PianOrchestra/Paginini/Pianella Rollography Project

Philipps Pianella / Wurlitzer PianOrchestra and Paganini

Rollography Project History and Goals

The PianOrchestra/Paganini/Pianella Rollography Project started out in circa 1997-98 as an ongoing attempt to catalogue original Wurlitzer (and to a lesser extent Philipps Pianella) factory-cut music rolls for the Concert, Mandolin, and Regular/Style 17 PianOrchestras. Some of the relatively small number of original Philipps Mandoline (PM) rolls here in the U.S. were included in the Wurlitzer listings, as were a few Symphonia rolls made by Eugene DeRoy, and all intermingled with the Wurlitzer titles. This was a natural outcome, because Wurlitzer PianOrchestras are nothing more than imported Philipps Pianellas, and Philipps rolls are the templates upon which all Wurlitzer PianOrchestra and Paganini rolls are based.

The rollography database started out using Microsoft Access 97. Then in the year 2000 the Access 97 format was upgraded to Access 2000, which was not backward compatible with earlier Access versions. The creation date on this updated Access database file was 6/14/2000, which became the foundational file upon which all future updates up through Access 2010 have been based. New to the September, 2011, version of the rollography database is the inclusion of two new date type fields, (1) an entry creation date (set to 6/14/2000 for records already present in the database) and (2) a reported date. These timestamps in combination allow us to know when an entry was created, and if and when that particular entry is updated. This may be usefully accurate for any new entries, but there are no timestamps remaining to date the initial database attempt or for any items up to the 2011 revision. About all that is known is that the rollography database was well underway by June 14, 2000. Consequently, this date is being arbitrarily given as a creation date for all early and previously undated database items. Also new in the 2011 version is the addition of roll source information to some reports. However, this information will only be shown (1) if the roll source is that of a publicly accessible attraction or venue, and/or (2), in the case of a non-public source, if and when the roll source/owner has specifically authorized the release of source information. Currently, source information is enabled only in the new Philipps Duca and Philipps PM database reports.

The original Wurlitzer emphasis is another thing that gave way in September of 2011, when a lot of Philipps Duca and PM roll information was made available by a German enthusiast, Thomas Richter. As a result of this, the rollography database structure was upgraded, with both Philipps Duca and PM rolls now included in a major way, but with the U.S. made Wurlitzer and German made Philipps (and DeRoy Symphonia) rolls kept in separate database tables. This change makes updating and database maintenance easier, as opposed to intermingling everything in one gigantic table, and it should make finding a particular English or German roll and/or tune a bit easier. That stated, please be aware that here in the U.S. it is entirely possible to find an early Philipps red paper roll with an English label, more than likely originally sold by Wurlitzer during the years before Wurlitzer started cutting PianOrchestra rolls here in the U.S. Although rare, any such American Philipps rolls will be included in the appropriate Wurlitzer PianOrchestra roll listing.

Recut music rolls are not included in this study, although title information from recut rolls may be used as a source of catalogued tune and composer information, and will be so noted as may be appropriate. The types of music rolls currently included in this study and project are as follows:

Philipps Music Rolls:

Philipps music rolls have been observed in the following paper colors:

Euterpe Music Rolls

In the 1930's Euterpe manufactured music rolls for Philipps Pianella Mandoline (PM) and Philippa Paganini (PP) instruments, as well as music rolls for Hupfeld (Clavitist, Helios, and maybe for other models), Popper, and possibly other brands. Little is currently known about the Euterpe music roll operation, but it was reportedly located at Prinsengracht 263, Amsterdam, Holland.

Symphonique (Symphonia) Music Rolls:

Wurlitzer PianOrchestra and Paganini Music Rolls:

Wurlitzer music rolls have been observed in the following paper colors:

Wurlitzer’s Importation of Philipps Music Rolls

PianOrchestra Music Rolls:

According to Farny Wurlitzer, all music for PianOrchestras was originally imported from Philipps in Germany, beginning circa 1902/03, when the paper roll operated Pianella Orchestrion was introduced by Philipps and soon thereafter imported into the U.S. by Wurlitzer as The PianOrchestra. But a problem soon became evident, because, although classical music was sometimes played on a PianOrchestra, the main audience for these giant coin-operated piano orchestrions was demanding the latest popular music for listening and dancing. American customers wanted tunes currently popular in the U.S.; not what might be popular in a foreign country, in this case Germany. And so Wurlitzer started sending the latest sheet music to Germany for rolls specifically cut for the U.S. market. Unfortunately, however, by the time the steamship with its cargo of new sheet music arrived in Germany, and the sheet music made its way to the Philipps factory, and the music arrangers made the various music roll layouts, and the rolls were next given perforator time, and the newly cut rolls were shipped back across the Atlantic Ocean, and then finally distributed to Wurlitzer outlets, the “new” music was already out of date and no longer the latest rage.

