Seeburg Stereo Showcase - January 16th, 2019

I always love consignment auctions, because they almost always have this effortless ability to just take you back to a different time. It might be the Watling “How Much Do You Weigh” coin operated scale that was created around 1940. I can just imagine the wheat pennies, buffalo nickels, and mercury dimes these people wrapped their knuckles around and slid out of their pockets just to place down the slotted hole to see how much they really weighed, and then laugh about it with their friends as they trotted off to the next venue that would take their excitement, and of course their money.

 

It also might be the Gearhart Knitting Machine Company which was known as the first true tool for the At-Home Knitter. Looking at the contraption, I can’t imagine making anything on it, but if you’re so inclined to try, ours comes with a 1924 manual, and instructions on making your own socks.

 

It could also be the old hand-crank multigraph created by the American Multigraph Company. The Company itself was founded by Harry Gammeter and Henry Osborn in 1902 and was located on E. 40th St. at Kelley Avenue in Cleveland Ohio, however this piece here, this was meant to go anywhere and everywhere. In fact, there is even one somewhere in the Smithsonian, however where you’d find it I don’t know.

 

This machine was an office printing machine invented by Gammeter who was a typewriter salesman, and the machine printed using these little tiny metal letters that could be slid into place on the wheel, which was then cranked and printed. The impression of these little letters was made with printing ink, or for some, through a ribbon. It has drawers, and drawers of little letters, and all I can think is that if 140 characters had to be sorted through, and placed in a slot the way these are, that we would have much more constructed tweets to scan through. These things however don’t take me back the way that music does, and there is no item in our sale that plays music the same way as the Seeburg Stereo Showcase.


When you’re looking at the history of jukeboxes or automated musical equipment you can’t skip the J.P. Seeburg and Company name. In fact, the classic M100C, which was produced in the late 1950’s was featured early in the opening of “Happy Days”. Now, before you get too upset, I know the actual spinning 45 rpm record infamously shown is being played on a Rock-Ola but still, being in the show that arguably made the Jukebox what it is today is still not anything to laugh at.

 

The Seeburg company starts much earlier than the M100C. It goes back to 1907 when Justice P. Seeburg started his own musical career by creating the J.P. Seeburg Piano Co. He was born in Sweden in 1871, came to the United States at 16, and settled in Chicago which at the times was one of the hotbeds of the American Music Industry.

 

His pianos were selling all around the country because of the number of instruments they had inside of them, which if played right could sound like an entire band. While he was successful with this line of automatic pianos, he wanted to stay right on the cutting edge of what was next in the music industry. In 1927 he discontinued the manufacturing of pianos and retooled his factories for making the new coin-operated phonograph.

 

Seeburg would continue to change, and develop their inventory and in 1928 he was one of the first manufacturers of the multi-select jukebox which was known as the “Audiophone”. The jukebox was a heavy 8-selection box that had pneumatic control valves which made it half nickelodeon and half phonograph. The sales of this never reached astronomical numbers, however they were enough to let Seeburg realize that he was onto something: The more music the machine could play, the better. By the 1930’s Seeburg was in his late 60’s and handed the company over to his son Noel, who reorganized the business to better compete against Wurlitzer and Rock-ola. If you ever get to see the Jukeboxes the Seeburg Co. created from 1940, to World War II, you’ll understand why these are such collector’s items still today.

 

Even through all that success, it wasn’t until 1949 when the Seeburg company would change everything we knew about the Jukebox history. Up until this time, with 78 rpm records the standard, only 10 to 24 selections could be played on one machine. That is, until Seeburg debuted the Select-O-Matic jukebox which held up to 50 records front and back, meaning that it could play 100 different songs. For those of you doing math at home that’s four-times greater than previously available. They weren’t done there however, because in 1950 they introduced the first commercial jukebox designed to play the then-new 45 rpm records. 5 years later they increased the number of records from 50 to 100, eventually settling on 50 or 80 per machine after 1958.

 

The machine for sale today, is the Seeburg Stereo Showcase which was created in 1966 and 1967, and features the same mechanism it did back then which stores the records in a linear magazine and plays them vertically clamped to a flywheel turntable. The record that you selected is then pushed forward from behind, clamped in place, and played. In the 1950’s the user could see all this magic or science, whichever you prefer, however in the later years they decided to add visuals and graphics that covered up what was happening inside the machine.

