Automatic Musical Instrument Co. (AMI)
1909 - 1962
Grand Rapids, Michigan
1909: Founded as National Automatic Music Co. Separate divisions handle manufacturing of nickelodeon pianos, and placement of the nickelodeons in public facilities.
1925: Piano-manufacturing division becomes the National Piano Manufacturing Co. and the Automatic Musical Instrument Co. (AMI) handles both the manufacturing and distribution of the automatic players and later jukeboxes.
1962: AMI is purchased by Rowe AC Services, a division of the Automatic Canteen Co of America.
AMI’s first products were electric pianos. Most notable was the “National Nickelodeon,” a coin-operated player piano without a keyboard. For a time cabinets for these player pianos were built by Bush & Lane, while other components were made by AMI in Grand Rapids. In 1927 AMI introduced the National Automatic Selective Phonograph, the first jukebox. Cabinets were wooden, and resembled other phonograph cabinets of the day. In 1930 styling was revamped, and the (still wooden) cabinet took on a more streamlined appearance. In 1932 AMI also came out with the first selective remote control wall boxes, which were miniature jukeboxes used in booths of diners.
Beginning with the “Top Flight” model introduced in 1936, which was made in part of plastics and had fluorescent lights, styling closely mirrored developments in popular culture and industrial design. The “Singing Tower” models of the early 1940s looked like science fiction robots. The “Model-A’s,” the first post-World War II models, resembled the front grilles of cars. The “Continental” models produced in the early 1960s looked like flying saucers with radar dishes. “Phono-Vue” was added in 1968, which showed 8mm films with the music, forerunners of music videos. The 1984 introduction of the “Video-Music Entertainment Center” made the merger of audio and video complete. Many of the cabinets for these machines were sub-contracted by another Grand Rapids manufacturer, RoseJohnson. In 1987 records were replaced with compact discs.
Rowe-AMI maintains a museum of its own products at its offices in Grand Rapids, which is not open to the general public. In 1988 a history was authored by Frank Adams, Ph.D., entitled Rowe-AMI Jukeboxes, 1927-1998: Those Magnificent Jukeboxes.
MARKS AND LABELS
The nickelodeons of the 1920s had stencils or metal plates, which read “Property of Automatic Musical Instrument Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan”. The stylized monogram “AMI” appeared on the 1938 “Streamline,” and continued with slight variations through the 1962 “Continental”. In 1963, with the change in ownership, came the addition of “Rowe” to the AMI monogram.
The source, with permission of the author, is Grand Rapids Furniture: The Story of America’s Furniture City by Christian G. Carron, published by the Grand Rapids Public Museum. 1998.
|Title||Automatic Musical Instrument Co. (AMI)|
|Address||Grand Rapids, MI|
|Also Known As||AMI|