Major Equipment Company, out of Chicago, manufactured lighting instruments and licensed to Frank Adam the manufacture of their stage switchboards.  The 1931 Major four-color catalog is possibly the prettiest stage book ever published, a last gasp because by that year the frenzied theatre construction of two decades (which had produced 6,000 new theatres) was over and done with.

From left to right, the catalog includes a drawing of switchboard inventor Roscoe E. Major; rows and rows of border and footlights; a cloud machine; and a plano-convex spotlight which featured a reflector, a rarity on those days.

The book also includes a modern scoop still termed an "Olivette" (after the 1881 B'way musical); delicious directional signs; an automatic house telephone system (such as was installed in the Atlanta Fox); and at the very back of the catalog, a Major-Frank Adam switchboard. 

The 1919 Major Catalog (click here to view) features the formative version of the preset ("pre-selective") switching system, invented by Roscoe E. Major, manufactured by Frank Adam of St. Louis, and first installed in a renovation of the Illinois Theatre in Chicago in 1916. Major's revolutionary switchboard was the first to utilize remote contacters for circuit controls, which eliminated high-amperage knife switches from the stage "pilot" board and banished them to the basement.

The 1922 Major catalog (click here to view) includes the odd warning on the penultimate page, "Please Do Not Destroy This Book." Fortunately at least one hardy soul heeded their command.

At some point, Major must have sold to Frank Adam the rights to the Major switchboard, because in the FA 1952 catalog, for instance, Major is not mentioned.  Similarly, the Major catalog of 1958 (click here for that one) does not include Frank Adam boards. 

Thanks to John Chappell for the donation of this magnificent 1931 catalog.

January, 2017