 

As the years moved on, and music became much easier to access at home Seeburg was faced with debt and a declining market. The company went bankrupt in 1979, and was completely dissolved by 1980. The name Seeburg found its way throughout the music industry several more times, including CD Jukeboxes, however those never took off. Today however, I think that Justice P. Seeburg could find some solace. I mentioned that his later motto was the more music the better, and I mention that because as of 2017 the Seeburg 1000 website continually livestreams the best of the Seeburg 1000 Background Music Library recordings. I’m listening to it now, January 2019, and let me tell you…it takes you back.


History Has Its Eyes On You

We are not makers of history. We are made by history.
— Martin Luther King Jr.

In our next online auction we take a dip into some of our greatest stories as a nation. Stories told through stamps, coins, letters, and pictures…lots of pictures. In this auction we travel from the late 1800’s to today. We fly through Japan in WWII, and the USSR years later. We hear “State of the Union” Presidential speeches, and we can feel on our fingertips the buttons, and coins that marked our most popular presidential races. Here in this auction, we take a look at thousands of pieces of history, knowing that history has it’s eyes on us now. Below are just a few of the stories we’ll encounter along the way.

To start our featured items I want to first travel to Detriot Michigan in 1909, where the KRIT Motor Car Company, first started to build touring cars and roadsters. Of course they weren’t the first to do this, but they were the first to include a Swastika as their car emblem. Its name most likely originated from Kenneth Crittenden, the financial backer and designer of the cars. They were 4-Cylindar models, and oddly enough many of them were sent to Europe and Australia. Of course the Germans had yet to sully the use of the Swastika, so at the time nobody had thought anything of it. The KRIT Motor Car Company wouldn’t live on to see what Nazi Germany would go on to do with their beloved emblem, because the company failed in 1915 due to the outbreak of WWI. Interestingly enough, in the exact same lot we have for sale is a button from the Nuremburg Rally of 1939. The Nuremburg Rally was the annual rally for the Nazi Party in Germany and went on from 1923-1938. In 1939, the 11th Party Congress scheduled the rally for September 2nd through the 11th, and even named it the “Rally of Peace” because it was intended to reiterate the German desire for peace with other countries and with the German people themselves. The rally however was cancelled quickly, because on September 1st, one day before the rally was to begin, Germany began its offensive push against Poland. The rest is as they say history.

Fast forward to after the attack on Pearl Harbor, where the government knew that the Japanese army could potentially have access to a lot of United States cash. Fearing the allowance of that kind of problem, the emergency Hawaii overprint note was created. Should the islands have been taken over, the United States Government would immediately reject any Hawaii overprint notes, knowing that they were in enemy hands.

While the overprint notes were being shipped to the islands of Hawaii, here on United States soil was the formation of the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, better known as the W.A.V.E.S. The waves were established in 1942, as a part of the United States Naval Reserve, and served at 900 different United States stations with their peak at over 86,000 women. Admiral Nimitz commended the W.A.V.E.S. at the conclusion of the war for their groundbreaking assistance on the national stage.

Once the war was near it’s end there was a need for strengthening a unification among allies, so President Harry S. Truman, and other world leaders were able to establish the United Nations, which held its first convention on the west coast of San Francisco. Edward Stettinius Jr., who was Secretary of State under Franklin Roosevelt and Truman both, would be named the first United States Ambassador to the United Nations. There in San Francisco from April 25th to June 26th, 1945 Edward Stettinius Jr. chaired the United States delegation to the United Nations Conference on International Organization.

These are only a few of our favorite stories, so be sure to check out the full catalog.

The KRIT Motor Car Co. is a pin from a part of Lot #51

The Hawaii Overprint Silver Certificates are Lot #195

The United Nations Conference Memorabilia is a part of Lot #143

The original W.A.V.E.S. Hat & Portraits are Lot #253

The Historic Baker Hotel

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You wouldn’t think that in 1929, two weeks after the stock market crashed, opening up an extravagant and high-priced hotel in Mineral Wells Texas would be an idea and a project that we’d still be talking about to this day. However, that is the case of the Baker Hotel.

