Discovered Location: Culver City, California
During restoration of the PianOrchestra, a business card was found buried within the mechanics of the machine, bearing the imprint: "Wm. L. Glockner, Agent for the Celebrated Wurlitzer Automatic Pianos and Harps, [Telephone] Sunset 2221 or 3189." Additionally, there was the shadow of a label on the case that appeared to be the same size and shape as known Glockner Music Company decals. Thus, it is speculated that this PianOrchestra was originally shipped to William L. Glockner (a.k.a. Glockner Music Company), a Musical Instrument Dealer and Wurlitzer agent located at 917 South Broadway, later moved (circa 1919) to 325 New High Street (now Spring Street) in Downtown Los Angeles, California.
If the PianOrchestra was originally shipped to Los Angeles (from Wurlitzer's Cincinnati, Ohio headquarters facility) there is another possible shipping destination that merits mention. It is unknown when The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company of California first opened a store in Los Angeles. It is known that the company, during the twenties, maintained some kind of sales facility on the ground floor of the rather impressive Wurlitzer building. This building was, and still is, located at 816 South Broadway in the downtown Los Angeles entertainment district, although it is no longer associated with Wurlitzer. The original high-relief cartouche emblazoned with the Wurlitzer name is still beautifully intact above the street level retail shops. The building, built in 1923, was designed by Walker and Eisen, and is a 12-story Spanish Renaissance polychrome terra cotta structure with decorative bands and arched windows. Among the decorations are various musical instruments: violin, drum, horn, Irish harp and lyre. Interspersed with the musical instruments are small red medallions bearing the names of famous composers: Verdi, Mozart, and Bizet. The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company of California was still listed at the Broadway address into the early 1930s.
There is some evidence to suggest that the PianOrchestra may have originally been owned by the Keith-Orpheum theater circuit, or perhaps it became the property of Keith-Orpheum after they acquired the assets of some independent theater operator. While it may be fun to speculate about some romantic past history, there is currently no way to verify its original ownership.
RKO was founded in 1929 from the merger of the Keith Orpheum theater circuit (1882), Joseph P. Kennedy’s Film Booking Office (1917) and Radio Corporation of America (RCA) (1909). Thus, by definition, using the Company's date of inception, the PianOrchestra was acquired by RKO in 1929.
It is unknown when the PianOrchestra was moved to the motion picture studio that was, at the time of the PianOrchestra's discovery, the old David Selznik/RKO (Radio Keith Orphium) Pictures studio, located on Washington Boulevard in Culver City, California. Don Rand, through a series of fortuitous conversations, learned of the rumored machine languishing in one of the studio's old sound stages, a building that had been converted into a prop warehouse. According to Don Rand, the place was originally known as the Thomas Ince Studios, later becoming Pathé Radio Pictures, which later merged with the Keith and Orphium Vaudeville Circuit, the studio then becoming RKO (Radio Keith Orphium) Pictures.
The PianOrchestra was discovered by Don Rand through a happenstance series of unexpected events. Once the purchase arrangements for the PianOrchestra had been finalized, removing it became the major concern, and quickly, before anything could go wrong with the deal or more parts be stripped and lost from the machine. Thus, that night, after meeting in Glendale, I, Terry Hathaway, and John Eckman accompanied Don Rand and Ed Openshaw on a whirlwind "midnight" caper at the historic old movie studio.
Arriving at the old studio about ten o'clock, we were met by the night guard, who ushered us in. There seemed to be nobody around, except for the night guard, who asked us to wait while he finished his rounds. We anxiously waited, standing and pacing in the small front yard of one of the "Star Cottages," located in a row of three or four small bungalows where leading celebrities could stay while working on moving pictures. The whole operation was starting to seem and feel like some kind secretive clandestine affair. When the guard finally returned, we were let into the prop stage, where the PianOrchestra waited. After a moment's hesitation to view the prize, we immediately began dismantling it, with everybody carrying or dragging out parts and loading them into the small trailer attached to Ed's vehicle. Time was of the essence, we thought, so there was no time wasted dillydallying around. The guard was quite friendly, and just stood by and watched. When everything was moved out and packed, we swept the area clean, leaving no trace of muss nor fuss whatsoever at the spot where the PianOrchestra had stood just minutes earlier. It was about midnight when we dusted ourselves off, jumped into Ed's vehicle and departed, waving good-bye to the guard as we exited the studio gate.
Over the years, the style 33 PianOrchestra had been stripped of many critical parts. All of the pipework was gone, without a trace, with only one single small wooden violin pipe being found later on in the bottom of the machine, safely hidden between the pump and piano. Most of the trapwork, along with the majority of the metal bell bars and rosewood xylophone bars were gone, too. Searching the old prop warehouse for the missing PianOrchestra artifacts was interesting, it being filled with many relics of long ago, but our efforts produced no trace of any missing parts or music rolls. Don Rand and Ed Openshaw dusted off and set up the PianOrchestra, but due to its dried out and poor condition, with so many critical parts missing, no restoration work was attempted.
