for Automatic Musical Instruments and Music Rolls
The purpose of the Mechanical Music Registry project is to document the technical and historical development of automatic musical instruments; especially coin-operated pianos, orchestrions, and band organs. In a field where little technical information was originally issued and extremely little survives, it has been difficult to know whether certain features and models are early or late. Collecting lists of serial numbers without other information would be a fruitless pursuit, but when they are combined with constructional details, this information enables us to learn more about how the products of each maker evolved through the years. It also provides insight into the history of a specific instrument: When it was made, whether it was an earlier or later design, whether all the mechanisms are original, etc.
Detailed information on production and mechanical improvements has remained elusive for several reasons:
The Mechanical Music Registry is currently the brainchild and ongoing product of and is maintained through the cumulative effort of three long-time friends and mechanical music enthusiasts: Q. David Bowers, Art Reblitz and Terry Hathaway. The registry will hopefully provide a centrally located repository for certain historical lists of mechanical music information. All information contained within the registry pages has been and will continue to be researched and compiled on a voluntary, time, and interest permitting basis. It is to be offered freely through this web site in the hope that doing so will aid in preserving certain historical information and also promote further interest, research, and preservation efforts in the area of automatic mechanical musical instruments. It is not intended to be a commercial endeavor in any way or to any degree for any person or entity, but strictly a freely volunteered gift by all persons involved and with the purpose of helping maintain interest and enlighten future generations regarding our mechanical music heritage.
The Mechanical Music Registry Project presented on this web site is a work in process, and it was unknowingly but essentially initiated way back in 1997 by Terry Hathaway. It all started when he began faithfully compiling and offering database reports featuring his research work on Wurlitzer Mandolin and Concert PianOrchestra music rolls.
In the meantime, Art Reblitz had been meticulously researching and keeping records since the mid-1960s on various American-made automatic instruments manufactured by Link Piano Company, Marquette Piano Company (Cremona), Mills Novelty Company, Nelson-Wiggen Piano Company, Operator's Piano Company (Coinola and Reproduco), various Engelhardt firms (Peerless), North Tonawanda Musical Instrument Works, Rudolph Wurlitzer Company, and, of course, especially the prolific J. P. Seeburg Piano Company (which also made the Western Electric brand of keyboard and cabinet style coin pianos and orchestrions). This wealth of meticulously collected information by Art Reblitz and many friends kept growing through the years, but was never published in any complete or coherent way until its inclusion in this Mechanical Music Registry.
What eventually caused the quick evolution of Terry Hathaway's former Music Roll Database Project into the new Mechanical Music Registry pages rested on a decision made during the early part of 2009. Fortuitously, Art Reblitz and David Bowers, two scholars of mechanical music and each accomplished authors in their own right, decided to join forces and write a new book (The Reblitz-Bowers Guide to Coin-Operated American Pianos and Orchestrions). This unique collaboration brought together previously unassociated people and events that would eventually culminate and bring forth a new avenue of expression.
That some sort of formalized Mechanical Music Registry be considered was suggested by David Bowers in early October of 2009. The idea immediately appealed to Terry Hathaway, who quickly set out to design the database structures and web pages required to begin making the production/shipping information that had been collected widely available. Thus, a harmonious combination of discrete interests laid the framework that would provide a perfect place to showcase and make available all of the yet unpublished production data accumulated by Art Reblitz over many years, as well as any new production/shipping information acquired during the extensive research work carried out by David Bowers.
As such, and to give credit where it is due, it could reasonably be argued that the natural outcome of the 2009 collaborative book effort by Art Reblitz and David Bowers was the impetus leading to the creation of the Mechanical Music Press's new Mechanical Music Registry. This alliance, coupled with Terry Hathaway's technical interests (and as acting webmaster) and the person who will get the tedious job of coordinating and keying-in the data, will serve to generate the actual public place in which all of the information will eventually be orderly and conveniently displayed.
