Wurlitzer Factory Shipping Documents

Database Reports for Wurlitzer PianOrchestra and Paganini Orchestrions

Wurlitzer PianOrchestra Logo.

Wurlitzer PianOrchestra and Paganini Orchestrions

The Wurlitzer Company, with its strong interest in anything musical, was finally forced in 1909 to take over and operate the old de Kleist Musical Instrument Works factory (at North Tonawanda, New York), which manufactured many of the automatic musical instruments being marketed and sold by Wurlitzer. This takeover was deemed necessary to ensure the continued quality of manufactured products, which had declined by 1909 due to the financial success and mounting inattention to business by its owner, Eugene de Kleist. Once firmly in the hands of Wurlitzer, over time the North Tonawanda factory complex was enlarged and became an ever more important part of the overall Wurlitzer operation. At some point in 1911 it was apparently decided that the importation, storage, and shipping of large Philipps orchestrions from Germany, which were thought to have previously been handled mainly through the corporate headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, was at least partially moved to the enlarged and increasingly important North Tonawanda facility. Then, beginning in 1912, the North Tonawanda factory shipping ledgers begin recording the domestic shipping of the PianOrchestra and Paganini orchestrions, but whether this included all such instruments shipped by Wurlitzer is unknown. As Wurlitzer's success continued to grow and the North Tonawanda factory continued to be enlarged, much of it due to the outstanding success of the (Hope-Jones) Wurlitzer Unit Orchestras (a.k.a., Theater Organs) in the early 1920s, the factory complex became the company's pride and joy, a showcase manufacturing facility located prominently in North Tonawanda, New York.

Unfortunately, the only known surviving Wurlitzer documents that show PianOrchestra and Paganini deliveries begin recording shipments in 1912. Then importation of Philipps instruments was halted in 1914 due to the outbreak of World War I, but remaining stock and recycled instruments returned to the factory for refitting and rehabilitation continued to be shipped until the last Philipps made instrument was shown as shipped from the North Tonawanda factory in November of 1923. Maybe a few more PianOrchestras or Paganinis shipped from a Wurlitzer showroom in some distant city, or from the main company offices and showroom in Cincinnati, but if this is the case there are no known records that can support any such speculation or how many such "rogue" units might have been sold and shipped.

Wurlitzer Logo from 1914 catalogue.But what about all of the Philipps instruments imported circa 1903 up through 1911? How many were there and where did they go? Speculation has it that they were probably shipped to the Wurlitzer company headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, and distributed from there, and possibly some imports continued to go directly to Cincinnati even after the "finishing" and shipping of imported instruments was shifted to the North Tonawanda factory location. But there is also the chance that some imported Philipps instruments went directly to a Wurlitzer's office/showroom in Chicago, New York or elsewhere. Thus, while the surviving North Tonawanda factory shipping records are both interesting and a valuable reference, it is also well understood that they do not show nor represent the total number of PianOrchestras and Paganinis actually sold and shipped to customers by Wurlitzer.

Multiplicity of Reports

This Registry page devoted to Wurlitzer PianOrchestras and Paganini Orchestrions is for the most part a near replica or restatement of the prettily formatted PianOrchestra and Paganini Shipping Lists and analysis that is available elsewhere in the Wurlitzer / Philipps Orchestrion Histories section of this web site, but presented here with a tad more detail. Also, the information is presented here in a much more printer friendly format, which may make studying the PianOrchestra and Paganini information easier than a purely visually intended web page format. Another benefit of having the information contained in database format, versus a static web page, is that the data can be arranged, indexed, and formatted in various ways for complementary reports that may make understanding the relational complexities of the material easier to recognize and assimilate.

The original basis of these reports comes from two hand-typed list that were personally given by Farny Wurlitzer to Q. David Bowers during a visit to the North Tonawanda, New York, Wurlitzer factory while doing research for his book, Put Another Nickel In, circa 1965. The two lists were later used at Hathaway & Bowers, Inc. (1967-1972), and as a reference for the writing of the Encyclopedia of Automatic Musical Instruments, also by Q. David Bowers, first published in 1972.

For convenience each report is available separately and arranged artfully with ease of study and analysis a priority, as follows:

  1. PianOrchestras by Date Report: This report lists Wurlitzer PianOrchestras in shipping date order, which more or less corresponds to the order in which they were originally entered into the factory ledgers.
  2. PianOrchestras by Group Report: This report lists Wurlitzer PianOrchestras grouped by year, further grouped by style and then indexed by the Wurlitzer serial number and secondarily indexed by the Philipps serial number.
  3. Paganinis by Date Report: This report lists Wurlitzer Paganini Violin Orchestras in shipping date order, which more or less corresponds to the order in which they were originally entered into the factory ledgers.
  4. Paganinis by Group Report: This report lists Wurlitzer Paganini Violin Orchestras grouped by year and indexed by Style and then further indexed by the Wurlitzer serial number and third by the Philipps serial number. Unlike the PianOrchestra by Group Report the Paganini instruments are not secondarily grouped by style. This is because there are so few instruments per year, making a secondary grouping seem both unnecessary and an undue visual complication to an otherwise exceptionally clean and easy to read report.

