Two Wurlitzer North Tonawanda factory shipping lists were made available by Farny Wurlitzer circa the mid 1960s. Both lists are included here, a shorter one for Paganini type instruments and the other much longer list for PianOrchestras. Neither list shows any production figures for purely domestic models, i.e., instruments made entirely by Wurlitzer in its North Tonawanda factory. These lists only include machines wholly or partially made by the firm of J.D. Philipps and Son (also known as the Pianella-Musikwerke), Frankfurt, Germany, and that were imported by Wurlitzer up into the year 1914, when importation was interrupted by World War I. The data source for the hand-typed lists posted here may have come from either the Wurlitzer Disposition of Instruments Manufactured ledger, or from the hand-written North Tonawanda factory shipping ledgers, or some combination of both. However, the hand typed lists presented here excerpted only what was determined to be PianOrchestra and Paganini information, leaving out any reference to any other type of instrument manufactured and/or sold by the company. A copy of these two lists was given to Q. David Bowers by none other than Farny Wurlitzer himself, during the mid 1960s when Mr. Bowers was doing research for his new book, Put Another Nickel In, published in 1966 by the Vestal Press. These lists were also used during the time of Hathaway & Bowers, Inc., (1967-1972) to further study and understand the history and relative scarcity of surviving PianOrchestra and Paganini Instruments. Fortunately, both lists were saved, thereby eventually making their way to this web site posting.
The type of instruments included in the lists are limited to:
all of which were imported from Germany either as more or less complete instruments or as just the mechanical chassis without the furniture case. However, no matter whether complete or incomplete, and later finished by Wurlitzer, the final product was sold in America by the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company as:
Wurlitzer's corporate executive offices were located in Cincinnati, Ohio, while its huge manufacturing facility was headquartered in North Tonawanda, New York, with its large complex of "modern" buildings clustered around the original de Kleist building (Eugene de Kleist made the early American built automatic instruments sold by Wurlitzer, such as the Tonophone and Mandolin Quartette). Farny Wurlitzer, who was basically responsible for the manufacture and importation of Wurlitzer automatic musical instruments, had his second floor office in the main building of the North Tonawanda factory.
The shipping lists included here only span the years from 1912 up through the mid 1920s, when shipping activity for the large orchestrions lagged, and finally fell off to zero. Regrettably, these lists do not include the beginning and early years of importation when sales of large orchestrions boomed, and many of which were probably shipped from Wurlitzer's main Cincinnati, Ohio, offices and showroom. The lists commence in 1912, when the heyday of large orchestrions was already waning, and long after the first four regular style PianOrchestras were imported in 1903.
There were no column headings on the original hand-typed lists. Some columns are jammed together with others, in order to fit all the needed information within the confines of the width of a letter sized sheet of paper. Column headings have been added for this presentation, and the original order of columns slightly rearranged to make for easier comprehension. Most abbreviations have been expanded to make for easy reading and comprehension, without having to refer back to a legend. The abbreviation "RWC" is a contraction of "R. Wurlitzer Co.," which suggests that an instrument was shipped to a Wurlitzer office or subsidiary. When the abbreviation "RWC" is absent the instruments was sent directly to a customer.
Common abbreviations used throughout the lists are:
The Philipps serial number was assigned by Philipps during the manufacture of the machine. Wurlitzer only assigned its own unique number to a Philipps integral case machine or a stand alone chassis when it installed its own brand of piano, often along with other components, such as pipes and trapwork. At some point, probably beginning around 1910, Wurlitzer began importing stand alone unit chassis assemblies with only the main and essential components installed, and with no furniture case. Wurlitzer factory workers then completed the instrument by building the exterior furniture case and installing anything not already part of the basic imported chassis assembly. Thus, many PianOrchestras bear both a Philipps chassis number and a Wurlitzer piano serial number, or occasionally only a Wurlitzer number, with no apparent reference to a Philipps serial number at all.
In the case of the Paganini style instruments it is not known to what extent Wurlitzer "improved" the imported product, if they did so at all, since only one imported Wurlitzer Paganini, a style 3, is known to exist, and it is a pure Philipps machine. Only two Paganini's in the shipping list indicate a Wurlitzer serial number, but there is currently no way to know why. One of those instruments is a Paganini style 1 with keyboard. That this particular instrument is shown as "repaired," perhaps taken in on trade and then put up for resale, may be the reason for branding it with a Wurlitzer serial number. Philipps made many keyboard style Paganini instruments well up into the late 1920s, but other than this single Wurlitzer reference, no other Wurlitzer literature or documents currently known specifically mention or illustrate importation or sales of Philipps keyboard style Paganini violin pianos. The other Paganini with a Wurlitzer number also has a Philipps number, suggesting that this particular specimen might have been made up of a Philipps chassis with a Wurlitzer manufactured furniture case fitted around it.
