Original Location: France
Alain Vian had a small collection of automatic musical instruments for sale that he had gathered from various locations in France. They were stored away in several dank, rather dirty locations, jammed together with a variety of other old items.
The PianOrchestra was purchased from Alain Vian, Paris, France. Hathaway & Bowers, Inc., purchased a number of instruments from Alain, and upon crating had the lot of them shipped to the USA. Upon receipt in Santa Fe Springs, they were uncrated in the back parking lot. The crates were stuffed with finely shredded wood excelsior to protect the valuable contents. As the packing excelsior was pulled out of the crates and thrown in piles, I remember watching in astonishment at the streams of tiny bugs, probably some kind of lice, who's little bodies glistened in the bright sunlight as they scurried up the arms of the anyone touching the packing material or the entombed orchestrions.
When we had finished unpacking everything the piles of packing excelsior were thrown back into the empty crates, the crates, excelsior, and any remaining bugs then pushed to the back side of the parking lot, far away from the Hathaway & Bowers, Inc., showroom and shop building. Next, I told the workmen to go home and take a bath. I did the same. Needless to say, the little Pianella/PianOrchestra was thoroughly aired and cleaned.
Much later, after the instrument had been allowed to become slowly acclimated to the lower humidity levels of Southern California, loose tubing connections were repaired, all manifolds were tightened and minor regulation was performed in an attempt to get the instrument in some kind of playing order. These efforts proved nearly fruitless, however, as the instrument, without major restoration effort, would only function in a feeble way. It was put on display and sold as an unrestored instrument.
Dr. Miller drove out to Southern California in his flat-bed truck to get the instrument. It was hoisted onto the truck bed by the Hathaway and Bowers, Inc., shop crew and laid flat on its back. Dr. Miller meticulously wrapped the PianOrchestra in a heavy tarpaulin, tying it down carefully, for the long trip to his home in Connecticut. He eventually did enough restoration work and/or adjusting to get the PianOrchestra into fair playing condition.
The Model 38 Pianella was kept in a vintage post and beam wooden out-building by Dr. Miller, opposite his huge 110-key Gavioli Fair Organ. The building was in good condition, but yet small critters did often manage to get in and scatter some nuts in the bottom of the music machines. After Tim Trager bought the handsome "little" Model 38 Pianella, Dr. Miller quipped to him that now he would have to "clean out the chipmunk's stored nuts every year."
Currently the instrument is unrestored with the exception of the soundboard and pinblock, which have been restored.
Information provided by Terry Hathaway, Dave Bowers, Siegfried Wendel, Don Pease and Tim Trager.
Circa 1911/12 Philipps catalogue.