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MMD > Archives > February 1997 > 1997.02.08 > 11Prev  Next

Seeburg and Nelson-Wiggen Coin Pianos
By Don Teach

By the way -- before anyone rushes out to put beveled glass in their Nelson-Wiggen as reported in the MMD a couple of days ago -- Nelson-Wiggen was a late entry into the coin-operated piano business. Beveled glass was found in early-made coin-operated pianos and was most likely discontinued around 1910. Nelson-Wiggen in their models without art glass used plain plate glass with a decal on the inside of the glass.

The Nelson-Wiggen pianos are gaining popularity with collectors now because they are very musical for an American coin operated piano with a distinctive sound all their own. One of my favorite patent numbers is good old 1136190. This patent was granted April 20, 1915 to Peder Wiggen and Oscar Nelson of Chicago, Illinois. The patent covers a lock and cancel unit, drum mechanism, expression system, and more. The drawings are good. This patent number was discovered on an early jukebox made by the Seeburg Corp. One look at the drawings and you can clearly see that it is the Seeburg "G" drum shelf.

If you will notice, Nelson-Wiggen instruments made in the 20's have most all components made of wood such as the spool box. They were real wood workers and not metal workers. They started producing instruments about the time that Seeburg introduced the Western Electric pianos. Western Electrics have the same serial numbers as do their Seeburg counterparts. There are many similarities between Seeburg and Western Electrics such as the stack. The pump, rewind valves, and valves for coin trip, sustain, etc. are close to Cremona.

The corporate officers of Western Electric were the same men that ran the Marquette piano company who made Cremona. They were Axel Larson, Byron Waters and Russell Wilcox in 1924. It must have been a small group that ran the coin piano business in Chicago. Mr. Seeburg got his start at the Marquette piano company.

Sometime before 1920 Mr. Seeburg had sold the Seeburg Company. It was during this time that many of the different Seeburg art glass changes were made, such as the dancing girl glass found on some Seeburg K's and the unusual glass found in some Seeburg "G" models. Mr. Seeburg during this time started the Marshall and Marshall piano factory.

I had an old ad from The Music Trades about the Marshall piano company that gave us this little tidbit of information. Mr. Seeburg then bought back the Seeburg piano company probably in 1920. It was at this time we believe that the pianos were in fact made by Seeburg and began with serial number 55,000. Since we know that Seeburg kept track of their serial numbers it was not too long into this numbering sequence that they realized the pianos made for them by Haddorf in 1913 also had 55,000 serial numbers so they placed a 1 in front of the number hence the 155,000 series.

There have been several examples of the tiny "L" model found with the 55,000 series numbers which would have dated them in the 1913 period. Then there was a huge gap before any more "L" models would have been produced. These 55,000 numbered "L" models all have 1920's components. This would have also placed them before the Phono-Grand model introduced around 1918. We have not yet located any Seeburgs with numbers between 100,000 and 155,000. The last Seeburg pianos produced are numbered in the 169,000 range and are mortuary organs.

This is a tiny bit of the information that has been gathered so far in the research of Seeburg coin pianos. I would really like to hear from any of you that can provide detailed information about your coin pianos. So far we have examined close to three hundred Seeburg pianos and gathered information on the location of close to one hundred model "G's" know to exist.

We also believe there are about one hundred Seeburg "H" models still out there. Bowers had compiled a list of "H" models once about 20 years ago with 80 Seeburg "H" models. During my quest for a Seeburg "G" in 1981 I found collectors with 60 known "G" models and did not even touch the western part of the United States. I was amazed to find that there were still some in public places. There was even one in the back of a hardware store in the Chicago area. To me that is a lot of Seeburgs. In our serial number search we hardly touched the surface of all known Seeburgs.

If we can get your help perhaps some of the mysteries concerning this great force can be found. I would like photocopies of any old ads, literature or whatever you have. It may not look like it is significant to you but please pass it along to me. Thanks

Don Teach, 1610 E. Bert Kouns, Shreveport, LA 71105
fax: 318-797-4572

[ Don, I heard once that Western Electric was established secretly by
[ the owners of Seeburg in order to give some competition to the Seeburg
[ salesmen and route operators. Is there any truth in this? -- Robbie

(Message sent Sat 8 Feb 1997, 16:34:33 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Coin, Nelson-Wiggen, Pianos, Seeburg

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