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MMD > Archives > April 1998 > 1998.04.10 > 04Prev  Next

"Golden Age of Automatic Musical Instruments"
By Art Reblitz

My work on "The Golden Age of Automatic Musical Instruments" is
nearing completion.  For those of you who have heard of the title
but don't know anything else about it, here's some background.

Five years ago, Jasper Sanfilippo proposed the idea of a major book on
automatic music, illustrated with high-quality color photos of instru-
ments in his and two other large Midwestern collections.  Each of the
three collectors and their families generously open their collections
for MBSI and AMICA meetings, concerts and fund-raisers, but it's
impossible for visitors to drop in to see and hear the instruments
every day of the week.  Realizing that no collection remains together
forever, Jasper thought this would be the perfect time to publish such
a book.

Jim Krughoff and the third collector (who wishes to remain anonymous)
were immediately interested in participating.  Each collection adds a
different dimension to the project.  "The Golden Age" will compliment
the "Encyclopedia" and "Treasures," and will include music boxes,
mechanical pianos and organs, "nickelodeons" and orchestrions,
reproducing pianos, violin machines, fairground and dance organs,
photoplayers and theatre pipe organs.

It will include over 250 stunning color photographs of the instruments,
inside and out.  Each example was chosen for its careful restoration or
exceptional state of preservation, making the book a valuable guide to

It will also include a tribute to the pioneer collectors who preserved
the instruments when they had little or no value, with dozens of photos
of early collections that haven't appeared in any other book.  It
concludes with a chapter on collecting and preservation today, with
appendices packed full of musical and technical information.

The text answers questions like "Why was this instrument made?
What made it special?  Why is it of interest today?"  Musical and
mechanical comparisons explain why each instrument is unique.  What
makes a Coinola sound different from a Link? An Ampico from a Duo-Art?
A PianOrchestra from a Helios?  A Limonaire from a Ruth?  It also
includes interesting anecdotes about specific instruments -- their
design, background, where they were found, how they came to be saved,

Leslie Schwartz (the photographer for the beautiful "Victorian Palace"
booklet) and I worked all last summer taking the color pictures.  I've
spent the winter on the text, which should be done within a couple of
months.  We're talking with several publishers, or we might self-
publish the book, using a professional layout artist and the finest
available scanning and printing.  When we know the price and date of
availability, we'll advertise it in the MBSI and AMICA bulletins and
other appropriate places.  The pricing structure will include a
dealers' discount, so it should be available from a number of sources
as long as it's in print.

By the way, if anyone has a few good, clear photos of groupings of
instruments in the major pre-1960 collections and restoration shops
-- Cliff House, Sutro's, the A.C. Raney collection, the B.A.B. organ
company, the Bovey restorations, the Mangels museum, Horn's Cars of
Yesterday, Boyer collection, etc. -- it's not too late to consider
them for inclusion.  I'm looking for further details on where John
Henry Hewlett obtained the pieces in his collection, exhibited in
New Orleans in 1938.

Art Reblitz

(Message sent Thu 9 Apr 1998, 19:01:46 GMT, from time zone GMT-0600.)

Key Words in Subject:  Age, Automatic, Golden, Instruments, Musical

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