You might think “Why Texas, and Why Mineral Wells?” However for those unfamiliar with Texas, 50 miles west of Ft. Worth is the city of Mineral Wells, known historically for its healing properties in it’s water. In fact before this hotel was built the city had 46 hotels and boarding houses by the year 1909, and by 1910 they were welcoming around 150,000 people a year who were all looking to take a dip in the mineral waters themselves. In 1920, just 10 years later, the new-booming city had at least 400 mineral wells that visitors could use. Then, in 1929 comes Texas entrepreneur T.B. Baker. The hotel at the time cost $1.2 Million to build, and was the first of its kind outside of a major metropolitan area. As a guest you could enjoy amenities such as air conditioning, circulating ice water, automatic light controls, and valet doors for dry cleaning so that the hotel employees wouldn’t disturb the many the guests. According to the Ft. Worth Star Telegram the Baker Hotel opened with state-of-the-art features including “mineral baths, an Olympic-size swimming pool and a rooftop nightclub known as the Cloud Room, where old-timers could recall hearing music stream out across town at night”. In addition to the swimming pools and night club, the 14-story Baker Hotel was an immense architectural find for the celebrity looking to still find ways to spend money throughout the great depression and the years after. Hollywood Stars such as Judy Garland, Clark Gable, Roy Rogers, and the Three Stooges all made their way to Texas to take a dip, and a stay in the Baker Hotel.

The stars however, would find other places to go, and new sights to see. By the 1940’s, with WWII in full effect, Mineral Wells had become a military town and the halls and rooms that held celebrities and politicians, now held green-outfitted men either preparing or taking a break from the war a world away. The hotel would never see the night clubs full of youth, and excitement again. In fact The Baker closed it’s doors in 1963, and found enough backing to open two years later once again. However the last guests checked in, and out in the year 1972.

Years later, the Baker stood tall in the city of Mineral Wells yet the windows were boarded up, and nearly everything of value stripped from its walls. People took anything they could find like lamps, strips of wallpaper, pictures, mirrors, and of course silverware.

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Now, before you get too heartbroken about this magnificent hotel, I need to note that the Baker Hotel plans to open it’s doors once again, however this time with some major changes. While here in this auction you can get a piece of this storied hotels’ past, the future of it looks bright and has the people of Mineral Wells excited for the first time in a long, long time. When the Baker Hotel re-opens there still be the famous pool & fountain, the lobby will be restored to it’s original beautiful architecture, the Presidential Suite on the 10th floor will be restored (as well as the Baker Suite on the 11th). That however, will be all that will be the same. Instead of the 450 rooms that the Baker Hotel originally had, it will now be scaled down to 155. The street-level floor where the kitchen is currently located will have retail space, and a diner and coffee shop. Several of the banquet halls will be transitioned into other purposes for the hotel, and the current gymnasium will become a meeting space, full of breakout rooms, and a small kitchen for if you needed that sort of thing. The new 14,000 Spa will be separated into men’s and women’s areas, and a new fitness area will be added. However even with all of this, the Baker Hotel will still sit, 50 miles west of Ft. Worth as one of the most storied, and unique landmarks throughout the state of Texas.




The knife which is inscribed Baker Hotel Co. is up for auction as a part of lot #751 in our October Local Consignment Auction.


The $25,000 Button

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In 1974, the WABC Radio station out of New York City ran a contest known as the “WABC MusicRadio $25,000 Button Contest”. The “owner” or “wearer” of the button could possibly win up to $25,000 if he or she were seen around town with the button on. Rick Sklar, who is the program director credited as one of the originators of the Top 40 radio format, was also the architect of the famed button contest. While it was every program directors’ goal to continuously find new listeners, it was Sklar who made it a well-practiced success while at WABC. The station focused on young-hip teenagers, and frequently played the “hits” as it curated playlist upon playlist featuring the top songs of that day. It was played and played over and over by DJ’s who were true personalities, something most radio stations at the time couldn’t find with regularity. Under Sklar’s direction WABC was widely regarded as the most listened to radio station in North America throughout the mid 60’s and into the early 70’s.

Rick Sklar would move on to work at numerous radio stations, and later create his own consulting firm, but it was that $25,000 button that he held so close to his heart as one of his greatest accomplishments. The 14 million buttons that they passed out were seen all over New York, and WABC was at the top of the radio industry. The button and the contest were so popular when it was ran in 1974, that Sklar decided he would run it again 1982, though this time with McDonalds as a sponsor.

The button that we have here in our auction is the 2nd button of the contest, that was released in 1982, but it’s still just as awesome a piece of radio and American history. One that, with the rise of new mediums and opportunities for listening, that I hope we won’t forget for a long time.

The WABC Button is a part of lot #25 of our October 2018 Local Consignment Auction