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.
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.
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