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Topic: David Cullen Rockola, Jukebox inventor. Died on 25th January, 1993.
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Robert Booth

1/25/2012 8:13:42 AM
Member since:
Feb 2007
Total posts:3225
David Cullen Rockola, Jukebox inventor. Died on 25th January, 1993.

In the late 1930’s he invented self named jukebox #1428 Rock-Ola. The Rockola family lived near Virden in the early 20th century after George A. Rockola, a Russian immigrant came from Byelorussia to McCauley in the 1890’s.  
He was an avid inventor and Blacksmith holding in 1906 the Patent on a double stroke pump.  
David was born in Virden on 22nd January, 1897. His parents separated, David and three of his four brothers moved with their mother to Virden where they built the house they lived in.  
When David was fourteen his mother died so he left home, and travelled across Canada taking various jobs, including a mechanic in a vending machine factory.  
In 1919 he was manager of a cigar store in Chicago where he became familiar with a coin operated machine.  
When he was in his 20’s he started the Rock-Ola Manufacturing Company, where he built weighing machines called “Penny Scales”, and later in 1933 pinball machines.  
In 1935 he built his first jukebox, and in 1936 he delivered one of the new 12-selection phonographs to the decks of the luxury liner Queen Mary on her maiden voyage from New York, but it was not until the 40’s and 50’s before their sales were to peak.  
In the early 1940’s David C. Rockola was the only president/manager of a jukebox company who signed all design patents’ to the company.  
Somehow Organized Crime had the manufacturers of slot machines develop them for gambling and Rockola and other jukebox manufacturers sold these machines to middlemen or directly to the Mob.  
But with the appointment of a new District Attorney the clean up of crime became a high priority. David Rockola faced some serious charges, but agreed to testify about the slot machine rackets of Chicago in return for immunity.  
With testimony given by Rockola and another manufacturer named William Keeney the Southside Slot Syndicate and James N. “High Pockets” O’Brian were indicted.  
In 1941 there were at least five totally unknown design patents by David C. Rockola for Tone Column auxiliary speakers without selector units, but they were most probably never produced.  
The Rock-Ola Manufacturing Corporation had after that, like the other big companies in the business, a period of three or four years where no new models were produced.  
Early in the War of WW II, the Rockola Company was one of ten contractors who manufactured carbines for the U.S. army who required a lightweight semi-automatic shoulder armament.  
The M1 fired a .31 calibers’ cartridge which was ballistic ally comparable to a .357 Magnum hand gun cartridge. Rockola supplied a total of 228, 500 carbines which was 3% of the total produced.  
From 1946 until 1948 the Rock-Ola Manufacturing Corporation produced three cabinet types: the Rock-Ola 1422, the 1426, and finally the 1428 Magic-Glo, and there are in fact three design patents related to that series, all officially made by David C. Rockola.  
Two of them can be related directly to the models Rock-Ola 1422 and 1428, but the last of the three relates to details on both the 1422 and the 1426.  
In the design patents David C. Rockola refers as one of the very few to old designs for radios, vending machines, and automobile head lights etc., in which he had found details of interest.  
The Rockola Company is still in business manufacturing jukeboxes.  
David Cullen Rockola was one of the pioneers in the jukebox business, and he died at Skokie, Illinois, at 96 years of age on the 25th January, 1993.  


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