

QUESTION:  Which of the following companies was not in competition with J.P. Seeburg for jukebox production?
A)  Seeburg
B)  Wurlitzer
C)  Rock-Ola
D)  AMI/Rowe

Yesterday, we told the story of how the J.P. Seeburg Company became the greatest producer of coin-operated pianos and orchestrions (nickelodeons) in the United States during the 1920's. There were a number of reasons why business started going south towards the end of the decade - competition with radio being the biggest.  In 1927, production was completely shut down on orchestrions, despite the fact that the same year over one million paper rolls sold, the largest number in any one year ever.  Seeburg began to concentrate on what he called coin-operated phonographs.  The "Audiophone" was one of his first multi-selection jukeboxes, which came out the next year.  Then, in the early-1930's, J.P. retired from direct involvement in the business and left it to his son Noel.  Noel devoted his attention to jukebox production and made some innovations that blew away the competition.

In 1949, Seeburg developed the first device that allowed a jukebox to play both sides of a record.  Not only could it hold fifty 78 rpm records, but it could play both sides - allowing people to select between one hundred songs!  Seeburg almost caused all of their competitors to go out of business with this. Then, they took it to the next level the very next year by introducing machines that played 45 rpm records - the first company to do so.  45's had a better sound than 78's and were much smaller. They assured their dominance of the market when, in 1955, they came out with the V-200, which offered two hundred selections.  Over the years, though, jukebox sales fluctuated.  Seeburg tried to roll with the punches, offering innovations and retaining their dominance in the industry.  But, by 1980, they had to close their doors. Their name has appeared on CD jukeboxes and other mechanisms since then, but Seeburg's golden age is no more than a memory, to be celebrated by lovers of technology. Their machines are famously beautiful and a compliment to any collection.

ANSWER:  A)  Seeburg, of course.  

The Seeburg Family, Part 2 - May 9, 2014

Today, we resume our tale of automatic music.  To quickly rehash what we discussed yesterday, Julius Seeburg came to the United States from Sweden, did stuff, and started an electric piano company with some co-investors.  That happened in 1902.  Within seven years, he had enough money saved to form the Seeburg Company, which distributed the Marquette Piano Company's line of Cremona coin pianos.  Soon, Seeburg was making and distributing his own machines, using the talents of his two best engineers - Oscar Nelson and Peter Wiggen (who would go off on their own in 1920 to start their own orchestrion company).  Seeburg's company became one of the most successful sellers of nickelodeons in the country.  Between 1921 and 1928, they continued to grow and  surpassed their number one competitor in orchestrion production towards the late 1920's - The Wurlitzer Company.  

Of course, by 1929, orchestrions had become largely obsolete.  Technology had moved beyond the technology of these beautiful machines.  Seeburg adapted, and started selling their first coin-operated phonographs, also known as jukeboxes.  In 1934, Julius Seeburg handed the reins of the company over to his son, Noel Marshall Seeburg.  The younger Seeburg understood the new technology better than his father, who remained involved until his death in 1958 at the age of 87.  N. Marshall added plastic to the family's jukeboxes, and made the first machines lit behind the plastic coverings that were imitated more famously by Wurlitzer.  Seeburg remained in business until the end of the 1970s, when compact discs entered the market and effectively ended the jukebox era, just as the jukebox had ended the nickelodeon era decades before. The Seeburg name was retired in 1979.  


What company produced the jukebox used in the opening credits for the popular sitcom Happy Days?

a)  Seeburg

b)  Wurlitzer

c)  Rowe


e)  Rock-Ola

Answer Below


The American Treasure Tour blog writing committee recognizes that, because that, since "American" is part of our name, we do what we can to keep our doses of daily history on American soil.  So, when we announce our first anniversary today, we recognize that some of you may get a little upset, since we are briefly travelling overseas.  But we think this is an important enough event to justify it, and it is certainly relevant to Americans.  So don't be too harsh towards us.  But today signifies the 69th anniversary of the ratification of the terms of unconditional surrender on the part of Germany that ended World War II.  It would only be a little over three months from now when Japan would also surrender unconditionally, marking the end of the worst war ever to confront the nations and peoples of the world.  Hopefully forever.

1974.  Not considered the best year ever in American politics.  Today was certainly not the best day during President Richard Nixon's second term in office, either.  In fact, today marks the beginning of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee formal and public impeachment proceedings against him.  Spoiler alert: this would lead to his voluntary resignation in August. (It took about as long to compel Nixon to resign as it had Japan's surrender after V-E Day.  Weird.)


One of the most difficult challenges faced by the ATT bloggers is deciding who to honor in our birthday section.  Do we go with important historical figures (today's birthday is shared by John Brown and Anton Cermak), more obscure people (like Richard Barthelmess or Francis Biddle), or contemporary artists?  Today, we are going with the latter, and would like to begin with James L. Brooks.  Not because he's turning 74, and not because he's made some great movies - including Terms of Endearment, Broadcast News and As Good As It Gets, but because of his involvement in some of the best American television ever.  We are speaking, of course, of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Room 222, and Taxi - all of which he created.  And, most importantly to some, for his driving influence on the longest-running sitcom in American history.  Also the yellowist.  Thank you, Mr. Brooks, for helping bring The Simpsons to our televisions for a (no lie) quarter of a century.