This Mechanical Music Registry includes different types of information for various brands, depending on what information is available, such as surviving original documents, ledgers, catalogue information, and/or a simple tally of surviving mechanical music specimens. For large Wurlitzer and Philipps PianOrchestras, we include detailed descriptions for each known surviving example (based on years of research by Terry Hathaway and others). For Seeburg and smaller American companies, we include lists of hundreds of known examples with their mechanical and musical details details (compiled by Art Reblitz and many others since the 1960s), to recreate the history of their production and development as accurately as possible, and to establish dating guides where no factory records exist.
For the large and complex Wurlitzer company, certain factory records do still exist, so we are able to provide reports of actual production based on years of meticulous compilation and analysis by Terry Hathaway. We also include rollographies—both in this site, and links to other sites—each of which represents hundreds or thousands of hours of work by an enthusiast or group of enthusiasts who are particularly interested in a specific instrument.
As you peruse the registries and associated pages, we trust that you will enjoy the opportunity to learn more about the history of these wonderful instruments and their music. It continues to amaze us that now, over 80 years since the end the original mechanical music era, so much previously unpublished information continues to become available. If you have your own favorite topic that you have researched but that is not yet covered here, please let us know, as we are always interested in adding well-researched work to the Mechanical Music Press knowledge base.
Many people have graciously contributed detailed information over the years regarding various types of automatic musical instruments, thereby helping to form the core of what is now this Mechanical Music Registry. Due to the large number of names to be cited a separate page has been constructed just for this meritorious purpose. Please visit the Acknowledgements page in appreciations of all who has taken the time and effort to help make the study of mechanical music more interesting, complete, and ultimately useful.
The authors of the Mechanical Music Press website welcome additional information as well as factual corrections to the registry databases. A special downloadable fill-in survey form (in PDF format) is available on each database page that can be used to submit additional information and/or corrections. Moreover, not only can these forms be used to submit data for the brands/makes of machines already listed, but they can be adapted to ANY other brand or type of automatic musical instrument--even if no such equivalent database is currently offered in the registry pages. Submitted information that does not fit into a current database scheme may be saved, and if enough interest persists a new registry database to cover a new topic will be considered. Please see the New Registry Categories page for details regarding the submission of ideas and suggestions for new database categories.
The Mechanical Music Registry is not intended to generate or provide individually specific answers, but rather to do no more than freely provide certain submitted historical information for perusal by interested parties. Any published database information is derived from a specific source list, or an amalgamation of several lists covering a specific topic, for which all known technical data from any such list or combination of lists will have been included in its entirety, including any and all special notes or comments. This means that ALL of the available information (from any given source) and for each and every mechanical music item listed has been purposely included with no further historical or technical information available. Therefore, please do not attempt to contact the Mechanical Music Press for additional source information for or about any individual item or items, because there will be nothing additional to share.
Please also keep in mind that the Mechanical Music Registry is a database reporting facility only, and it is not prepared nor equipped to deal with general questions about mechanical music instruments or their history. Consequently, please do not send e-mail questions to the Registry. Any referenced registry contact information in these web pages is a one-way "receive only" e-mail address, with no reply capabilities.
As was pointed out earlier, this registry section is a work in progress. Consequently, certain lists may require that they be released incrementally, as time and interest allows for the inclusion and/or completion of information. Oftentimes the sought after information resides on yellowed and often fragile pages, which can be filled with cryptic, faded, and nearly illegible handwriting, whereupon each line item must be carefully read and hand-keyed into its respective database. Moreover, although old handwriting is generally beautifully ornate and legible, certain curt references and abbreviations are subject to mistaken interpretation and error. This means that data entry is often very time consuming, tedious, and fraught with research and interpretative frustrations and delays. But since accuracy is an imperative quality, delays and incremental release of data tends to be unavoidable.
The Registry is strictly a volunteer effort and project and is not intended to have or be any kind of commercial endeavor. No participants are paid or reimbursed for any fees, out-of-pocket expenses, costs, or time, and no provision or capability exists to pay any fees or costs associated with any material that may be submitted to or for the Registry, or for anything that may be retained or contained within any part of the Registry project. If you submit material to the Registry project it is important for you to understand that there is no person, structure, or entity enabled or known that is authorized to issue monies or any kind of payment or recompense to anyone or for anything involved in or contributing content to or for the Registry project, and that any and all work associated with this project is to be by volunteer effort alone.
