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.
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.