To resolve this vexing problem Wurlitzer needed to begin arranging and cutting PianOrchestra rolls here in the U.S. When exactly this occurred is unknown, but it probably took place not long after Wurlitzer took possession of de Kleist’s North Tonawanda factory in January of 1909. Since circa 1904 Eugene de Kleist’s operation had been arranging and cutting music rolls for coin-operated pianos it built exclusively for Wurlitzer. How many perforators de Kleist had is unknown, but by the time Wurlitzer took over operation the firm had been cutting rolls for the Pianino, Mandolin Quartette and Mandolin Sextette, and the 65-note automatic player piano/orchestra piano style instruments. It would have been relatively easy to merely add another perforator to the already existing lineup, one that specifically catered to PianOrchestras, and that accurately duplicated the distinctly different metric hole size and spacing used by Philipps.

Paganini Music Rolls:

Philipps music roll box label for Paganini roll No. 8149.The Paganini series of instruments, also built by Philipps and introduced circa 1910, were essentially a next generation line of instruments that were mechanically much more sophisticated than were the earlier PianOrchestra models. The Paganini was specifically designed to be easily capable of playing the most refined and delicate of musical selections, and in particular the classics. Each Paganini was fitted with a reproducing piano, as well as pipework housed within swell shutter arrangements capable of producing subtle volume shadings. The smaller Paganini instruments were representative of a small string ensemble, while the larger Paganini instruments were capable of representing an entire orchestra with piano, strings, woodwinds, trumpets, and a large variety of percussive trapwork.

With its classical leanings and intricately expressive musical arrangements the Paganini instruments apparently did not suffer from the popular music issue that had plagued the PianOrchestra during its early days, and that caused Wurlitzer to begin cutting PianOrchestra rolls here in the U.S. It is known from observing a few surviving Wurlitzer sales invoices that the company was selling Philipps cut Paganini rolls (in the 8000 series) up through July of 1913, and probably through the first half of 1914. Each Philipps Paganini roll was protected in an elegant Philipps cardboard roll box with a gold embossed Philipps logo on its topside, and with a genuine Philipps roll label on one end. The rolls themselves had either a genuine Philipps roll label, or the roll leader was alternately rubber-stamped in blue ink with “P.P.Rev” and with the roll number situated directly below it. Wurlitzer appears to have sold these imported Paganini rolls as received from Philipps, without any Wurlitzer branding marks or labels.

The flow of Philipps cut Paganini rolls would have come to an abrupt halt in August of 1914, when Germany became fully involved in World War I. This great worldwide upset would have made it imperative that Wurlitzer begin cutting Paganini rolls here in the U.S., probably by late 1914, but almost certainly by early 1915. This would most certainly have required a new Paganini designated perforator, because, although the hole size and spacing was the same as for the PianOrchestra lineup of instruments, Paganini rolls were much wider, and so the already present, circa 1909, PianOrchestra perforator (installed a year or more before the first Paganini instruments were marketed) would have been unable to accommodate the much wider Paganini roll.

For a Quick Summary:

  1. Wurlitzer seems to have begun cutting PianOrchestra music rolls at the North Tonawanda facility sometime in early to mid-1909. This is not only a logical date, but it seems to be confirmed by the 1909 copyright dates for many of the tunes that populated the earliest known Wurlitzer cut PianOrchestra rolls.
  2. Wurlitzer is thought to have begun cutting Paganini music rolls towards the end of 1914 or possibly early 1915, after the import of materials from Germany had been disrupted due to World War I.  It is logical that this is when Wurlitzer would have been forced to take on the perforating of Paganini rolls in its North Tonawanda factory. Wurlitzer music roll bulletins for 1913 and for the first three months of 1914 do not list Paganini rolls, which is logical, because it is known that Wurlitzer was selling Philipps cut Paganini rolls up through 1913. The roll bulletins for the last 9 months of 1914, and for all of 1915 and 1916 are missing, but the last three months for 1917 do exist and they do have Wurlitzer cut Paganini rolls listed, starting with #238 (the Phillips cut Paganini rolls were in the 8000 number range).

