Original Location: Los Angeles, California
According to a penciled note obtained by Dave Bowers regarding the pedigree of this particular instrument "the Paganini was built in Leipzig, Germany by Philipps." It was actually built in Bockenheim, Frankfurt-am-Main, not in Leipzig, which indicates that whoever wrote the note had some inaccurate information, casting a shadow of doubt over the rest of the note. Nonetheless, according to the note, "the Paganini was brought to Los Angeles for display by Wurlitzer's agent, Mr. William L. Glockner, at 917 South Broadway. It remained there until 1919 when it was moved to New High Street (now Spring Street) near the Federal Building. In 1922 it was sold at auction for $375.00. The original price paid was $4200.00."
By the early 1960s the style 3 Paganini was, as I remember, in the possession of Iver Becklund, Lakewood, California. But there is the possibility I am wrong here, the Paganini instead belonging to Jim Main, Nickelodeon House Antiques, Monrovia area, California. In any event, the Paganini was not in playable condition and the exterior casework had been painted white, although upon inspection it appeared that the original finish had been a dark oak color.
Iver Becklund was a well known and absolutely superb craftsman and restorer, and collected, appreciated, and enjoyed the finer, more sophisticated automatic music instruments. Thus, it is likely that Iver would have valued the Paganini and give it a good home. And I think I remember Otto Carlsen talking about "dickering" with Iver to buy the instrument.
Jim Main, on the other hand, was more in tune with the smaller, less sophisticated coin-pianos, having lots of them around his Nickelodeon House Antiques store. A large cabinet style, plain looking, violin imitator that did not play was not the type of thing that Jim would have eagerly placed in his relatively cramped antique store, as it would have been much too difficult for him to sell. Jim was geared to novelties, art glass and the small, colorful coin-in-the-slot "nickelodeon" pianos that could be patched up and made to play fairly easily and that would sell quickly.
Otto Carlsen acquired the style 3 Paganini from either Iver Becklund or Jim Main circa 1964/65. Otto had attempted to get the instrument to play by patching it, but nothing other than a few non-musical squeaks ever resulted from his efforts.
Dave Bowers bought the Wurlitzer Paganini from Otto Carlsen, a long time California collector, and set it up for display in his Vestal, New York, music room, but never attempted any restoration work on the instrument. It was an intriguing machine and was the source of much wondrous speculation as to how a large Wurlitzer Paganini instrument might sound. Later, after moving to California, the Wurlitzer Paganini was offered for sale, circa 1969, through Hathaway & Bowers, Inc., Santa Fe Springs, California. This author remembers standing in front of the Paganini, while holding Paganini music rolls, and wondering if the instrument could actually meet the almost heroic musical standards intoned by the beautifully worded Wurlitzer catalogue.
After becoming part of the Nethercutt Collection the Paganini was refinished to its original dark oak color and the interior mechanical mechanisms completely restored. Of all the violin imitators (machines using pipework to produce the sounds of the violin) the Paganini is an exceptionally refined sounding instrument, especially when playing Philipps music rolls. In sharp contrast, Wurlitzer Paganini rolls tend to be more or less piano arrangements with pipework and other effects added, and do not offer the same superb kind of solo work that is common to Philipps music arrangements.
Although many of the beautifully restored music machines in the Nethercutt Collection can be seen and heard during scheduled public tours, neither the Wurlitzer Paganini Violin Piano or the Philipps keyboard style Paganini in the Collection are currently on display.
Written by Terry Hathaway, with information provided by Terry Hathaway, Dave Bowers and Byron Matson.
Terry Hathaway; and Dave Bowers.