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.

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