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MMD > Archives > April 2013 > 2013.04.01 > 06Prev  Next

Who Built the Wurlitzer Music Roll Perforators
By Matthew Caulfield

In the 130329 MMD Dave Krall asks a good question, "Who Built the
Wurlitzer Music Roll Perforators?"  Vol. 32, No. 4 (July/August 1995)
of the AMICA Bulletin contains a treasure trove of information about
the perforators used by various roll-making companies, contributed by
Don Rand.

It doesn't exactly answer Dave Krall's question, but it does bear
evidence that the company one first thinks about when thinking of
perforator manufacturers, Acme Newark Machine Works, Inc., was not
the maker of the twelve perforators used by Wurlitzer to produce the
numerous styles of rolls that the company turned out.

My reasons for making that statement are as follows.  Wurlitzer's
perforators were entirely mechanical.  They did not use pneumatics or
air motors to read the master roll or operate the perforator punches.
The four models of Acme perforators shown in the AMICA Bulletin article
are all pneumatically driven.

Wurlitzer's perforators used pre-trimmed paper, using paper slitters
manufactured in Rochester, New York, by Knowlton & Beach (see the
photos on p. 240).   Acme perforators trimmed the paper to size as the
paper ran through the perforator.  Moreover, the perforators used by
numerous companies illustrated in the AMICA article -- and there are
many -- all look different from the Wurlitzer perforators.

The AMICA article contains texts of several perforator patents, and
they are all assigned to specific companies.  The only patent shown
that is assigned to Wurlitzer is one filed April 5, 1911, and granted
February 3, 1914, to August deKleist and Frank L. McCormick for a
"Feed Mechanism for Perforating Machines."

A search of Google Patents pulls up patent no. 944790, applied for on
March 16, 1907, and granted December 28, 1909, to Eugene deKleist and
assigned to the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company for a "Perforating-Machine."
DeKleist's perforating machine design incorporated an automatic Tempo
compensation feature, a design feature for which Wurlitzer's twelve
perforators were famous, one which may be unique among known roll
perforators, and one which certainly is not necessary for producing
short piano rolls.

While none of this tells who built the Wurlitzer music roll perforators,
it does point to the likelihood that Wurlitzer built them or had a
company build them to its specifications.  Perhaps the fact that
neither of the two surviving Wurlitzer perforators has a manufacturer's
name plate on it, like the Wurlitzer paper slitter does, is indicative
of in-house manufacture?

Matthew Caulfield
Irondequoit, New York

(Message sent Sun 31 Mar 2013, 23:32:29 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  Built, Music, Perforators, Roll, Who, Wurlitzer

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