Following is a sampling of the many music machines at Bayernhof Museum. There is a brief “in general” story about the machine, and by clicking on the arrow in the center of the picture, you will be able to hear the machine play. By then clicking the square in the lower right hand corner, the picture will become full screen. To stop the video, click on the two bars in the lower right hand corner of the picture.
This amazing machine, which plays a piano and three violins, was made in Germany by Ludwig Hupfeld. In 1907, The Hupfeld Company invented a device for automating the playing of the violins. Three violins with only one active string each were mounted vertically and played by a round rotating bow made of 1,300 threads of horse hair. A small bellows replaced the violin player’s fingers, pressing on the strings to produce the required notes. The “Hupfeld” was dubbed the “8th Wonder of the World.”
The Regina Music Box Company was founded in America in 1892 by Gustave Brachhausen. Unlike most other “music boxes” of the time that used a cylinder to operate the machine, Regina Music Boxes operated by use of a flat metal disc. The original music boxes used discs ranging in size from 8.5 inches to 27 inches. In 1897, Brachhausen patented an automatic disc changer. The Concerto soon followed, using a 32-inch disc. The Company developed a very profitable market in selling additional discs to owners of the music boxes.
Disc players come in a variety of sizes and playing formats. Discs range in size from approximately 10 inches in diameter to 35 inches or more. Depending on the type of machine, the discs are played upright, flat, or with a slight bend in the center. The tune is “punched out” on the disc with pitch determined by the position of the punching. These punched-out spots on the back side of the disc create a raised projection. When the machine operates, the projections engage with a series of star wheels. Each star wheel, when moved, plucks a tooth on the instrument’s comb. The tooth resonates, sounding a predetermined note. The music created by the disc is bright and cheerful.
The Knabe Company traces its roots back to 1839 when it began making pianos in partnership with Henry Gaehle in Baltimore, Maryland. After a number of business transactions, the partnership was dissolved in 1855, and a new company called Wm. Knabe & Co. began making pianos and accessories. In 1908, the company merged with Chickering & Sons and Foster-Armstrong Co. to form the American Piano Company (Ampico).
In the 1920s, the Knabe Ampico Reproducing Player Piano was introduced. Player pianos normally use metronomic rolls produced by positioning the music slots without real-time input. Metronomically arranged music rolls are deliberately left that way to enable a player-pianist to create his own musical performance via the hand controls that are a feature on all player pianos.
Reproducing rolls are created by capturing in real time the hand-played performance of the pianist upon a piano connected to a recording machine. The production roll reproduces the real-time performance of the original recording when played back at a constant speed. These rolls have a control coder to operate the dynamic modifying systems specific to the brand of piano for which the rolls are designed.
An “orchestrion” is an indoor music machine that duplicates the “voices” of a number of different musical instruments. The Cottage Orchestrions were built by M. Welte and Söhne in Freiberg, Germany. These machines were renowned for both the quality of the workmanship in the construction and the quality of the music produced. In 1865, the Company established a showroom in New York City, and sales in the USA continued to grow. In 1887, the firm began using inexpensive paper rolls which were easy to mass produce and handle. These rolls soon replaced the very expensive and very cumbersome heavy wooden pinned music barrels. Power to operate these machines was originally supplied by heavy weights attached to the rear by cables, but many Weltes have since been converted to electricity. Welte Cottage and Concert Orchestrions (Styles 0 through 10) were made beginning around 1892.
The main inventor of the Violano-Virtuoso was Henry Konrad Sandell, a contemporary of Thomas Edison. In 1903, he took his ideas and patents to the Mills Novelty Company, and in 1905, a patent was granted for an electric self-playing violin. Shortly thereafter, a player piano mechanism was added to the violin, and the combination came to be known as the “Violano-Virtuoso.” It became available to the public in 1911. The designation “DeLuxe” indicates two violins. The machines are fully electric and are operated by the use of perforated paper rolls. It is estimated that between 4,000 and 5,000 machines were produced. At the time of his death in 1948 at age 70, Henry Sandell had been granted over 300 patents.
The Regina Music Box Company was founded in America in 1892 by Gustave Brachhausen. In 1897, Brachhausen patented an automatic disc changer which enabled the machines to play a number of discs without adjusting the machine. The Company was quite successful initially and sold both music machines and the metal discs used to operate these machines. Over 100,000 music boxes were sold from 1892 to 1921 with sales topping $2,000,000 a year. The machines are hand-cranked and gear-driven. With the advent of records, the Company expanded into other areas of business, such as vacuum cleaners.
