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Automated musical equipment, such as coin-operated phonographs and orchestrions, were manufactured under the J.P. Seeburg and Company name for most of its early years. Until 1956, the company was family-owned. The company was founded by Justus P. Sjöberg from Gothenburg, Sweden. He moved to the United States after graduating from Chalmers University of Technology and used an Americanized spelling of his surname for the company.
In the early days of the jukebox, the 78 rpm record was standard and until 1949, only 10 to 24 selections could be played on one machine. This changed with the Seeburg model M100A, which could play 50 records front and back for a total of 100 selections, more than four times greater than previously available. In 1950, Seeburg introduced the first commercial jukebox designed to play the then-new 45 rpm records. They increased the number of records from 50 to 100 in 1955, eventually settling on 50 or 80 per machine after 1958. The classic M100C is featured early in the opening of the "Happy Days" TV series, although the actual spinning 45 rpm record shown is being played on a Rock-Ola.
The Seeburg "Select-O-Matic" mechanism stores the records in a linear magazine and plays them vertically clamped to a flywheel turntable. The selected record is pushed forward from behind, then clamped in place. The tonearm is likewise oriented vertically and has a stylus on each side. The tonearm assembly shifts right or left depending on which side of the record is being played. In machines manufactured during the 1950s, the entire mechanism was visible to the user. Later machines concealed the mechanism in favor of graphics and lights, but internally it was essentially the same mechanism.
Seeburg started diversifying its product lines in 1959 with the introduction of background music players such as the Seeburg 1000, which used special 9-inch, 16⅔ rpm records.Seeburg acquired Williams (pinball and other games) and Gulbransen (electronic organs and drum machines) in 1964 and the H. N. White Company (King brass and woodwind instruments) in 1965. Gulbransen remained in production through the late 1960s.
In 1965, the Seeburg Corporation announced that it was establishing a new music performance rights organization to compete with ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. The society was called Coin-Operated Phonograph Performance Society (COPPS). The plan was for Seeburg to make recordings solely for play in jukeboxes.
During the 1970s Seeburg was faced with debt and a declining market for their music products. The corporation headed into bankruptcy in 1979 and was broken up in 1980. In Seeburg's reorganization effort, jukebox production came under the "Seeburg Phonograph Division," which the court closed in September, 1979. Following the demise of Seeburg Phonograph Division, ownership of Seeburg's assets passed to their creditors and liquidation of the company began. The creditors sold Williams Electronics Manufacturing Division as an independent company in 1980. King Musical Instruments was maintained by the creditors until it was sold in 1983. The remaining production assets were sold to Stern Electronics, who began producing "Stern/Seeburg" jukeboxes. The parts department stock was purchased by Los Angeles-based Jukeboxes Unlimited in September 1980. Stern Electronics left the amusements business in 1985.
In March 1984, former Seeburg employees and a group of investors formed "The Seeburg Phonograph Company" and acquired its production assets from Stern. It became the first manufacturer to produce a CD jukebox. It remained in operation for a few years and several models of CD jukeboxes were made during that period. Eventually, the company closed and now nothing remains. The Seeburg name lived again on Wurlitzer 1015 reproduction CD jukeboxes produced in Mexico for a short time. As of February 2010[update], a touchscreen digital jukebox conversion kit bearing the Seeburg name was being offered under the name Seeburg Digital. Seeburg Digital was a division of Penbrook Amusements located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
- Related companies
- Gulbransen (a home organ manufacturer that released first transistor organ and earliest transistor rhythm machine; merged with Seeburg in 1960s)
- Kay Musical Instrument Company (once owned by Seeburg during 1965–1967)
- Williams Electronics (once acquired by Seeburg in 1964 (–1973?))
- Stern Electronics (acquired Seeburg in 1979)
- Biro, Nick (July 20, 1959). "Seeburg Background Music Move Part of Diversification Program". Billboard. New York. p. 67.
- Record World magazine, November 6, 1965
- "Welcome to The Official Seeburg 1000 Site". Seeburg1000.com. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
- "The Gulbransen Organ". TheatreOrgans.com. May 2006.
US patent 3,358,068, Richard H. Campbell, Jr., Gilford, N.H. (Seeburg Corporation), "Musical Instruments", issued 1967-12-12
— related patents filed at the same time were: Automatic Rhythm Device, Automatic Repetitive Rhythm Instrument Timing Circuitry, and sound circuits of Snare Drum Instrument and Cow Bell Instrument.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Seeburg Corporation.|
- J.P. Seeburg Company - An Extensive History
- Seeburg jukeboxes
- Jukebox-World online shop for jukebox parts and accessories; forum; serial numbers; classified ads and more
- Seeburg and other jukeboxes and parts
- Photographs and Patent Drawings for Major Seeburg Jukeboxes
- Brief History of the Seeburg Company