1924: The First Drop Changer and Pioneer of the Jukebox Industry: Deca-Disc and Electramuse


Many thanks to Mark Williams for allowing me access to his machines,

 and to Bill Butterfield for additional information and photographs




The Deca-Disc and Electramuse coin-operated phonographs of the 1920s are the very first record changers – using a sophisticated drop changer mechanism – and one of the earliest disc jukeboxes offered on the US market. The history of the original Deca-Disc company is very obscure, but its involvement with some of the great early jukebox pioneers – Ristaucrat, Homer Capehart and Holcomb & Hoke, and perhaps even Rock-Ola, makes telling their story a veritable tour-de-force of the early jukebox industry.


This first drop changer with its intricate engineering achieved a superb level of sophistication that no other drop changer ever achieved:


·        The record is not dropped, but picked up by raising the platter.

·        The platter slightly lowers for each additional record, so that the top record always plays at the same elevation. This ensures a constant vertical tracking angle (VTA)

·        After the last record, the platter lifts all records back up into the magazine, thus allowing for continuous play (a continuous changer.) No restacking or reloading is required.

·        All records are cradled in individual aluminum record trays. This prevents edge chipping during change cycle, damage during drop, warping of records in high temperatures and the slipping of the top record during play.


However, although the mechanism was originally designed as a record changer with some suggestions for home use, all production models were only offered as a coin operated sequential jukeboxes, with no provision to use the machine as a continuous-play record changer.



The Deca-Disc Phonograph Co. and the Deca-Disc Jukebox


The Deca-Disc is a small upright phonograph with a case made from plain quartersawn oak and a glass top. A small grille in the front is the horn/ loudspeaker opening.

It plays five 10” records in drop sequence, and automatically restacks the magazine. Initially, the amplification was acoustic, powered by an electric motor.


The Deca-Disc is a very rare machine, only two examples are known. Identification is complicated by the fact that the surviving machines do not have any manufacturer or model tag.


History of the Deca Disc


The Deca-Disc automatic phonograph was patented originally in1921 by James E. Stout. Paul D. Bodwell, President of the Deca-Disc Phonograph Co., Inc. of Waynesboro Pennsylvania filed a patent for the final production version in 1925 (with an unrealized lighted advertisement display, which would have made this a precursor of the “light-up” jukeboxes of the 1930s). A 1924 Stock certificate already shows an engraving of the actual machine.



At this point, the Deca-Disc was an acoustic jukebox that played the record naked without the later record trays.


This original 1924 version most likely had a number of problems: A current owner tells me that without the trays the Deca-Disc tends to break records.


In 1925, Bodwell filed additional patents for record trays made from thin, spun aluminum to protect the records from chipping and warping. A cork cover or coat of rough crinkle paint was added to ensure that the top record did not slip during play.


Even though the Deca-Disc was now a reliable machine, ready to make lots of money for the new owners, its inherent limitations made it a slow seller: Low volume due to the acoustic reproduction, the plain look of the machine, and the small selection of only 5 records in sequential play did not make it an attractive proposition. It can be deduced from the lack of promotion and advertising, that Deca-Disc was ill-prepared to market and distribute this machine.

(Click on picture above to see the Deca-Disc in action)


In 1928 the Ristau brothers’ Atlas Sales Company came to the help of the failing Deca-Disc company: They bought the aging inventory of unsold Deca-Discs, and Alfred, the eldest son, converted and electrified each of these by replacing the soundbox with a generic “radio adapter” magnetic pick-up, installing a small 8” electrodynamic speaker and an Silver-Marshall amplifier. This “electrified” but otherwise unchanged Deca-Disc started the line of great Ristaucrat jukeboxes.


One source mentions that Rock-Ola purchased what was left of the Deca-Disc Company with the hope of introducing the Deca-Disc record changer/stacker mechanism with its popular Rock-Ola line. A patent filed by Deca-Disc April 9, 1929, for an improvement of the Electramuse jukebox is the last trace of this precocious jukebox pioneer.




Deca-Disc Phonograph Co.,

Modified by Ristau Atlas Sales Co.




1924, probably sold 1928


Mark Williams

Repaired/Serviced by

Mark Williams


Click here for more information on the function of the Deca-Disc and a list of Deca-Disc patents.



The Holcomb & Hoke Electramuse


(Click on picture above to see the Electramuse Grand in action)


The Electramuse was an improved version of the Deca-Disc with a playing capacity of 15 records. Introduced in 1926, the Electramuse started the era of modern electrically amplified phonographs. The Electramuse was based on a flashy cabinet designed by Frank Hoke with light-up advertisement display (of the original 1925 Deca-Disc patent), and an improved mechanism licensed from Deca-Disc.



The Electramuse Grand ($787.50) with acoustic amplification based on an orthophonic folded horn design had a “tone volume sufficient to carry throughout the average size business room."


The Electramuse Super-Tone ($1260.00) had an up-to date electronic amplifier and loudspeaker so that the "volume can be stepped up so that its beautiful tones will reverberate to the uttermost recesses of the room or hall or can be muted down to the merest whisper."


Supplemental wall boxes allowed remote operation in a restaurant setting.


For upscale locations like clubs and hotel lobbies, Holcomb and Hoke introduced the Auditorium and the Park models of the Electramuse in 1929. In a respectable, classic mahogany case, the jukebox emulated the look of the high priced radio sets of the late 1920s.


Despite all the improvements and Holcomb & Hoke’s great salesmanship, the Electramuse was not a financial success: In 1930, after having lost more than half a million dollars, Holcomb & Hoke ceased production of the Electramuse. Frank J. Hoke states in an interview that there was only one thing wrong with the machine: It was not selective!


Production numbers for the acoustic Electramuse Grand are estimated at 100, for the electric Electramuse Super-Tone at 3000.




Holcombe & Hoke


Electramuse Grand




Mark Williams

Repaired/Serviced by

Mark Williams


Click here for more information on Holcomb and Hokes, Homer Capehart and the Electramuse.


I am always interested to hear about other machines.
 You can reach me at:

sgimips1 "at" yahoo.com (replace "at" with @)

Again my great thanks to Chuck Azzalina for his great help in creating these pages.
Pleases check out his other web pages with even more fascinating early audio and TV tube electronics. One level above this page, you can find more fascinating changers with video clips.




The original Deca-Disc/ American Music Corporation stock certificate: http://www.scripophily.net/ammuscor.html

1921 James. E. Stout patent of automatic phonograph: http://www.google.com/patents?id=Q3lWAAAAEBAJ&dq=1,449,252

1925 Paul D. Bodwell / Henry W. Bellows, patent for coin-op phonograph with an advertising device: http://www.google.com/patents?id=wTlhAAAAEBAJ&dq=1,837,608


History of Holcomb & Hokes and the Butter-Kist popcorn maker: http://www.antiquepopcornmuseum.com/history.php


On JukeboxWorld.de:

Great site of the Electramuse: http://www.jukebox-world.de/Forum/Archiv/USA/Electramuse.htm

More early jukeboxes and the Electramuse/ Auditorium Models: http://www.jukebox-world.de/Forum/Archiv/USA/Sonstige_Modelle_USA.htm