In late 2009 the original PianOrchestra and Paganini lists provided by Farny Wurlitzer were corroborated, corrected, and augmented using several "new" sources of information. The updating process included (1) comparing the hand-typed lists with Wurlitzer's North Tonawanda factory shipping ledgers (courtesy of David Reidy) and (2) augmenting the material using PianOrchestra information recorded on various loose notes and stray bits of data also obtained from Farny Wurlitzer during the mid 1960s, which were not included as part of the hand-typed shipping list documents. This means that the PianOrchestra reports offered here are a little more comprehensive than either the Farny Wurlitzer lists or the Wurlitzer factory shipping ledgers themselves. In short, this recent effort has improved the accuracy of the old material plus added bits and pieces heretofore scattered and virtually unknown. This well deserved and across-the-board rechecking and updating of the old lists resulted after the examination of the Wurlitzer Factory Shipping Ledgers, currently in the possession of Mr. David Reidy. We at the Mechanical Music Press are very grateful for the opportunity to inspect these historic ledgers.

When perusing the reports you might keep several things in mind. Foremost is the fact that there appear to be a few duplication errors in the use of serial numbers, i.e., several instances where two different styles of instruments are assigned the same serial number. This is in contrast to the repeated shipping of the same instrument with the same serial number after a sales return or trade-in, rehabilitation, and reshipping to a new customer. Another kind of apparent error in the Wurlitzer factory ledgers (which only list band organs, PianOrchestras, and Paganini Violin Orchestrions) is that when an instrument recycles through the factory for repairs or rehabilitation the case finish might be shown as markedly different from the original, or some other attribute may vary, but maybe only for one of the recurring trips through the factory. There are other kinds of suspected errors, too, which all in all lead to the conclusion that there may be many other instances where an error cannot be recognized as an error. Unfortunately, while we recognize that some errors seem to exist, the limited historic documentation currently available prevents anyone from knowing how to resolve these apparent mistakes--or recognize other careless mistakes not yet recognized as suspect. The best we can currently do is to faithfully present the data right along with any and all of its entrained errors, while being careful to not produce additional errors of our own.

Another question that has arisen is this: What is meant by "shipping date?" The term "shipping" has been applied to both the Farny Wurlitzer lists and the Wurlitzer factory (shipping) ledgers and the dates mentioned therein, but this may not be how this material was originally viewed or described. In the Farny Wurlitzer lists there is a defined "Date" and "Ship to" column, but nowhere is the date defined as being any kind of shipping date; this usage has been assumed. Moreover, there are only a small number of pages in the three extant Wurlitzer factory ledgers where the term "Date of Shipment" is actually and clearly defined, but this limited usage has influenced how all the other pages have been viewed and interpreted, essentially due to the lack of any further definitively consistent column headings or notations. Furthermore, where the heading "Date of Shipment" does occur is a rather special circumstance, and only in ledger #1. Made with pre-printed lined paper, right smack-dab in the middle of the listings for the year 1914 there is an inserted series of what look more like columnar tables than listings as elsewhere laid out, and with three or four hand-drawn columns:

These simple looking tables of columnar band organ only listings interrupt the flow of regular 1914 listings, and seem to have been suddenly imported into the ledger, without regard for its data flow and layout, from some earlier source, probably to keep the data intact. This oddly inserted extraneous material is the only place where a date can affirmatively be associated with the "shipping date" concept. Ledgers #2 and #3 differ from ledger #1 in that they are made of standard pre-printed columnar format paper, but no column labels are written, and like the "normal" parts of ledger #1 the date is always inserted at the right hand margin. Thus, the only commentary suggesting that the date is indeed a shipping date is in the inserted table-like listing for 1908 - 1911 band organs.

Considering the consistent lack of definitive column headings, ledger layout and a few terse comments scatted throughout the ledgers there is reason to wonder whether the dates provided for much of the material are a bona-fide "shipping date" or perhaps something more correctly thought of as a "finish date." A finish date could be the date on which instrument was "finished," i.e., mechanically completed and/or sent to be packed and made ready for shipment, whereby a "shipping date" would be the actual moment in time when the packed and prepared instrument was actually loaded onto some sort of external transportation for its journey to the customer. Adding credence to this "finish date" proposition is a note stating that an instrument "stood in packing room after being finished," which implies that product might sometimes be temporarily marooned in a packing area before actually being shipped. However, the actuality of this matter cannot be determined, and so for ease of usage and practicality the dates given are generally assumed to be shipping dates. But even if the dates do turn out to be "finishing dates" the difference between "finished and ready for packing" and actual "on-the-dock-shipping" is probably, in most instances, no more than a few days.

Updating the Database and Reporting Errors

To report errors and/or to submit new information regarding Wurlitzer PianOrchestra and Paganini Orchestrions please send any corrections and/or changes via a e-mail to

All database report information is offered "as is," without any guarantee or warranty whatsoever of any kind, neither stated, implied, nor inferred, as to the accuracy, correctness, exactness, suitability, or usefulness of any content.

Distribution of Database Information
Last Updated on February 22, 2016

Get Adobe Acrobat Reader.The database PDF report files require Adobe Acrobat Reader (or its equivalent) to view or print their contents. The free Acrobat Reader can be downloaded from Adobe by clicking on the icon at left.

Download the current database report as a PDF
by clicking on a left hand button, or report another
instrument by clicking the right hand button.
Download the Wurlitzer PianOrchestras by Date Order Report.
23 pages.
Download the Wurlitzer Paganini Violin Pianos by Date Order Report.
4 Pages.
Download the Wurlitzer PianOrchestras by Group Report.
27 pages.
Download the Wurlitzer Paganini Violin Pianos by Group Report.
5 pages.

Wurlitzer PianOrchestra/Paganini data compiled and put into database format by Terry Hathaway, and with appreciation to David Reidy for granting the opportunity in late 2009 to authenticate the hand-typed list information against the official Wurlitzer Factory Shipping Ledgers.


Terry Hathaway, Q. David Bowers for catalogue source material.