In 1939 during World War 2, the Australian Labor Government headed by Robert Menzies banned the import of all non essential items. This was done to protect the value of the Australian Currency and help rebuild the nations economy. Jukeboxes were now deemed non essential.
The few Jukeboxes that could be found were old outdated pre war machines. These eventually broke down and with the import ban in place became impossible to repair due to lack of parts. Producing parts locally for repair was not financially viable.
This presented a rather large void which needed to be filled.
Three Victorian based companies, Wilding & Porter, The Wurlitzer Automatic Phonograph Company and Fraser & Hosking, viewed this as a golden opportunity.
Here is Chapter one of the history of two men who dreamt of building Australian designed and made Jukeboxes which they named the Musicola.
In 1949 Alfred Wilding and John Porter started a company called Wilding and Porter. The company was situated at
10-12 Victoria Street Brunswick in Melbourne. From their small factory they would manufacture Jukeboxes that would give the other popular Jukebox brands a run for their money.
The first Jukebox produced was called the M12-10. It played only the top sides of twelve 10" 78 rpm records. The mechanism was very similar to the early American Seeburg Jukeboxes ie. The Trashcan. It featured twelve sliding trays, a tonearm using a Horseshoe cartridge with sapphire tipped steel needle and a five valvepush pull amplifier which fed into one 12" speaker located in the front. The selection panel consisted of twelve push buttons in a circular design similar to a rotary dial telephone. It was housed in a gold enameled cabinet that allowed the record playing to be viewed through red perspex located in the lid closely resembling the radiograms of the day.
Sadly all that is known to exist of this model are two selector plates and a cancel button. Selector plate displayed below. Exact production numbers are unknown.
This model proved to be reliable and profitable. The company was off to a very good start.
M12-10 Faceplate Musicola M12-10 Jukebox
Factory photo of the M12-10 mechanism in production.
The summer of 1951 saw the birth of the M12-10B. This had the same mechanism as the M12-10 but was now housed in a radically designed art deco cabinet.
Again this machine proved to be both reliable and profitable for there owners, returning 80% of the original purchase price within the first year. The machines were real eye catchers with their bright gold finish and red lighting effect.
1953 is the year that the most popular Musicola Jukebox was manufactured. This machine had the same tried and tested mechanism as the previous models but now the mechanism parts were cast and no longer hand made. The cabinet had undergone a complete redesign. The mechanism was now more visible, it featured louvres with backlit rainbow colouring and had the name Musicola in bright multicolured letters displayed down the front. This was the M12-10C.
The M12-10C's were a very popular machine due to their reliability and their stunning cabinet design. In later years these models along with the M12-10B's were retrofitted to play 7" 45 rpm records. These are the most common model found today.
By now the company had a great reputation and was doing great business.
Jukebox technology was improving and by 1955 twelve selections was just not enough to stay competitive. Their closest competitor the Australian Wurlitzer Auto Phono Pty already had a machine that could play 24 selections. For Wilding and Porter it was time for something new. Something that would allow them to catch up with the others.
The Olympics were coming to Melbourne and so was the E40-10, which was a radical departure from what they had produced before. It was based on the American AMI Model C mechanism. It would require the retooling of the workshop and many hours of labour to complete, but both men thought that they were again on a winner.
The E40-10 could play both sides of twenty 78 rpm records. It used a travelling record rack with a stationary turntable and was housed in a cabinet similar to the M12-10C's with some minor cosmetic differences. Later models were retrofitted to play 7" 45's.
At first these machines were welcomed due to the success of the previous models but unfortunately this was short lived as they were plagued by mechanical problems. The owners were shown how to simply rectify the problems but unfortunately the Musicola Jukebox had started to develop a less than wonderful reputation. The company had also changed their policy. In the beginning with the M12-10 series, Jukeboxes were leased out on a profit share basis. The M12-10C's and E40-10's were now sold outright. Due to an oversight with sales tax they were presented with a rather large bill from the Tax Office. This produced a major cash flow problem within the company.
Around this time, possibly due to financial troubles, the partnership was dissolved. John Porter left and Alfred Wilding moved shop to 1-9 Ballarat Street Brunswick, changed the company name to Brunswick Engineering and began again.
Seeburg had just introduced the first Stereophonic Jukebox. Well Alfred Wilding was not a man to be left behind. He would most certainly do something about this! And do something he did.
In 1958-59 Wilding needed to get his company out of trouble and so he released the Model F-100.
The F-100 was yet again a new design for Musicola. It featured a mechanism that would play both sides of fifty 7" 45 rpm records. It was stereophonic and had a newly styled cabinet. This mechanism resembled the American AMI Model G-80 mechanism with stationary record rack and travelling turntable. This machine was hurriedly and cheaply assembled to hopefully lift the company out of its precarious financial situation.
At first things seem to be improving, however as before with the E40-10's this machine was also plagued with mechanical problems. At first the Jukebox owners would complain and a technician would be sent to fix the problem. Over time complaints from F-100 owners turned to outright abuse. Enough was enough! In a very bad mood Alfred Wilding collected every F-100 and dumped them at the tip. The F-100 was now history.
It was now early 1960 and the Australian Government again headed by Robert Menzies had relaxed it's import laws.
American Jukebox manufacturers had waited 21 years for this moment. Subsequently the market became flooded with their machines.
Undaunted, Wilding pressed on with his next project which would have the bugs fixed and would finally put Brunswick Engineering back into the black and regain their market share.
The Model V-100 Mark 2 was a completely new look in Jukeboxes. It had a design only seen in expensive European models. The mechanism was similar to the plagued F-100 but with the problems now hopefully solved. This was sure to be a winner with space age looks, an improved mechanism and great sound.
The Jukeboxes were trialed around Melbourne in various clubs and pubs. Unfortunately they could not shake their bad reputation. The Jukeboxes had mechanical problems and were a failure. Again they were all recalled and disposed of.
The company was officially liquidated in 1963.
Sadly an important chapter in Australian history had closed but would not be forgotten.
Both John Porter and Alfred Wilding died in the 1990's.
Wilding and Porter Factory 10 - 12 Victoria Street West Brunswick then and now. Number 10 is now parkland.