Taking the Day's Receipts from the Tonophone

Hoeffler Manufacturing Company Advertising Circular

Don Teach, a long standing mechanical music enthusiast, has made available for presentation a colorful and rare advertising poster commissioned by the Hoeffler Manufacturing Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Hoeffler was an early and major Milwaukee outlet for Wurlitzer coin operated instruments. This advertisement entitled "Reproduced From Life (Time, 12 P.M.) Taking the Day's Receipts from the Tonophone" is a superb example of early advertising artwork relating to mechanical music machines. It depicts a "Modern Cafe" which "is not complete unless it has good and refined music," that that looks more like a saloon than anything that might serve refined food or music.

The poster was part of the Richard J. Howe collection, possibly obtained with some mechanical music literature he bought from Dave Bowers. When Don Teach obtained the poster what he received was in pieces; printed on the type of paper used by newspapers, so it was in very poor condition. Don pieced it back together, scanned it, and then recreated what was missing in Photoshop, using cut and paste for the missing letters. He spent an entire week working on it. He then had a local art gallery print and frame four copies. From viewing the results of Don's meticulous work his efforts were not in vain, as the poster survives for all to enjoy as displayed below.

Hoeffler Hardware Company advertising poster.

(Hoeffler Advertising Poster courtesy of Don Teach)

The under-caption text of the advertisement reads as follows:

Much as been said about music in Cafes, Hotels, and other public places. We will now, however, take up the matter in all its distinct and separate phases.

Music as a Revenue

Past experience has proven that nothing is more profitable than music in public places. The American people are very fond of music, and when the opportunity presents itself do not hesitate to unloosen their purse-strings to hear their favorite March, or the latest popular song, or some sweet strain from Faust, Martha, or other well known Operas. Testimonials in this circular will show that our Electric Musical Devices pay as high as 300%, and never less than 50% on the investment. In what other line could you make a safe investment that would pay such profits?

Music as a Business Stimulator

Aside from the cash returns that are received from our Electric Musical Devices, they are also wonderful business stimulators. Music is a wonderful attraction, and is sure to attract those who would otherwise pass by; thus, the stranger enters, and amid the sweet strains of music, sips the sparkling wine, and passes many pleasant hours. Where could music be more appropriate and more enjoyable? We have unsolicited testimonials to show that some of our Automatic Musical Instruments have been the means of increasing the bar trade 25%. If such is the case, why not have Music?

The Charming Influence of Music

Americans who have traveled abroad enthusiastically praise the custom of having Music in public places, which is universal in all large cities in Europe.

Americans, as a rule, are great admirers of Music, believe in its elevating influence, and also believe it necessary for the full enjoyment of life. Music, however, to be cultivated among the masses, should be in all public places where it will burst upon the ear unedited. What could, therefore, be more appropriate in a public place than one of our Tonophones, or any other of our Automatic Musical Instruments? The program covers the entire field of musical productivity and embracing all ages. The classically inclined can be accommodated as well as the admirer of ragtime. Our practical lives could be materially enriched by a wider and more liberal acceptance of the musical benefits placed at our command. Nothing is more soothing than the refined and elevating influence of Music.

Music as a Modern Acquisition

No modern saloon with advanced ideas is now without Music. The present advanced condition of all public places is due to the desire of the proprietor to give his patrons that enjoyment which is both refined and elevating, and certainly nothing could be more so than Music. The modern saloon has become the magnet for the better element of the male community. This due to several causes:

First—To the charming influence of Music, which is now a necessary acquisition to every modern saloon.

Secondly—To the congregation of men occupied in different callings who meet for a quiet interchange of thought. Politics, literature and art are here discussed, and are now favorite topics in the modern saloon.

Thirdly—To the prevalence of Art (either in painting or plastic art) with which these magnificent establishments are now adorned.

Let us once more impress upon the Proprietors of modern cafes, and other public places, that you must have MUSIC to attract the better element, and as long as it is profitable and increase your trade, why not have it?

The Wurlitzer Tonophone, introduced circa 1898, and built by the de Kleist Musical Instrument Works, North Tonawanda, New York, plays an interchangeable 10-tune pinned wooden cylinder. One nickel drop played one tune—twice. By means of an ingenious device the cylinder was allowed to rotate twice for each nickel drop, playing the tune two times before the instrument shut off. Notice the saloonkeeper, at midnight, down on one knee scooping out the day's receipts. One cigar box is full, and the second one is nearly full, with another scoop full of nickels being taken from the piano's coin collection box.

So how many nickels does one cigar box full hold? And how many cigar boxes full of nickels can a Tonophone collect in one day? The average Tonophone tune (with the wooden cylinder rotating twice) is about 1-1/2 minutes. Imagine that the Tonophone was in an exceptionally good location whereupon a steady stream of nickels was continuously fed into it, so that it played without interruption for twenty-four unbroken hours. That amounts to 1,440 minutes of playing time per day, or a maximum of 960 tunes per day, which amounts to $48.00, far less than would fill a cigar box to the brim.

When I was a Junior in High School (circa 1955), I took my Wurlitzer Bijou Orchestra to the School's annual Sadie Hawkins Day event (a pseudo-holiday that originated in Al Capp's hillbilly comic strip, Li'l Abner). It was a two-day affair that took place after regular school hours and ran until maybe 10:00 at night. It was held in the boy's gym building. The Bijou Orchestra stood tall against one wall, and it could frequently be heard singing its merry tunes over the general hubbub. I had promised the income (in nickels) to the FBLA club (Future Business Leaders of America), of which I was a member. After two days I collected the receipts and presented them to the FBLA, the grand sum of $2.05 in receipts. It was laughable, and the receipts could not have come close to covering the trouble of hauling the Bijou Orchestra to the school gym and back to my home. But it was a fun experience and it did bring some festive gaiety to the Sadie Hawkins Day event, while forever putting to rest any fanciful notions about any fabulous money making capabilities as depicted in the above advertisement.


Don Teach. Text composition by Terry Hathaway.


Courtesy of Don Teach.