Roll Manufacturers

1. M. Welte & Sons and the German Orchestrion Builders

M. Welte & Sons,the innovative and technically sophisticated manufacturer of cottage and concert orchestrions in Freiburg, Germany was the first firm to design and implement a satisfactory paper roll-operating system for their pneumatic orchestrions. The advance wasn’t achieved in Europe, but in North America, where the variations in ambient atmosphere conditions wreaked havoc on broad width cylinder machinery. The development was led by Emil Welte, son of the firm’s founder, Michael Welte, who arrived at Boston in 1866 and quickly established a base of operations in New York City. Gaining experience in the North American trade, Welte initiated work to develop a new operating system to replace the cylinder by 1876. He perfected and in 1883 patented an initial positive pressure pneumatic control system. It remained unused as Welte went on to perfect a more reliable suction pneumatic system. This went into use for the first time on a huge Style 10, 120-hole machine installed at George Theiss’s New Music Hall and Alhambra Court in 1887. This achievement established the new standard in large mechanical music operations. Welte spaced their smaller instrument holes at 0.167”, nominally six to the inch, and the larger at eight to the inch, 0.125”.

The Welte achievement was followed by other German orchestrion makers including Philipps, Ambros Weisser and Cocchi, Bacigalupo & Graffigna. The last named firm was the first to implement the use of paper rolls to operate large fairground organs, doing so circa 1901.



2. de Kleist Musical Instrument Manufacturing Company

In the same time frame, Rudolph Wurlitzer Manufacturing of Cincinnati, Ohio was undertaking the sale of mechanical musical instruments, as an extension of their general trade in music devices. They were the outlet for the cylinder-operated pianos and organs being made by the de Kleist Musical Instrument Manufacturing Company of North Tonawanda, New York, as well as other instruments being made in the US by smaller firms, which employed paper rolls. Among the Wurlitzer offerings were large paper roll-operated orchestrions from Philipps. The flexibility, economy and superiority of paper roll instruments were readily established.

Owing to Wurlitzer influence, when de Kleist introduced his new Pianino mechanical piano and large 100-hole band organ, later termed No. 155 and the Monster, in 1904, both were roll-operated. de Kleist chose to use spooled rolls, as had Welte, Philipps and others. To prevent interchange between machines, he used the then uncommon ten to the inch spacing in his perforator.

Later de Kleist devices were outfitted with an unusual 0.1227” spacing, an odd number derived from machine tooling practices. The de Kleist firm was taken over by Wurlitzer in 1908 and became the principal manufacturing facility for several decades. The making, repair and shipment of paper roll-operated pneumatic band organs continued through 1942.

Through the entire existence of de Kleist and Wurlitzer there was but one instance where someone else made paper rolls that could play on their instruments. About 1918, when Louis Bacigalupo was managing the organ shop for C. W. Parker in Leavenworth, Kansas they issued several rolls in the 165 scale. The venture was short lived and the rolls are quite rare today.

Wurlitzer band organ rollographies are available online at:



3. Niagara Musical Instrument Manufacturing Company

The second firm formed by craftsmen that departed from the de Kleist firm was the Niagara Musical Instrument Company of 1905. Very little has been discovered concerning the actual rolls utilized on the firm’s organs and orchestrions. The recent study of paper roll-operated pneumatic organs suggests that they purchased rolls made for roll-operated reed organs and used them. No documentation has been found that confirms this hypothesis, and no original Niagara rolls are known to exist today.

The organ rolls they bought and re-sold had different hole spacing and are thus not part of this 8tti rollography. To date, no rollography has been compiled for reed organ paper rolls.



4. North Tonawanda Musical Instrument Works

The 8tti roll spacing originated with Welte’s larger concert orchestrions. It was already an American standard by circa 1908, when the North Tonawanda Musical Instrument Works [hereafter NTMIW], which had been organized in 1906, embraced paper rolls in lieu of pinned cylinders to operate their band organs. Choosing a spacing that differed from Wurlitzer’s precluded any exchange of rolls, unless one or the other geared up a second manufacturing line and perforator.

The firm was organized by former de Kleist employees who wanted to go in a different direction. They did this by designing a line of instruments derived using scales that were very similar to those of de Kleist, but they were operated by endless rolls. This made them suited primarily to roller skating rinks, which went into a heyday from then to about 1910. The NTMIW did not introduce a spooled roll system until late 1914, on a mechanical piano, and then applied it to their band organs shortly thereafter.