The PianOrchestra was delivered to the antique car salon of Fred Weber, who was a collector of classic automobiles and in particular an aficionado of 16-cylinder Cadillacs. David Weber, his son, was mainly interested in mechanical music, with some of the financing arrangements shared between father and son. After receipt of the PianOrchestra, the chassis, along with some loose parts, was sent on to William (Bill) Singleton, of St Louis, Missouri, for a complete and meticulous restoration. Mr. Singleton had begun collecting and restoring instruments circa 1954, and so was well qualified to perform the extensive rebuilding and detailed restoration work that would be required.
During the early stages of the PianOrchestra's restoration, and when certain components were disassembled, a business card imprinted with the name "Wm. L Glockner" was discovered. Glockner Music Company was a distributor of Wurlitzer coin-operated machines in Los Angeles, California. The business card was being used as a shim for spacing parts on one of the mechanisms. Also, the hand-written inscription "RKO-A2177," which is thought to be an inventory number for RKO Company, was scribbled in blue marker inside the case, and there were several paper artifacts bearing an "RKO" inscription that were noted amidst the rubble in the bottom of the instrument. All of this evidence gave credence to speculation that the machine might have once been located in an old RKO theatre somewhere in the Los Angeles, California, area.
Under the expert guidance of Bill Singleton, the piano backframe was replaced to strengthen the piano, and the warped, twisted, and cracked chassis structure was newly remanufactured. Other parts, such as the electric motor were rebuilt, and the roll changer mechanism was sent to Art Reblitz, Colorado Springs, Colorado, for restoration. To replace the missing pipework, John Nolte, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was engaged to replicate the missing pipes, copying original pipework borrowed from other intact PianOrchestras with the same pipework specification. However, while restoration was still in its early stages an unfortunate financial decision by the bank that had provided loans for the Weber's resulted in a "voluntary liquidation" of certain assets, which included the Wurlitzer Style 33 PianOrchestra. At this point all restoration work on the PianOrchestra was ordered suspended and the chassis and parts pushed to the back of Mr. Singleton's workshop. In the meantime, Mr. Singleton, who was prohibited from working on the machine or moving it out of his workshop, engaged and became committed to other important restoration projects.
Across town, to salvage and keep the mechanical music collection from being broken up and sold at 10-cents on the dollar by the bank, several local businessmen, who were friends of the Weber family, formed the Silverstone Partnership and bought the mechanical music items from the foreclosing bank. David Weber was named as the chief sales person and assigned the responsibility of selling off the Weber collection. Meanwhile, through a series of trades David Weber once again assumed ownership of the Wurlitzer PianOrchestra.
Now that ownership issues had been resolved, restoration could once again commence in earnest. But William Singleton, who still had possession of the PianOrchestra chassis and many parts, was now unable to continue work on the big machine. This was because during the prolonged time that the earlier "cease and desist" order prohibited him from touching or moving the machine out of his workshop, he had made numerous important restoration commitments elsewhere. Consequently, after some preliminary negotiation, circa 1997, the PianOrchestra was shipped to Tim Westman, Woodsville, New Hampshire, with instructions to complete the job of restoration. Once in Woodsville, New Hampshire, the machine was put in storage over the coming winter months. In early 1998 restoration of the PianOrchestra commenced as planned.
Meanwhile, back in St Louis, Missouri, David Weber had become quite interested in acquiring the Sadie Mae band organ that had recently become available from the Disneyworld collection. To achieve its acquisition a complicated trade was devised, which ultimately resulted in the PianOrchestra being offered for sale -- and then sold.
Mr. Krughoff bought the PianOrchestra circa 1998, and subsequently commissioned Tim Westman, Woodsville, New Hampshire, to continue with and complete any unfinished and remaining restoration work. The main chest was replaced by Westman due to the extensive warping and splitting of the original wood components. During the restoration of the furniture casework, the penciled notation "PPG May 1908" was discovered on the backside of one of the decorative beveled mirrors, dating the probable manufactured and assembly year of the furniture case.
Ironically, the beautiful new pipework manufactured by John Nolte for the PianOrchestra were not to be used. Dave Ramey, who also did restoration work for Mr. Krughoff, had the good fortune of turning up a Philipps Photoplayer that contained the exact original pipework needed to complete the PianOrchestra. Needless to say, the coveted pipe ranks were removed from the less valuable Photoplayer and put to use in the PianOrchestra.
This style 33 Mandolin PianOrchestra is the earliest known example that was originally fitted with a roll changer mechanism, instead of a single roll mechanism.The early music roll speed control device (pictured at far left above) consisted of two wood cones, one inverted from the other, connected via a narrow leather flat belt (belt not shown in photograph). The belt is guided to and held stationary at a specific position on the two cones by the two interconnected metal guides located between the cones. The lower cone is powered by a ladder-chain, while the upper cone is geared to the music roll take up spool. By varying the relative position of the flat belt over the length of the cones, changes in the music roll speed can be obtained. In later roll changer models, the speed adjustment was obtained either by means of a very durable friction disk arrangement, which was essentially trouble free, or in one case, a three-lobed vacuum windmotor.
Information provided by Terry Hathaway, Don Rand, Bill Singleton, Tim Westman, Art Reblitz, and Don Pease.
Circa 1912 Wurlitzer catalogue; Dana Johnson, and Tim Westman.