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Images from the Tea Room

Orchestrion by the Seeburg Company, ca. 1913

Maker's label

"Nobody Can Listen to it Without Smiling!"

Note:  Click on any image to see an enlargement




NMM 6022.  Orchestrion by J. P. Seeburg Company, Chicago, ca. 1913

NMM 6022. Orchestrion by J. P. Seeburg Company, Chicago, ca. 1913. Serial no. 7165. Style G. AAA-c5 (7+ octaves). Includes the following instruments: piano, two ranks of organ pipes (flute and violin), mandolin, snare drum, bass drum, timpani, cymbal, and triangle. Torch-style art glass. Coin-operated, electric.

Douglas and Phyllis Adam of Yankton, South Dakota, who donated this valuable piece of Americana to the NMM in 1996, promised that "nobody can listen to it without smiling," and they were right. Click here to hear a lively excerpt from Verdi's "Anvil Chorus."


A Nickel's Worth of Entertainment

Slot into which nickel is inserted Nickel collection box

Nickel Insertion Slot and Coin Collection Box

Often called nickelodeons, because they play automatically each time a nickel is dropped into the slot, orchestrions were popular in restaurants, hotel lobbies, and saloons.


The Orchestrion's Instruments

The instruments inside, many of which can be seen when the doors are opened with a key, include a piano, two ranks of organ pipes (flute and violin), snare drum, bass drum, cymbal, and triangle.

Click here to hear an excerpt from Offenbach's opera,
"The Tales of Hoffman."

Interior of orchestrion
Doors open to expose instruments inside orchestrion

Close-up Views of Individual Instruments

Organ pipes

Organ Pipes

Snare drum

Snare Drum

Triangle

Triangle

Cymbal

Cymbal

Bass drum

Bass Drum

Piano keyboard shown as it is when orchestrion is playing

Piano Keyboard Shown as Orchestrion is Playing


Decorative Art Glass

Left torch illuminated by bulb inside orchestrion Left door panel illuminated by bulb inside orchestrion Door panels illuminated by bulb inside orchestrion Right door panel illuminated by bulb inside orchestrion Right torch illuminated by bulb inside orchestrion

Seeburg's famous Model G features Torch-Style, leaded art-glass windows set into an oak case.

Left panel illuminated by bulb inside orchestrion Right panel illuminated by bulb inside orchestrion

The leaded art-glass panel includes, on the left, a pastoral scene with a cabin under some trees on the shore of a lake with a mountain in the background. A windmill and a large barn silhouetted against trees can be seen on the right side of the panel, illuminated from behind by two incandescent light bulbs located inside the orchestrion.


The Orchestrion's Mechanism

Inside bottom doors

Using a pneumatic action powered by an electric motor, the instrument is operated by changeable perforated paper rolls that each contain ten different tunes, many of them melodies from the 19th-century operatic and orchestral repertoire.

   
Bellows     Flywheel and motor

Bellows, Flywheel, and Motor

Wind mechanism, open    Music roll

Wind Mechanism and Music Roll

Each music roll includes 10 selections   Music roll

Technologically advanced for their time, such instruments remind us of the many revolutionary inventions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries—the light bulb, the internal-combustion engine, the telephone, motion pictures, and the list goes on and on—that changed lives then perhaps even more dramatically than the new technologies of today.

Organ pipe valves and hoses

Valves and Hoses Activate Organ Pipes


Lit.:  André P. Larson, "Nobody Can Listen to It Without Smiling!," America's Shrine to Music Museum Newsletter, 24, No. 2 (January 1997), pp. 1-2.

André P. Larson, "Orchestrion by J. P. Seeburg," The South Dakota Musician (Winter 1997), cover and p. 18.

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Go to Checklist of Keyboard Instruments

A postcard of the orchestrion is available from the Gift Shop


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Most recent update:   March 3, 2016

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