Filben Logo
History - Factory

Company History

The first models with the name “Filben” (mechanism based on the original patent filed on the 15th July, 1937, by William Michael Filben) were made according to a license contract of September, 1938, with the Rock-Ola Manufacturing Corp., but unfortunately William Michael Filben (born 1893) died on the 1st May, 1940 age 47, without any company name officially registered (his patent was granted on the 3rd March, 1942). The rights under the license contract, however, were then vested in his widow, Berniece Filben, and in his three minor daughters (Patricia, Rosemary,and Dolora).

Later the widow assigned all rights to the newly constructed Filben Manufacturing Co. against 51% of the shares, and the production of automatic phonographs was carried out by the co-owner of the company, Leonard E.Baskfield (49% of the shares). The actual production of the mechanisms and cabinets took place at Batavia Metal Products Inc. (River Street in Batavia, Illinois) according to a contract stating that an initial amount of 10,000 such phonographs should be produced. The contract also provided for re-designing of the cabinet at the expense of Batavia Metal Products Inc., and the distribution of all Filben phonographs, including the "Mirro~cle Music" line with stow-a-way unit "FM-S2", was carried out by the U. S. Challenge Co. in Chicago.

The Challenge name is interesting, as it seems the company in question had produced wind mills and farm equipment for decades at the facilities (River Street) in Batavia, but the firm Batavia Metal Products Inc. was rather young and mainly produced shells for the army during the war. Also it is interesting, by the way, that the first Filben cabinets were named "Mirro~cle Music", an amalgamation of the two words mirror and miracle.

The unconventional model "FP-300 Maestro" was then produced during a short period in 1948 (introduced 19th-22nd January 1948 at the Morrison Hotel in Chicago) and the classic American Streamline Movement design, which in passing could remind one of a classic American locomotive of the 1940s, is unfortunately not known as a design patent. The design of the "Maestro'48" (the real, official name) could like a few others of the era be part of a complete functional patent, but it has never been found.

Today two versions are known: one with red plastics often referred to as the "FP-300" and another, rare one with green plastics referred to as the "F8-300". Both models can also today among jukebox collectors be referred to as "FP-305" or "FE-305".

There were several patent disputes with the Rock-Ola Manufacturing Corp., and finally the court decision in August, 1948, in favor of the plaintiff (the Rock-Ola Manufacturing Corp.) had to be followed by a complete production stop late in the autumn 1948.
Filben Manufacturing Corporation Factory Location: 1139 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

history information and pictures credited to: Gert J. Almind (The history of coin-operated phonographs - unpublished manuscript, November 8, 2010)