The North Tonawanda firm’s successor, the Rand Co., Inc., continued the making of pianos and organs into the 1920s, the majority of work ceasing about 1925. It is thought that their music masters and perforator were simply junked.

The NTMIW, with affiliations through other Rand operations, notably the Capitol Piano & Organ Company, also manufactured coin pianos and orchestrions that played endless or spooled 8tti rolls. Given that they were the work of the organ firm, and may be confused with organ rolls, they have also been included in this rollography.



5. Artizan Factories, Inc.

Subsequent to the sale of the NTMIW to the Rand Company, the mechanical musical instrument side of the firm declined to the point that the principals in the trade left the firm and founded the Artizan Factories, Inc. in 1922. Practical manufacturing work, including the perforating of paper rolls, was underway by early 1923. Artizan did not make use of any prior NTMIW or Rand arrangements; all of their creative work was entirely new.

Following the late 1929, early 1930 closure of Artizan, the stock in trade was sold at public auction to Wurlitzer. They sold off the remaining Artizan roll inventory and also arranged and manufactured a very limited number of new rolls under the combined Artizan-Wurlitzer identity. Subsequently, the Artizan and few Wurlitzer 8tti masters were destroyed and the Artizan perforator was scrapped.



6. B. A. B. Organ Company

The B. A. B. Organ Company of Manhattan, and after 1932 of Brooklyn, NY, was the only firm to arrange, manufacture and sell paper rolls for 8tti band organs. Their initial issues were released in 1928, but broader work was not achieved until about 1932. Initially they made rolls that would support all known 8tti scales; the 46, 48, 52 (endless only), 61 and 87 scale. They also introduced their own and unique 66 and 87 scale styles.

By the mid-1930s, flagging sales caused the discontinuation of the several of the less popular scale rolls. The number issued in each of those scales is unknown. B. A. B. manufacturing data was transcribed by Senator Charles Bovey and made available by Art Reblitz and Q. David Bowers in Treasures of Mechanical Music.

The 67-hole roll listings were derived from those at and



7. Oswald “Ozzie” and Tom Wurdeman

Facilitated by a working relationship with the Bovey Collections in Virginia City and Nevada City, Montana, Ozzie Wurdeman removed a large number of the music roll masters that were in the B. A. B. holdings at the site. Reportedly there was one bag of masters, bearing a roll identification, that contained the music for each roll. He brought the selected masters back to his Twin Cities home. They joined the B. A. B. Organ Co.’s Acme perforator, which had been dropped off there when the collection headed west.

Wurdeman proceeded to make rolls using the masters, on the perforator. Ozzie was succeeded in this task by his son, Tom, starting in 1982, who continued through 1986. After that the masters and perforator were sold to Ed Openshaw, who subsequently sold the holdings to the Herschell Carousel Factory Museum in North Tonawanda, New York.

Doug Hershberger is leading the dedicated effort to again make rolls using the original B. A. B. masters and perforator.

The masters remaining in Montana complement those in North Tonawanda. With advocacy from Mike Edwards, the site curatorial staff organized a large project to move and re-house all of them in a new and modern artifact storage facility nearby. They are now secure, their study and re-use to be determined in the future.

Numerous B. A. B. arranged and manufactured rolls are no longer extant. This circumstance, coupled with a lack of lists generated by B. A. B. has resulted in large knowledge gaps for most scales, other than 67-holes. It is hoped that all of the Montana holdings and HCFM masters can be inventoried and analyzed to create a comprehensive and complete B. A. B. rollography. Whether this will be possible is unclear at this time.



8. North Coast Music Roll Works
Roger Morrison manufactured duplicate copies of 49 and 61-hole rolls between 1983 and 1989 via his North Coast Music Roll Works..



9. Valley Forge Music Rolls
Don Neilsen arranged for Frank Himpsl to make limited number reproductions of some 8tti rolls, such as 52-hole endless and 61-hole spooled.



10. Wasson Organ Company
John Daniel and the few remaining owners of organs playing the North Tonawanda “82” scale rolls organized a roll re-cutting project. They recruited Dave Wasson to do the work, which included the re-issuing of North Tonawanda, Artizan and B. A. B. rolls. The Wasson Organ Company rolls generally preserved the identity of the source rolls, but the contents were scrambled between rolls.


Continue reading about the different types and scales of these rolls on the next page.