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MMD > Archives > October 1996 > 1996.10.12 > 04Prev  Next


Aeolian-Skinner Semi-Automatic Rolls
By Wayne Stahnke

This note is in response to recent postings by Eugene Rogers and Jim Weisenborne regarding the test roll, and other rolls, for the Hammond organ. Over the past few days I have done what research I can, given the somewhat limited contacts I have with organ roll collectors. I offer what I have learned as tentative, subject to further investigation and demonstration of proof.

The Aeolian Company seems to have manufactured organ rolls of two types, which I think of as "narrow" and "wide." The narrow rolls apparently played notes only. The wide rolls, which were what mathematicians call a "superset" of the narrow rolls, also set stops. Some roll players were manufactured that could accomodate both types of rolls. These rolls had perforations spaced 1/12 inch apart, and alternate perforations were staggered in alternate rows. This required the use of a special tracker bar having staggered ports.

In 1933, the Aeolian organ interests were purchased by the Skinner Organ Company. Among the assets acquired by Skinner were the perforating machinery and master roll library previously used by Aeolian. Skinner continued to perforate wide rolls for the Aeolian organs, using the original master rolls and the original perforating machinery acquired from Aeolian. The only difference in these rolls is that the labels now said "Duo-Art Music" across the top and "Aeolian-Skinner Organ Co." across the bottom. In all other respects, the rolls are interchangeable with those manufactured earlier by Aeolian.

In 1938, the Skinner organ company began production of rolls intended for use with the Hammond organ. These rolls are 10-1/8 inches wide with 120 ports, spaced 1/12 inch apart, and in line (i.e., not staggered). The leftmost port is used for rewind. According to Eugene Rogers, the next two ports are unused. The test roll shows that the remaining ports control the pedalboard and the Great and Swell manuals. These rolls are labelled "Duo-Art Music" across the top. Immediately beneath this legend are the words "Semi-Automatic." There is no reference to the Hammond organ on the labels and in fact the name "Hammond" does not appear anywhere on the rolls. Thus, I believe these rolls should properly be called "Aeolian-Skinner Semi-Automatic" rolls or "Semi-Automatic" rolls, not "Aeolian-Hammond" rolls. The music was derived from the library of Skinner organ rolls, which predated the acquisition of the Aeolian assets. Thus, there is no overlap between the music in the "Aeolian-Skinner" wide rolls (actually Aeolian rolls manufactued by Skinner) and the Aeolian-Skinner Semi-Automatic rolls intended for use with the Hammond Organ..

The perforating machinery used for the Semi-Automatic rolls may have been acquired from Aeolian; the rolls are the same width as the Aeolian narrow rolls. The flanges, however, are different. The Semi-Automatic rolls use standard flanges, identical to those used in the player piano and reproducing piano industries, whereas the earlier Aeolian narrow rolls used flanges with protruding pins, similar (in appearance, at least) to those used with 65-note rolls.

I believe the name "Aeolian-Hammond" is new, coined only very recently. I have examined hundreds of Semi-Automatic rolls, and the name "Hammond" does not appear anywhere on any of them. I have never seen the words "Aeolian" and "Hammond" together in any connection, and never as "Aeolian-Hammond."

Eugene: To answer your question directly, I do not know exactly how you could get a new test roll, or any other Semi-Automatic rolls, perforated from restored master rolls. Janet and Richard Tonnesen perforate new music rolls from computer-generated files, but my understanding is that they are presently perforating rolls conforming to the standard of the Buffalo Convention (that is, 11-1/4 inches wide, with a port spacing of 1/9 inch). Playrite Music Rolls seems to have the appropriate die set, but they do not perforate from disk files. I think your best bet is to pursue the postings in this Digest in the last few days from the two parties who have built flexible (i.e. variable spacing) perforators that operate under software control. Surely, somewhere there is someone who can perforate this important test roll.

I hope this note is useful. With best regards, I remain

Sincerely Yours,

Wayne Stahnke


(Message sent Sat 12 Oct 1996, 05:12:43 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  Aeolian-Skinner, Rolls, Semi-Automatic

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