Wurlitzer Style 12 Mandolin PianOrchestra

Original Location: Lewiston, Maine

Original Catalogue Specifications:

61 Note Musical Scale:

Special Lighting Effects:


Chronological History:

Circa 1912/14
Chassis and the majority of its components manufactured by J.D. Philipps & Sons, Bockenheim, Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany.

Circa 1912/14
Chassis components imported by Rudolph Wurlitzer Company, New York.

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.

Circa 1915
Unknown location in Lewiston, Maine

On March 10, 1915, the PianOrchestra was sold out of the New York office of the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company to a location in Lewiston, Maine. The instrument reportedly remained in its original location until it was sent to a roller skating rink in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

Circa 1920s
Roller Skating Rink, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

Probably in the 1920s, but this date is not known for certain, the PianOrchestra was reportedly shipped to Quebec, Canada, whereupon it was then soon installed in a roller skating rink in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. Nothing is currently known about the skating rink, nor when the instrument was taken out of service and put in storage, although it is thought that it was in use until the 1940s.

Steam engine collector, Quebec, Canada.

In 1984 the PianOrchestra was discovered in a storage building near the old skating rink by a collector of steam engines who lived nearby.

Circa 1985
David Bowers collection, Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.

The PianOrchestra was delivered in a pickup truck, by men from Quebec, possibly employees of the steam engine collector. There was a pair of roller skates in the base of the instrument. The PianOrchestra was then stored in Tim Westman's, Woodsville, New Hampshire, shop for possible restoration. Reportedly, it was in nice, unrestored, original condition, with the following items missing: approximately one-half of the violin/violoncello pipes, the vacuum reservoir, motor, and the peacock "wonderlight" mechanism, including the metal shroud (for the peacock's tail). The furniture case frame for the peacock mechanism was, however, present. Dave Bowers sold the instrument before any actual restoration work had begun.

George Baker, Belgrade, Montana.

The PianOrchestra was purchased by George Baker, of Belgrade, Montana, along with an investor, Joel Naīve, of San Diego, California, as an investment during the latter part of 1988. Although George Baker was in Boston at the time, not too far from where the PianOrchestra was stored, due to some kind of mix-up in gaining access to the instrument, George was unable to take delivery of the PianOrchestra. Later, George's brother, along with Clinton Powell, an antique dealer from Costa Mesa, California, took possession of the PianOrchestra at Tim Westman's shop, in Woodsville, New Hampshire, in December of 1988. They loaded the machine into a Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck and hauled it away, presumably to Belgrade, Montana.

The PianOrchestra was restored by George Baker, and in October of 1990, he moved it to San Diego, California, where it was set up for display at the Evans Automated Musical Instrument and Car Museum. There was apparently some rush to get the machine to the museum by a specific date, where it was to be featured and displayed to prospective buyers at Mr. Evans' wedding party. The PianOrchestra performed well, although the mother-in-law reportedly complained that it was too noisy, a distraction to her sense of what the festivities should be like, no doubt.

Dave & Diane Reidy collection, California.

Style 12 Mandolin PianOrchestra in the Reidy collection.During the time the PianOrchestra was being transported to San Diego, California, by George Baker, in anticipation of displaying it at the Evans Automated Musical Instrument and Car Museum, David Reidy, a Santa Ana, California, collector, made an acquaintance that changed the lives of everyone associated with the PianOrchestra. A friend of David Reidy's, who owned an antique business in Costa Mesa, California, had been contacted by a Long Beach, California, man, who wanted to know who in Southern California collected automated musical instruments. The gentleman was referred to David Reidy, who telephoned Dave and introduced himself as Greg, someone who sold car polish at collector car shows in Japan. He went on to say that on a return trip from Japan he had made contact with a Japanese businessman on the airplane who asked him to purchase the Bowers Encyclopedia of Automated Instruments, and to seek out U.S. collectors mentioned in the Encyclopedia who would be willing to sell their collections. When Greg asked David Reidy if he and the Japanese businessman could come visit his collection, David informed him that the collection was not for sale, but that they were indeed welcome to view the collection anyway.

After visiting Dave and Dianne Reidy, the two visitors stated that they were going to tour the U.S. to view other collections, and that if the Reidy collection should ever become available for sale to please let them know. Then, a few days later, while attending the Packard Swap Meet in Cypress, California, David Reidy met his friend John Eckman (who owned an unrestored Wurlitzer style 12 PianOrchestra). The two talked, John Eckman telling Reidy that he was going to the Evans Automated Musical Instrument and Car Museum in San Diego, to assist George Baker in setting up a newly discovered, and magnificently restored, Wurlitzer style 12 PianOrchestra.

David Reidy wasted little time contacting George Baker, through the museum curator, Temple Baldwin, to make arrangements to see the style 12 PianOrchestra. Reidy then contacted Greg, the car polish salesman, with the idea of the Japanese businessman in mind as a potential buyer for the PianOrchestra. David and Greg traveled together to San Diego to inspect the machine, but the original idea of locating an instrument for another collector immediately evaporated for Reidy the very moment he caught sight of the instrument. As his eyes deliciously poured over the magnificent golden, quartered-oak case and colorful art glass panels, he said to himself: "This PianOrchestra belongs in the Reidy collection!" And it obviously did, because David Reidy officially purchased the PianOrchestra on December 18, 1990, barely two months after the instrument had quietly landed in San Diego, California.

George Baker delivered the PianOrchestra to the Reidy home a few days later, setting the instrument up before leaving. To pay for the PianOrchestra, however, David Reidy had to sell some mint condition pieces out of his musical collection, although it was a necessary exchange that he does not regret, given the exquisite beauty and charm the PianOrchestra has brought to his overall collection.


Written by Terry Hathaway, with information provided by David Bowers, Tim Westman, David Reidy and Don Pease.


Circa 1912 Wurlitzer catalogue; and David Reidy.