Marcola (Automatic Orchestra Company)
Detroit, Michigan

Marcola branded cabinet style flute piano.

(Photograph courtesy of Art Reblitz)

This rare cabinet piano, serial number 6011, is one of two Marcola instruments known to have survived. It measures 6'10" high, 5'2" wide and 2'9" deep. The front is ornamented with two large art glass panels, ornate scrollwork, and two hanging art glass lamps. Oddly, the machine has four coin slots, one on each side and two on the front. Made by the Automatic Orchestra Company, of Detroit, Michigan, the instrument consists of an Automatic Musical Company cabinet style M Flute Piano stripped of its front doors and top, and then inserted into a larger, elaborate case bearing the Marcola name. Interestingly the Style M case (before it was fixed up and refinished) had scratches, scuffs, and other wear marks that showed it had been used on location prior to being installed in the big outer Marcola case. Whether the Automatic Orchestra Company bought it new and first used it on locations or bought it used and then stuffed into the Marcola case is unknown.

Marcola branded art glass panels.
(Photograph courtesy of Art Reblitz)

Each of the two upper front access doors on the this Marcola contain a large scenic design art glass panel. At the bottom of these panels the Marcola name is proudly emblazoned along the bottom edge. The access doors swing open from the center, revealing the pipework and the piano behind. Tuning the piano in this instrument, as large as the add-on case is, must have been challenging.

Close-up of the Marcola brand on an art glass panel.
(Photograph courtesy of Art Reblitz)

Close-up of the Marcola branding prominently displayed at the bottom of each art glass panel. It is obvious that the Automatic Orchestra Company was willing to spend a little extra effort to make their Marcola pianos a high-grade product.

Upper interior of the Marcola cabinet style flute piano.
(Photograph courtesy of Art Reblitz)

Top section of the Marcola (AMC Style M placed inside the Marcola branded case) with the piano action, pipe toe chests, and pipe valve chest removed. Here the 61-note piano plate and its piano action, usually hidden behind the pipework are clearly visible. Below it is the 3-tier unit stack with an adjustable bleed in each valve.

Detail of the treble range capstan screws that operate the pipe chest.
(Photograph courtesy of Art Reblitz)

This close-up of the treble portion of the piano action shows the adjustable capstans that press up against and open the respective note valves in the pipe valve chest, which is positioned directly above the row of capstan screws. There is one capstan screw in each of the top 24 stack operated levers that work against the piano wippens. Thus when a treble piano note is played the corresponding pipe note is also sounded.

Overall interior of the Marcola cabinet style flute piano.
(Photograph courtesy of Art Reblitz)

Overall interior view with the access doors on the Marcola cabinet open. Here the pipework is in place with the piano mostly obscured. The two stepped music roll cabinet is visible in the lower section, above the horizontal pump. The black cardboard covering the upper level of the roll cabinet is a temporary measure hurriedly put in place to keep the music roll from falling out of the roll cabinet, with resulting unhappy consequences. With the lower front panel of the Style M gone (tossed aside when the Style M was inserted into the Marcola cabinet) there was nothing to keep the roll properly confined to the roll cabinet. How the Automatic Orchestra Company solved this problem at the time of the conversion is unknown.

Interior of the Marcola cabinet style flute piano.
(From Hathaway & Bowers, Inc., Catalogue No. 9, June 1969)

Interior of the Marcola. This old photograph shows the Marcola without the black cardboard music roll guide shown in the above image. The longest pipes are located in a separate offset toe chest. Both the offset and main toe chests are then connected by rubber tubing to the actual pipe valve chest, which is actuated by a range of treble piano notes. The pneumatic stack looks to be a standard Automatic Musical Company 3-tier unit stack, circa 1910-12. The instrument uses a combination horizontal vacuum and pressure pump (typical in late Automatic Musical and all Link Piano Company pianos), which is located under a horizontal stepped music roll cabinet that more or less wraps around the pump and vacuum and pressure reservoirs.

Piano plate signature in the Marcola cabinet style flute piano.
(From Hathaway & Bowers, Inc., Catalogue No. 9, June 1969)

The top photograph shows the treble part of the cast iron piano plate (with a small cast iron signature overlay plate) as it appears in the Marcola. It reads: "Automatic Orchestra Company / Detroit Mich." However, remove the cover plate (see bottom photograph) and the full original cast imprinting reads: "Automatic Musical Co. / Binghamton / New York.

Bottom section of the Marcola cabinet style flute piano.(From Hathaway & Bowers, Inc., Catalogue No. 9, June 1969)

Bottom section of the Marcola. It has a typical music roll frame for the period, but with a much shortened version of the moving finger "paper-pusher" music roll conveyance system. The wooden enclosure for the back or bass end of the paper-pusher chain drive can be seen underneath the higher level part of the music roll cabinet. The powered paper feed device terminates at the point where the sloping cabinet bottom begins, whereupon the paper movement is thereafter gravity assisted. Mounted to the case floor and from left to right is (1) the electric motor (far left) under the lowest part of the roll cabinet, (2) a vacuum and/or pressure reservoir (in front of the motor/pump belt), (3) the combination vacuum/pressure horizontal pump, and (4) at far right is a cone type friction drive speed or tempo control device for the music roll frame.

Treble pipes in the Marcola cabinet style flute piano.
(Photograph courtesy of Art Reblitz)

This close-up of the treble pipework show the compact nature of the pipe valve chest, which is comparatively small and completely obscured by the rubber tubing going from the pipe toe chest to the actual pipe valve chest. A few of the adjustable capstan screws in the hinged levers that play the piano and also push up against the button valves in the pipe chest are visible for the highest few treble notes. This view also shows what remains of the Style M case, which is basically only the main piano case structure, less anything that could be easily removed, and how one side of it is both strapped and screwed to the inside of the larger Marcola branded case.

Close-up of the pipe chest area in the Marcola cabinet style flute piano.
(Photograph courtesy of Art Reblitz)

This close-up shows the pipe valve chest with a little more detail. The hinged levers that play the 24 highest notes each have an adjustable capstan screw installed that pushes upward and opens a button valve in the pipe valve chest when the piano note is played. These capstan screws can be seen for the few highest treble notes. Between the rubber tubes going form the pipe toe chest to the pipe valve chest, there are glimpses of the pipe valve chest itself.

Lower right interior corner of the Marcola cabinet style flute piano.
(Photograph courtesy of Art Reblitz)

This close-up shows the right bottom corner of the Style M stuffed inside the Marcola case. Here the case leg toe and decorative pilaster above it are visible. The floor of the Style M is literally bolted to the bottom of the Marcola case. The close fit of the Marcola case is evident with the Style M leg toe right up against the front framework of the Marcola case. This photograph also shows the evolution of the clean-out pump, which is mounted on the vertical wall right of the pump. It consists of a large hinged pneumatic with an external leather flap valve, which allows air to be expelled when the pneumatic is collapsed, but seal off atmospheric air from rushing back in when the pneumatic is opened, thus creating a partial vacuum. Notice the short wooden "hook" (or notched lever) on the bottom left side of the pneumatic. On the right side outer pump lobe there is a square wood lever jutting out with a partially seated wood screw that provides a bearing surface the approximate width of the clean-out pumps hook. When the hook is placed over the projection on the pump lobe the clean-out pump can be used to suck out dirt from the tracker bar and valves. In later Link built instruments the clean-out pump hook lever was greatly lengthened and hooked over an offset pin in the pump's belt pulley. This had the same effect, but was a much more sturdy and trouble free arrangement.