The Rock-Ola Manufacturing Corporation was founded in 1927 by Coin-Op pioneer David Cullen Rockola to manufacture slot machines, scales and pinball machines. The firm later produced parking meters, furniture, and firearms, but became best known for its jukeboxes.
The Rock-Ola Scale Company was founded in 1927 by David Cullen Rockola to manufacture coin-operated entertainment machines. During the 1920s, Rockola was linked with Chicago organized crime and escaped a jail sentence by turning State's Evidence. Mr. Rockola added the hyphen because people often mispronounced his name. The name was changed to Rock-Ola Manufacturing Corporation in 1932. The company successfully expanded its production line through the Great Depression to include furniture. Starting in 1935, Rock-Ola sold more than 400,000 jukeboxes under the Rock-Ola brand name, which predated the rock and roll era by two decades, and is thought to have inspired the term.
Rock-Ola became a prime contractor for production of the M1 carbine for the US Military during World War II. Rock-Ola machined receivers, barrels, bolts, firing pins, extractors, triggers, trigger housings, sears, operating slides, gas cylinders, and recoil plates. Rock-Ola used its furniture machinery to manufacture stocks and handguards for its own production and for other prime contractors, and subcontracted production of other machined parts. Rock-Ola delivered 228,500 military carbines at $58 each before contracts were cancelled on May 31, 1944. Rock-Ola also produced approximately sixty "presentation" carbines as gifts to company executives and other officials. Presentation carbines were finished in polished blue rather than the dull Parkerizing used on military weapons, and were accompanied by a custom-made wooden case including the name of the recipient engraved on a brass plate. Some of the presentation carbines had no serial numbers, while others were numbered in a special sequence preceded by "EX". Military production carbines had serial numbers in the following range:
- 1,662,250 - 1,762,519
- 4,532,100 - 4,632,099
- 6,071,189 - 6,099,688
- 6,199,684 - 6,219,688
Rock-Ola's production total was the lowest of any successful carbine prime contractor, amounting to 3.7% of the 6,221,220 made. The relative rarity and the distinctive name increase the value of Rock-Ola carbines; and the presentation carbines are highly prized among collectors.
Rock-Ola was also the maker of shuffleboard tables from 1948 to 1950. Considered by collectors the Cadillac of shuffleboards due to their Art Deco styling with curving woodwork and lots of chrome, they are highly sought after by players.
In 1977, Glenn Streeter's Antique Apparatus Company engineered, refined and manufactured the first "Nostalgic" Jukeboxes with a modern Rowe mechanism 45 rpm and later with a Philips CD-Player. Antique Apparatus acquired the Rock-Ola Corporation and name in 1992. The company currently operates in Torrance, California manufacturing a variety of jukeboxes for both commercial and home entertainment. Commercial jukeboxes feature touch screens, Peavey power amps and digital downloading of music and ad content, delivered by the AMI Network. Rock-Ola continues to manufacture Nostalgic style CD-jukeboxes and has also added state-of-the-art digital touch screen technology for the home market. The Rock-Ola line of Nostalgic Music Centers was introduced in 2006. Two new music center models, the "Mystic" and the "Q", were introduced in 2008. Rock-Ola models include: Harley-Davidson, Jack-Daniel's, Peacock, Gazelle, American - Beauties, President, Commando, Spectravox, and the new Bubblers 100 CD and its version Music - Center with a 1-terabyte hard disk drive (equivalent to 15,000 compact discs).
Images: Rock-Ola model 404 "Capri II"
- Canfield, Bruce N. (2008). "Making A Different Kind Of Music: The Rock-Ola M1 Carbine". American Rifleman. National Rifle Association. 156 (April): 47–49.
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