Rock-Ola's Daring Dash To The Queen Mary

📸 The Queen Mary's arrival into New York in 1936

In 1936, the same year that the Rock-Ola Multi Selector Jukebox launched, Great Britain launched a little something of its own - the eminent RMS Queen Mary, a striking ocean liner which sailed her maiden voyage from Southampton on May 27, 1936. She arrived in New York a few days later on June 1 and it’s here that her tale becomes intertwined with that of our legendary founder, David C. Rockola...



Rockola had only been making jukeboxes (or phonographs as they were known back then) for a couple of years when an opportunity arose at the eleventh hour for him to install one of his latest models, the Multi-Selector onboard the newest and most luxurious ship afloat. 


📸 The dining room of The Queen Mary on her maiden voyage


The American media were just as captivated with the Queen Mary as the British were. She was described as “a new peak in luxury at sea” by the New York Times, and “just about the most beautiful ship afloat” by the New Yorker. She was proclaimed as “regal a ship as ever ruled the waves” by the New York American. With a reputation like that, it’s easy to see why Mr. Rockola decided that he couldn’t miss the opportunity to install one of his brand new jukeboxes aboard - so when such a chance presented itself, he sprang into action.

The timescale was the biggest challenge. Anyone who’s ever bought, sold, or owned a jukebox knows exactly how hard they can be to move, especially with the kind of care that such exquisite machines deserve. That was exactly the problem faced by Rockola that bright morning in June 1936. Legend has it he had supposedly only been given two hours notice to get the jukebox aboard the Queen Mary before she was due to leave.

Rockola had to think on his feet and eventually opted for the quickest and simplest option - he had the jukebox strapped to the top of a taxi and sent careering towards the crowded docks. It was one heck of an assignment for the driver, with rumors circlulating that a special squad of private detectives had been hired to assist the regular police department to clear the way for the taxi so that it could reach the ship on time. Its arrival was witnessed by large crowds gathered at the dock, which all played in David Rockola's favor.


The Queen Mary docks in New York
📸 NYC Municipal Archives


The jukebox was finally loaded on the ship - Rockola had pulled it off! But he didn't stop there. Capitalizing further in the weeks after the stunt he declared in newspapers articles and magazines

"...the Queen shall have music wherever she goes". 


"What’s more the Queen can have the best there is in music...with Rockola Multi-Selector phonographs! They can have the finest tone quality ever produced by a musical instrument. Truly music fit for a Sovereign!"


Some people speculated that the whole thing was simply a PR stunt devised by Mr. Rockola. Are any of those rumors true? Well, we may never know!

In the early 1990's the Rock-Ola Manufacturing Co was moved from Chicago to Torrance in California where it is just a short drive from The Queen Mary, which is permanently moored in Long Beach, (and coincidentally where our international orders are shipped from to around the globe!)


The coincidences don't stop there though. Owner and CEO Alexander's late father spent 8 months living on The Queen Mary in the 1940's when the ship served as a British military vessel during the Second World War. Alexander likes to visit the ship when he can to remember his Father and relive his fascinating war stories. Needless to say The Queen Mary is a rather special old girl to us here at Rock-Ola!


Why not contact us to book a factory tour of Rock-Ola? We would love to show you around the only Authentic American Jukebox Factory on the planet!