This Wurlitzer Automatic Harp machine is rare because only approximately 1,500 harps were originally manufactured and very few survived. The automatic harp machine was invented and patented in 1899 by John William Whitlock, who owned a novelty shop and furniture factory in Rising Sun, Indiana. Sometime in 1904 or 1905, he took six of his self-playing harps to commercial locations in nearby Cincinnati, Ohio. The exposure resulted in a contract with Wurlitzer when, in the spring of 1905, Howard Wurlitzer saw one of the harps in a local café. Wurlitzer entered into a contract with Whitlock to be the sole distributor of the Automatic Harp.
The initial contract obligated Wurlitzer to purchase 1,000 harps at $200 each. Wurlitzer was also granted the right to purchase an additional 1,000 harps at $125 per harp. Unfortunately, the plans to build and distribute many harps came crashing down when Wurlitzer abruptly canceled its first contract option for an additional 500 harps. Overall production ceased around 1910.
The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company (Wurlitzer) was started in Cincinnati in 1853. Originally the Company imported musical instruments from Germany for resale in the USA, but in 1880, it began to manufacture instruments such as pianos, band organs, orchestrions, pipe organs, and nickelodeons. Around this time, the need for louder music was realized because of where the machines were being played (county fairs, circuses and, eventually, bars). Starting in 1900, Wurlitzer began manufacturing nickelodeon pianos. These machines utilized a paper roll to play five to eight different instruments simultaneously. The Company also produced an automatic roll-changer system so that when one roll finished and rewound, another roll was put “in play.” The addition of “X” at the end of the model number indicates the presence of a roll changer. Production of nickelodeons stopped in approximately 1935.
The mechanical singing bird was invented in 1780 by the Jaquet-Droz brothers, clockmakers in France. In 1848, the manufacturing process for singing birds was improved by Blaise Bontems in Paris. His new process was so good that it has remained virtually unchanged to the present. Bird boxes were originally made to teach canaries to sing. While single bird boxes are fairly common, boxes with three or more birds are rare. Multiple birds must be “programmed” to sing in harmony and to move like real birds. Often, the birds in this type of box are real birds that have been preserved through taxidermy.
Bird Music Box No. 19026 was made by A. Rivenc and Company in Geneva around 1880. It is a very rare and unusual box, and only a few still exist today. What makes this box unique is that it also has a round viewing glass window in the center of the front of the box, where you can see a small bird. This little bird’s beak opens and closes, its wings flap, and its head turns from side to side as it performs. The bird’s voice is produced by 17 tiny metal pipes powered by a small bellows. It sings along with the tune being played and sometimes has a short solo. The box has a beautiful inlaid case and plays 6 different tunes. Serious cylinder music box collectors consider owning one of these a rare privilege.
With the railway boom in Europe in the early 1880s, Auguste Lassueur, a music box craftsman, designed a coin-operated music box to be used in railroad station waiting rooms. He signed a contract with the Jura-Simplon Railway Company to install a musical automaton in each station. He supervised their upkeep and collected the coins each month, sharing the profits with the company. However, a thief often beat him to it, and he would find the money drawer empty. To protect his income, he installed a 6mm caliber gun in the drawer with a blank cartridge. Whenever someone tried to break into the cash box, the detonation would alert the station staff, and the thief would be caught. These Station Boxes usually contained various numbers of dancing dolls, mechanical drums and bells. The hope was that children would put a coin in and be occupied by watching the dolls spin around and the bells being played by small Chinese figures. This activity helped pass the time while waiting for the train. The Station Box at Bayernhof plays 8 tunes and has 6 bells and 2 dancing dolls.
The Encore is the first automatic mechanical music machine in modern times to be in such demand as to inspire reproductions. There are over 50 excellent replicas in addition to the approximately 25 known originals in existence. The banjo in the Encore was designed specifically to be played in the machine. It has proved difficult to determine just who invented the Encore Automatic Banjo, but based on patents granted, it appears the idea originated with John McTammany. He paired with C. B. Kendall, the money man behind the project, and in the late 1880s, they began to produce automatic banjos. The Encore name was first used in 1897.
In 1878, Thomas Edison invented the phonograph. Although at first the thought was that this new “talking machine” could be profitably used in business to reduce stenographic time and costs, office managers were slow to envision the benefits. As a result, the first generally accepted use for the machine was the “production” of music on a coin-operated basis. In 1888, Edison went into partnership with Jesse H. Lippincott, known as the “Pittsburgh Millionaire.” The North American Phonograph Company was formed, and the jukebox industry began.
Although Edison tried to keep the manufacturing rights to his invention, under the guise of “State Rights,” other phonograph companies were soon formed, and multi-play cylinder machines started showing up at many places. These machines were quickly expanded to provide many selections which could be played on the same self-contained machine for a nickel per play. Until 1906, the sounds were heard on earphones attached to the machine. At that time, earphones were replaced by a speaking horn, allowing groups of people to hear the music at the same time.
The Multiphone (circa 1906) offered 24 different cylinders with a large speaking horn and a fancy, upright wooden cabinet. Overnight, the modern jukebox was born.