National Jukebox Day is the day before every Thanksgiving — on November 24 this year. Music is the soundtrack of our lives, and this day celebrates the jukebox, shining some light on the device that brought and still brings music into our lives in a special way. The jukebox has a rich history; the nostalgia it carries is unparalleled. It has been around for era after era of modern music — from jazz to country and blues to rock. Celebrate this historic machine today as you visit your hometown restaurants and bars in preparation for Thanksgiving with family and old friends.
History of National Jukebox Day
Jukeboxes revolutionized music in multiple ways. With the invention of the jukebox, people could enjoy music in restaurants and bars. Artists found a new way to get public exposure and were further enabled to sell vinyl. The jukebox is a historical and cultural symbol in more ways than one.
Louis Glass and William S. Arnold, managers of the Pacific Phonograph Co., created the first jukebox. Called a nickel-in-the-slot phonograph at the time, this revolutionary was displayed at the Palais Royale Saloon in San Francisco, California, on November 23, 1889. It saw instant success, making over $4000 (the equivalent of about $120,249.23 today) in the first year alone, and inspired innumerable people to create different versions all over the U.S. In no time, “phonograph parlors” with multiple nickel-in-the-slot phonographs spread across America and Europe.
As the machine’s expansion and popularity increased, technological advancements were made. Record manufacturers came up with methods to produce record copies more efficiently, amplifiers were developed to enable large groups to listen simultaneously, and a disc record replaced the phonograph cylinder. In 1905, John Gabel presented the Automatic Entertainer to the world, which had 24 song selections. In 1928, Justus P. Seeburg manufactured a multi-select jukebox called the audio phone, and it had eight separate turntables, allowing people to choose from eight different records.
The jukebox took a hit when radio, another form of free entertainment, emerged in the 1920s, and the Great Depression hit in the 1930s. The sale of records saw a drastic dip as people lost the ability to spend on recreation. However, after the Great Depression, jukeboxes quickly bounced back and were thrust into their Golden Age as people got ready to live it up again.
The term ‘jukebox’ is believed to have originated in southern American states and came into existence in 1937. Since then, the jukebox’s popularity has increased steadily, its form everchanging. From a wooden box with listening tubes to colorful lights, metal, art deco designs, and even bubbles! Jukeboxes gave a new meaning to entertainment and gave artists a louder voice. They have done innumerable things for humanity, inspiring TouchTunes — a digital jukebox platform — to declare the day before Thanksgiving as National Jukebox Day in 2017.
National Jukebox Day timeline
Jukeboxes are equipped with amplifiers and multi-select discs.
The name ‘jukebox’ is derived from the slang ‘juke,’ meaning ‘to dance and act wildly.’
TouchTunes launches the first digital jukebox network, allowing customers to search and browse a digital library of 750 songs.
TouchTunes celebrates the first National Jukebox Day on the anniversary of the nickel-in-the-slot phonograph installation.
National Jukebox Day FAQs
How much does a jukebox cost?
Depending on the model, there are digital jukeboxes up for grabs ranging from $50 to $1,500.
Is there another name for a jukebox?
Aside from its original names like ‘coin-operated phonograph,’ ‘multi-select phonograph,’ etc., jukeboxes are also commonly known as ‘music boxes.’
What is the rarest jukebox?
A 1936 Gabel Starlite is one of the rarest jukeboxes. Only five of this kind are known to exist still.
National Jukebox Day Activities
See a jukebox
If you’re lucky enough to be near a restaurant, diner, or any establishment with a jukebox, go and give it a listen to fulfill your nostalgic dreams.
Get a jukebox app
To feel involved from the comfort of your home, there are plenty of apps to choose from to replicate the experience of a jukebox. Something is better than nothing.
Listen to your favorite tracks
You don’t even need a jukebox to celebrate it. The jukebox is a vital part of music listening history, so enjoy your favorite playlists and reflect on the rich history behind them.
5 Interesting Facts About Jukeboxes
The battle of the creators
Two other creators tried to patent their coin-operated phonographs, but the Glass and Arnold version was the first official public appearance.
They were mysterious
Since jukeboxes were present in speakeasies, they had a certain exotic appeal to them.
Jukebox to ‘wallbox’
As technology advanced, miniature jukeboxes with built-in speakers were developed to put on walls.
Not a nickelodeon
It is a common misconception that jukeboxes were known as nickelodeons at one point; however, there is no evidence.
The Big Four
The industry giants — AMI, Rock-Ola, Wurlitzer, and Seeburg — dominated the world of jukeboxes with their innovations.
Why We Love National Jukebox Day
It revolutionized music
No matter your genre of choice, music plays an important role in all of our lives. The invention of the jukebox paved the way for the millions of music listening devices we enjoy today.
It amplified all artists
In the earliest years, the jukebox gave public exposure to artists from all walks of life, including black musicians. This was a significant step, especially at a time when radios only played music from white artists.
It is so nostalgic
Just the sight of a cute, colorful jukebox unlocks so many memories, whether it's ‘90s music, diner dates, or even fashion trends from that time. Who doesn’t love a good throwback?
National Jukebox Day dates