Wednesday, July 26, 2017

                                The Edison Standard Phonograph

The Edison Standard is a spring driven external horn phonograph model, that was introduced by Edison's National Phonograph Company, in April, 1899.   It sold for $20, but remember you were lucky to make $1 per day at the time.

We were given a good working one a couple of years ago and already had a non-functioning one.   Since the building is space limited, it seemed wise to sell one of them.

In order to sell one, it has to work.  So we decided to fix the broken one and sell it.   There were two main problems.   The spring was broken about 3 turns from the inner end.   The C reproducer  needed a lot of help.  We don't do reproducers, so we sent it out for repair.   The spring is simple, but as you probably know, it is dangerous to replace a spring if you are inexperienced at this job.   There was also a chipped tooth on one gear, which had to be replaced.

We got it all taken care of in early July of 2017 and will be sale shortly, but there is no horn to go with it, as they are readily available in reproduction form.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Our Nelson Wiggen Style 6

                                Our Nelson Wiggen Style 6

Oscar Nelson and Peder Wiggen, worked as engineers and factory supervisors for the J. P. Seeburg Company, until striking out on their own and forming the Nelson Wiggen Co. in Chicago in 1922.   They built some of the most complex vacuum operated nickelodeons of the era.

Built about 1925, our style 6 ownership is unknown until it was owned by Robert Sabo of Pittsburgh, who was in the process of restoring it, when he passed away.   His sister, Joan Hick, donated it to the museum in 2011, so that it could be restored, preserved and viewed by the public.

As received, the xylophone stack was without valves, though the woodwork to hold them was complete.   We completed the valves, built the pneumatics and hammers.   The wood bars were roughed out, but we had to tune them.   (The machine was built to A=440 specs.)  We assembled the wood block from parts on hand.   We built the soft pedal parts.
We designed and built the on/off valve for the xylophone, as we were unable to get enough information to reproduce the original.  Robert had completed work on the pump and roll drive, so no work was needed in that section.

The music is contained on a paper roll with holes punched in it, designated as style 4X, which normally contains 10 songs.   The 4X roll does not have enough holes to play all of the instruments, so it "plays" a multiplexing device that switches instruments on and off, so they all get to play as some point in the song.   This was missing, but we got enough information to reproduce.

There are currently only 12 of the style 6 units identified, though many more were reproduced.   Ours is one of the four made, with the large selection of instruments including a Piano, Mandolin Rail, Trap Drum, Cymbal, Tambourine, Wood Block and Triangle.   Ours also has stained glass panels, which were rarely used.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


What Is It?

The Cremona Model J orchestral style was built in Chicago, by the Marquette Piano Company, about 1915.   This was the largest orchestrion built by Marquette.

How Rare Is it?

There were fewer than 20 made.   How many survive is unknown.

How Does It Work?

The music is contained on a paper roll with holes punched in it, designated as style M, which normally contains 10 songs.   The punched holes are "read" by a vacuum control system, that in turn opens valves, allowing the compressed air  to enter the selected pipes and play music.   The vacuum and compressed air are supplied by wood and leather bellows pumps driven by a crankshaft, which is turned by the electric motor in the bottom of the instrument.

The M Roll controls the piano, mandolin rail, bass drum, snare drum, flute pipes, violin pipes, triangle, tympani and xylophone.

What  Is It Worth?   What Did It Cost?

In 2004, one sold for $37,000 on eBay.   The 1915 selling price is unknown, but it was probably in the $1800 range.

Where Has It Been?

Its original location was at the Salt Air Amusement Park in Salt Lake City, UT.   It was then owned by someone in Casper, Wyoming.   Jake bought it from the third owner, George Schubert, in Gering, Nebraska for $4000.

Background Information

The Marquette Piano Co. started in Chicago, building piano actions but about 1915, expanded to building complete instruments, thus becoming one of the first American firms in this industry.   Until 1907, J.P. Seeburg worked for them until founding his own company.

Sold under the Cremona name, their major production was between 1905 and 1920.   They built high quality machines with interior parts highly finished, even though not visible.

Our Stewardship

Jake wanted instruments to play and was not hesitate to bypass "unnecessary" features to that end.   There was a booster pump added; but many of the "unnecessary" features such as treble soft, piano volume and xylophone were bypassed.   We have rebuilt the piano stack, reconnected the original pump and activated the other bypassed features.   After three attempts to get the xylophone playing, we have been only partially successful in this regard.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Who Says A above middle C is 440Hz: Some personal research by Scotty Greene

When I started volunteering at DeBence, it was working on a Wurlitzer 105 Band Organ, made in 1928.   Among other problems, it needed to be tuned.   My background as a mechanical engineer made this look straightforward to me.   If you know the length of a pipe, you know what frequency it will sound.   Well, not really.  The formula has a fudge factor which seems to vary from one situation to another.   In spite of what Ralph Nader thinks, engineering is not really a completely exact science. Tuning is not really an Engineering problem.

The next revelation was that there was and is no real standard for what frequency a given note is suppose to be.

My first reference check with ANSI said A is supposed to be 440Hz.   Well, it turns out that is not necessarily true or universally accepted in all situations.   It was usually 432 Hz(the French standard from the 1860s) in the past.

We got to work on a Frati built about 1900 in Germany and working backwards from the way it tuned, it seems A was tuned to about 390 on that organ.  European orchestras today, sometimes tune about 440 to get a "brighter" sound.

One reference said German (German Natural History Society, 1834) and American standard  setting bodies wanted A=440 in the 1920s, but could not get anyone else to agree.   The A=440 standard was adopted by the Musical Industries Chamber of Commerce in 1925.

Most official standards seem to date from the 1930s.   The ANSI standard A=440, came out in 1936.   The American Federation of Musicians agreed with it.   At that point WWV started broadcasting an A=440 tone on the hour, so we could all get with the standard.   In 1955, ISO 16 was released calling for A=440.

The whole subject is further confused by deciding what temperature that standard is set at.  J.C. Deagan (zylophones) is quoted as saying A=435 was set at 59 degrees F and if you bring that pitch to 70 degrees F you get A=440.

We have noticed that an orchestrion with piano and pipes tuned at any standard, will go out of tune with itself as the temperature changes, because the pipes and piano change pitch differently.

Today, there is general agreement that various pitches are appropriate for different performances.
            1) American and UK concert pitch is usually A=440 and that is normally indoors.
            2) European  concert pitch is between A=440 and A=444, depending on the conductor.
            3) Baroque music is often played at A=415, unless it is 430 or in some cases 466.

What it boils down to,isyou can tune to whatever you think sounds best for what you are playing  and someone will have a different opinion; but nobody can definitely say you are wrong.   If the instrument is tuned with itself, most people will thing it sounds fine.