Next up is a smart, pretty and talented actor/producer who is one of very few celebrities who can claim to have been born in Beverly Hills, California.  Candace Bergen was born in 1946.  The daughter of famous comedian/ventriloquist/actor Edgar Bergen and "Chesterfield Girl" Frances Westerman, she has been in front of the camera for six decades.  Her debut was in the 1966 film The Group, which delved into the then-highly controversial topic of lesbianism, and she has not stopped acting since.  She was a regular guest star during the first seasons of Saturday Night Live, then the star of Murphy Brown for its ten-season run during the 1980s and 90s.  She continues to receive accolades for her acting, and does not seem close to slowing down yet.

QUOTE:  Memory is the first casualty of old age, if I remember correctly. - Candace Bergen

Answer:  a)  Seeburg.  Today's blog is about Seeburg, so it is really the only choice.  It was a 1952 Seeburg MC100.


The Seeburg Family, Part 1 - May 8, 2014

Hello, American Treasure Tour blog fans!  We just want you to know that we pay attention to your requests as best we can - some days, they come in too rapidly to acknowledge right away, but we will get to them.  Andy from Pennsylvania recently wrote that she is, "...fascinated by the information we provide about the records in the Music Room and the 'Faces of the Tour' series. But I would love if you could spend a little time talking about the nickelodeons!"  Well, Andy, how could we possibly say no to such a sincere request from one of our fans?

The United States is aptly described as a nation of immigrants.  People have traveled to the land of opportunity from all over the world in the hopes of making a better life for themselves and their families.  One such person was Justus P. Sjoberg.  Born in Sweden in 1861, Sjoberg's father had been a successful merchant until he hit on hard times.  His ambitious son moved to Chicago in the hopes of making a new start, changing his name to Seeburg along the way.  He obtained an apprenticeship at the Smith & Barnes Piano Factory, and learned the ropes of the trade before taking jobs at a progression of piano-manufacturing companies - Markette, C.S. Smith, and then Cable - before starting his own company in the early aughts o the 20th century, the J.P. Seeburg Company.  He initially sold electric pianos from the Republic Building in the famous Chicago Loop, and did very well for himself.  Stay tuned for more on the Seeburgs tomorrow.  Same nickelodeon time, same nickelodeon channel....


Who in the following list of Swedish Americans was NOT born in Sweden?

a)  Maud Adams

b)  Ingrid Bergman

c)  Greta Garbo

d)  Kirsten Dunst

e)  Ann-Margret

Answer Below


The history today section of our blog serves to keep things in perspective.  Today, we are part of events that will be tomorrow's history.  Generally, Americans think of our history as starting in 1609, when English settlers claimed land near the eastern tip of Virginia for their king, and named it Jamestown in his honor.  Europeans had been here long before then, and Native Americans much longer even than that.  On this day in 1541, one Spaniard found something only seen by the natives before him:  The conquistador Hernando de Soto laid eyes upon the mighty Mississippi River, the first European to do so.  He named it Rio de Espiritu Santo.  He could not have known that he would be dead slightly over one year later.  It is believed that his soldiers weighted down his body and sank him in the very same river, in an effort to conceal his passing from the natives.  He had not been especially nice to them, and the Spaniards hated the idea of what might become of it.

On this day in 1912, three men - Adolph Zukor, Daniel Frohman and Charles Frohman - united and formed the Famous Players Film Company, which set out to produce feature-length films at a time when most movies were short.  Their company took off and received quite a bit of attention.  They saw great opportunity in the film business, merged with other companies, arranged for national distribution of their films, and incorporated under the name of Paramount Pictures.  Then, they hired actors and turned them into celebrities, actors like Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino.  They became the biggest names of the silent era mostly because of Paramount's efforts.  Paramount is still around today, and remains one of the five oldest - and top-grossing - film companies in the world.  They clearly did something right!


There are only forty-three days a year when we get to celebrate the birth of a president of the United States, and we are happy to do just that today, because it has been 130 years since Harry S Truman was born in a modest home in Lamar, Missouri.  Truman was one of the least likely men to ever achieve the highest office of the land - he was a farm boy with eyesight so bad he was refused entrance to West Point Military Academy.  He had to secretly memorize the eye chart so that he could get accepted into the Missouri National Guard and fight in World War I. After the war, Truman became involved in politics, while managing to avoid scandals.  That was his main appeal when he was selected as Franklin Roosevelt's third vice president.  After FDR's death early in his fourth term, Truman took the reigns of government and did surprisingly well, despite the harsh criticism he received from his opponents.  Honestly, there's just too much to say about this fascinating man.  We could make him the subject of an entire blog posting. Instead, we will acknowledge his birthday and call it a day.

We celebrate another birthday today, that of Eric Hilliard Nelson. Born in 1940, Eric, more familiarly known as Ricky, was destined to a life in the spotlight by his famous parents: the accomplished band organ leader Ozzie Nelson and his singer wife Harriet.  Together with older-brother David, the Nelsons made a name for themselves nationally first on radio, from 1944 to 1952, then on television, in the sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, which aired between 1952 and 1966.  During this time, Ricky became something of a pop music icon, singing a number of very successful songs including "Hello, Mary Lou," "I'm Walkin'", and "Travellin' Man." Nelson's love of music carried him through much of his postOzzie and Harriet career.  He toured often, despite his hatred of the travel.  Refusing to ride in a bus between destinations, he took a small luxury plane.  Tragically, he died in that plane in 1985 at the age of 45.

QUOTE:  Just believe in what you're doing and keep doing it. - Ricky Nelson

Answer:  d)  Kirsten Dunst.  She was born in glorious New Jersey!  All the other beautiful women listed were actually born in Sweden.