Discovered Location: Elko, Nevada
The chassis is basically Philipps, with components added by Wurlitzer. The piano, mandolin attachment, pipes and pipe chest, lock and cancel controls, drums, and associated actions and the free-standing, wrap-around furniture case appear to all be Wurlitzer designed and manufactured components. The coin-accumulator and all associated electricals were added by Wurlitzer.
The PianOrchestra was originally shipped to Kemmerer, Wyoming, with a Weathered Oak finish. The name of the original purchaser and/or type of establishment in which it was used is unknown.
Robert Caudill (a.k.a. "Doby Doc," the name a possible contraction from "Adobe Doc") was a Northern Nevada rancher and collector of Western relics for some 35 years, before becoming the curator of the "Last Frontier Village," a Las Vegas strip tourist attraction established by William J. Moore, Jr., in the early 1940s. Robert Caudill was a collector on a large scale, hoarding items such as mechanical pianos, guns, lamps, chamber pots and various Indian artifacts. He reportedly had over 900 tons of relics kept in some 1,700 packing cases, stored in warehouses located in Elko, Nevada.
Doby Doc, acting as curator of the Last Frontier Village, filled it with many of his own antiques, mechanical pianos and other collectibles. In 1958, after the Last Frontier Village was closed, the PianOrchestra, along with many other rare and highly desirable coin pianos, sat in the dirt, becoming seriously water damaged almost beyond any hope of repair, covered by a crudely built wood and corrugated metal shed. Dust blowing through the cracks in the shed walls settled on the instruments. Then, when it rained, water leaked through the roof, soaking the machines. The cycle of rain and the growing accumulation of dust and dirt, becoming a thick layer of encrusted mud, held the rainwater, keeping the machines wet for long periods of time. Each instrument gradually became little more than a pile of unglued, warped wood and rusted metal. Some machines were suitable only as a pattern for reconstructing a replica. The PianOrchestra did not suffer as much as many of the machines, and, as such, was mostly in restorable condition.
Discovered by Warren Dale in 1966, the collection of instruments was purchased by Kenneth Vaughn, Los Angeles, California. Many of the rare and highly prized and dilapidated machines were restored by Warren Dale and displayed in the Vaughn home, but there was no attempt to restore the PianOrchestra, although it was safely stored to prevent any further deterioration.
During the short time the PianOrchestra was in the possession of Hathaway & Bowers, Inc., certain portions of the instrument were cleaned and assembled in a more or less logical order, suitable for presentation in the showroom area. The pipework was beyond easy assembly or placement in the pipe chest. It was mostly unglued, and was therefore placed on a floor pad in front of the chassis and partially erected case.
As of April, 2015, it was reported that the Piano is undergoing a full restoration by Steve Gonzales, of the The Rhone Corporation, Pico Rivera, California. The interior mechanisms are reportedly likewise being restored by Noel Burndahl, with the restoration work about 90% completed. The furniture case was apparently restored some years earlier by someone who is now deceased.
Information provided by Terry Hathaway, Art Reblitz, Don Pease, and Steve Gonzales..
Circa 1912 Wurlitzer catalogue.