Disputes and disagreements over the alleged correctness of any entry, item, or historical comment shall be judged, determined, and resolved solely by the authors of this web site, whereupon their verdict shall be considered final in any ongoing dispute of any kind. That said, all effort will be put into arriving at a fair and just determination based upon historical facts thought to be accurate and/or associated trends, so as to arrive at a reasonable "best" choice answer. It must be further understood that most so-called historical facts are oftentimes vague and subject to myriad interpretation at best, and so nothing mentioned and/or suggested in this web site is ever to be taken as an absolute truth or fact, all things being subject to change and evolution as new information is uncovered and brought to light.
Submitting information for a single machine has been made very easy and simple. Click on the special data submission form button clearly displayed on each database category page. Open the downloaded PDF document in Adobe Acrobat Reader, and then fill in the form at your leisure. You can then email it directly back to
For multiple machines of the same brand or make, especially for a long list of items, Microsoft Access database format or the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet format are the preferred methods of submittal. These file formats can be easily manipulated and then imported into a current database structure. However, other table and text formats can usually be accommodated.
Certain pre-established and generally recognized as credible listings and/or rollography projects may, at the sole discretion of the Mechanical Music Press and/or its authors, be referenced by establishing a direct link from the menu structures (or some other special textual or graphic interface) inside the Mechanical Music Registry section. The granting of any such menu, graphic link or reference privilege is subject to invitation by the Mechanical Music Press and/or its principal authors. However, anyone with a bona-fide mechanical music compilation, and which is also generally deemed to be a credible and accurate representation of original source documents and/or material, is welcome to submit a link regarding the subject material for reference link consideration. Please be aware that a cross-link from the referenced external site to the Mechanical Music Press web site may be a requirement if and when a link from the Mechanical Music Press is authorized.
Although the registry was conceived as being dedicated to just a relative few of the many types of coin-operated automatic pianos and orchestrions once manufactured, it is nonetheless not necessarily limited to only those types of mechanical music machines. That it began life this way was simply because this is the major area of interest for the initiating authors. However, accurately ordered production and/or shipping information for other classes and/or categories of mechanical music devices are welcome, and equally as important. Do, however, keep in mind that submittal of large amounts of information will only be accepted under certain reasonable circumstances. First and foremost is (1) some assurance of accuracy, next (2) is a desire to share any such information freely with other collectors, enthusiasts, and historians, (3) any material submitted must be free of legal and/or copyright restrictions, and lastly (4) the material must be submitted in a format that can be readily assimilated and used by the Mechanical Music Press. Any contributor must also realize that there is no commercial intent or benefit stated, implied, or inferred in regards to the Registry. It is strictly a labor of love, a volunteer venture with no remuneration or fee of any kind due or payable now or in the future. Anyone contemplating a submission of data who cannot abide by these few reasonable standards and restrictions is advised not to submit material, or if such is submitted it will be automatically rejected and not used by the Mechanical Music Press.
All information is offered "as is," without any guarantee or warranty whatsoever of any kind, neither stated or implied, as to the accuracy, exactness, or suitability of any material. Please note that it is possible that some contractions and/or abbreviations relating to original text may be used in order to have data conform to database space requirements. All data will be kept in its original context and format as much as is reasonably feasible. Any plainly obvious misspellings in original text will be corrected in and when encountered, but other not so obvious potential errors, which cannot be verified one way or another, will be left intact, but possibly noted as suspect. In certain instances, where a large body of information is available, certain otherwise missing information for a specific entry may be back-filled (added) when there is a reasonable certainty of accuracy.
All submissions to the Mechanical Music Press and/or the Mechanical Music Registry are given with the provision that the Mechanical Music Press and/or its authors have non-exclusive use of the information, images, and other matter for use with this project or in any other media or sharing with others, without limitation. All contributors of significant, previously unused information will be listed as contributors under general credits.