Wurlitzer advertised itself as being in most major cities. For instance, in Los Angeles, the Wurlitzer Company offices and showroom were apparently operated by a corporation using the legal name of "The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company of California." There may have been many similar Wurlitzer subsidiary companies, each incorporated in the state in which it operated, each essentially independent, but under the aegis of the parent company at the same time. One of the columns in the original shipping lists contains an entry "R. Wurlitzer Co.," arbitrarily abbreviated as "RWC" in the reproduced lists in order to conserve space. For the PianOrchestra, "R. Wurlitzer Co." is entered for the majority of the PianOrchestras shipped, while for the Paganini type machines it is used in each and every entry. That this "R. Wurlitzer Company" entry exists at all suggests that who ever made up the list recognized that machines could conceivably be shipped to someone other than a Wurlitzer subsidiary, such as an independent dealer or even directly to customer's business location.
Duplication of a serial number in the lists is to be expected. Just because a particular machine is on one of the shipping lists does not mean that it was new at the time it was noted as shipped, or that it was being shipped from the Wurlitzer factory for the first time. Wurlitzer often advertised rebuilt machines at special low clearance prices. When you see a low serial number, one less than 2000, especially in the last years of shipping activity, it suggests the probability that the machine was taken in on trade, rehabbed, and then resold, only to be shipped out again. There are numerous examples of machines being shipped out from the factory two or three times, thus duplication of serial numbers occurs with relative frequency.
A great deal of care has gone into understanding and transcribing the Wurlitzer source information so as to insure the highest level of accuracy and integrity for all of the data presented here in this web site. However, that same determination for precision will just as accurately transfer any and all original errors made by the Wurlitzer employees creating and maintaining what are today the only surviving sources of information. Sometimes there is text that is smudged and its meaning ambiguous, which can result in misinterpretations. Moreover, in the list of PianOrchestras and Paganinis presented on the following pages there is the occasional omission or serial number and/or style number conflict that raises a question as to correctness, suggesting a bit of sloppiness by whomever maintained and/or compiled the lists. All considered, it is a virtual certainty that there are significant errors in the original material and any resulting transcriptions, no matter how meticulous or well intentioned a modern student of the source material might be. Nonetheless, in the quest for perfection if any readers have access to original Wurlitzer source documents that might serve to enlighten and/or correct deficiencies in the work presented on the following pages they are today encouraged to contact the Mechanical Music Press and submit new and supportive documentation.
The PianOrchestra and Paganini shipping lists were initially published on the Internet in 1998, and then moved to the Mechanical Music Press in 2003. Up until December 3, 2009, the lists remained unchanged, appearing exactly as the hand-typed list originally provided by Farny Wurlitzer. However, after examining the Wurlitzer factory shipping ledgers in 2009, courtesy of David Reidy, some simple typos and other more significant imperfections were corrected.
Curiously, it was observed that several style 16, 17 and 18 band organs had been mistakenly identified as PianOrchestras, suggesting that whomever originally typed up the list had difficulty identifying what was a PianOrchestra versus what was a band organ in the aforementioned overlapping range of style numbers. Having access to the Wurlitzer shipping ledgers has allowed for the resolution of such misidentification errors, with any non-PianOrchestra items being removed to prevent any potential confusion. Additionally, several PianOrchestras entered into the factory shipping ledgers were not mentioned in the list given by Farny Wurlitzer, and, vice-versa, there were several instruments on the Farny Wurlitzer list not recorded in the factory shipping ledgers.
Further adding to the list, Q. David Bowers recently came across some loose papers that contained more PianOrchestra information, also from Farny Wurlitzer, circa the mid 1960s, but these instruments were in neither the Farny Wurlitzer list or the Wurlitzer factory shipping ledgers. As of April 6, 2010, all known and/or recognized inconsistencies and/or errors have been resolved and the revised shipping list pages have been updated to reveal the most current and complete information available.
Farny Wurlitzer; Q. David Bowers; Terry Hathaway and
Information compiled by Terry Hathaway.