Jacobs Soda Machines

The F.L. Jacobs Company of Indianapolis, Indiana would have to be labeled the "dark horse" of machine manufacturers during the Golden Era. While not much is known about their pre-World War II existence, it is believed that the Jacobs Company was one of a handful of manufacturers allowed to make Coke machines in limited quantities during the war years. Those machines, like their competitors', were large in vending capacity to serve the workers in war plant environments. An example was the J-144, a gargantuan machine weighing 580 pounds empty and measuring 34" wide x 35" deep x 65" high. Too big to fit through most doorways, routemen came to fear early versions of the J-144 with its chain driven bottle drum. Powerful enough to rotate a drum loaded with 144 bottles, this drive mechanism could also cut off a hand if activated accidentally during the loading process.

By comparison, two of their smaller, all mechanical, post war machines are prized by collectors today. The first, the J-26 (and its identical twin, the J-160) was featured as "coming soon" in trade publication advertising of July, 1947. Its dimensions were a mere 19" wide x 26" deep x 54" high and light weight at 235 pounds. At first glance, it's not immediately clear which is the front and which is the side on a 26. Actually, one "side" of the machine serves as the loading door and opening it reveals a light weight aluminum drum holding 26 bottles in nine pie-shaped compartments, with enough room to pre-cool an additional 41 bottles. One crank of the handle dispenses a bottle through a chute on the skinny side. Identical in size and operation, the Model J-35 came shortly after the 26. A slightly modified drum and delivery chute allowed for four bottles in each drum compartment instead of three for the Model 26. All Model 35s came equipped with Frigidaire compressors similar to those in the Model 26. For those who are detail oriented, J-26 models with the suffix "B" on the cabinet serial number came equipped with 1/6 HP Blissfield refrigeration units, while the suffix "F" indicated those were equipped with 1/8 HP Frigidaire units.

The Jacobs Company moved to Traverse City, Michigan sometime around 1950. Before ceasing the manufacture of Coke machines in the early 50's the company added one more model to the existing three. Jacobs labeled the new Model 108 as the "fastest loading medium cooler made". It measured 27" wide x 35" deep x 54" high and had the characteristic "mailbox" shape of the other models. This unique shape is the reason the Jacobs is rarely found without dents in its sides and top, as the lack of hand-holds made it a difficult machine to move without rolling over on its top.

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Copyright © March 12,1997

Last updated on November 19, 2000