Database Properties:

The Music Roll Database incorporates the following important attributes:

  1. Music roll number.
  2. Music roll type: (Example: "WMPO-01023" or "PhPM-00004")
    • Euterpe (cut for Philipps PM machines) (abbreviated: "EuPM")
    • Philipps Pianella Xylophone (abbreviated: "PhPX")
    • Philipps Pianella Mandoline (abbreviated: "PhPM")
    • Philipps Pianella Caecilia (abbreviated: "PhPC")
    • Philipps Duca (for the Paganini, abbreviated: "PhPD")
    • Philipps Pianella Paganini (abbreviated: "PhPP")
    • Symphonique (Symphonia Piano Rollen Company—Eugene DeRoy) cut for Philipps PM machines (abbreviated: "SyPM")
    • Wurlitzer Regular PianOrchestra (abbreviated: "WRPO")
    • Wurlitzer Style 17 PianOrchestra (abbreviated: "WS17")
    • Wurlitzer Mandolin PianOrchestra (abbreviated: "WMPO")
    • Wurlitzer Concert PianOrchestra (abbreviated: "WCPO")
    • Wurlitzer Paganini (abbreviated: "WPAG")
  3. Music roll title (if any), such as "Dance Roll With Drums," or "Tanzrolle"
  4. Individual tune title(s), usually limited to no more than five tunes; however, one roll with seven tunes has been catalogued.
  5. Tune Composer(s).
  6. Dates (if any, as mentioned in the label, a roll catalog or an estimated date of issue or copyright).
  7. Pertinent comments or other descriptive information, such as:
    • Source of information, i.e., music roll, loose box label or catalogue.
    • Noteworthy characteristics, such as hand typed label, German-cut roll, etc.

Submitting New Music Roll Information

Hand typed Wurlitzer label on Philipps cut music roll #115.Please note that partial information from damaged roll labels can be very useful, and can often be used to match up and complete otherwise incomplete tune title and/or composer information. For examples and suggestions on how to submit images click here or on the thunmnail image at right.

If Sending a Hand-Typed List

If Sending Photographs of Roll Labels

Thank you for any assistance you may provide. Information submitted will be added to the music roll database and/or will be very helpful in confirming that data already collected is correct. Some of the catalogued data has come from old typed lists or nearly illegible box labels, for which no known original roll exists, and so every bit of new data can be very useful in compiling a more complete and accurate database of rolls.

Distribution of Database Information
Last Updated on February 6, 2018

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Wurlitzer PianOrchestra Logo. 
and Paganini Violin Pianos
Philipps Logo. Philipps & Söhne
Download the Wurlitzer Concert PianOrchestra Rollography Report.
94 pages.
Version of February 6, 2018
Download the Philipps Duca (PD) Rollography Report. 
20 pages.
Version of April 20, 2014
Download the Wurlitzer Mandolin PianOrchestra Rollography Report.
67 pages.
Version of February 6, 2018
Download the Philipps Mandoline (PM) Rollography Report.
27 pages.
Version of December 6, 2017
Download the Wurlitzer Regular/Style 17 PianOrchestra Rollography Report.
11 pages.
Version of February 6, 2018
Download the All Catalogued Philipps Tunes Report.
19 pages.
Version of December 6, 2017
Download the Wurlitzer Paganini Rollography Report.
15 pages.
Version of February 6, 2018
Download the All Catalogued Wurlitzer Tunes Report.
134 pages.
Version of February 6, 2018
Download the All Catalogued Wurlitzer Composer List Report.
126 Pages
Version of February 6, 2018
Button to report new or corrected database information.

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.


Music roll information resources: Disney (Disneyworld) Concert PianOrchestra music roll list, Rudy Edwards Collection, Gilson Collection, Hanulec/Kehoe Collection, Terry Hathaway (and Playland Mandolin PianOrchestra music roll list), Krughoff Collection, Milhous Collection, D.J. Neilson Collection, Nethercutt Collection, Play-Rite recut rolls, Sanfilippo Collection, Art Reblitz, Thomas Richter, Michael Lund, Hans Kunz, Brian Smith, Wurlitzer Monthly Roll Bulletins.

Photographs / Graphics:

Terry Hathaway, Thomas Richter, and Michael Lund.