J.P. Seeburg Piano Co. (Chicago, Illinois)
1914 Seeburg Style J Orchestrion
Sold For $138,000Inclusive of applicable buyer's fee.
The Seeburg Style J orchestrion was introduced in 1913 and is considered to be one of the most beautiful and elegant American orchestrions ever made. The case is veneered in Circassian walnut, with full-length columns and 24 panels of art glass. The large center art glass panel features the Illinois State Capitol Building. Only six are known to exist. This example, made in 1914, was previously in the collection of Charles Smallwood of San Francisco and was fully restored in 1996. Its instrumentation includes piano with automatic expression and mandolin attachment, 34 flute and 34 violin pipes, xylophone, castanets and triangle, played from style H music rolls. These rolls have solo capability for the pipes and xylophone, a rare feature in American orchestrions. There are a dozen 10-tune H rolls with the instrument.
On July 26, 1913, The Music Trade Review commented, "The new Style J orchestrion, which is on much the same order as Style H, will probably be ready for the trade within two weeks. The new Style L orchestrion is also rapidly approaching completion and will be on display within a month. This gives the company a line of five orchestrions and five electric coin-controlled pianos." Remarkably, the Milhous Collection includes one example each of the H, L and J!
As it turned out the Style J, billed as the Art Style Solo Orchestra, was not ready until October 1913. More care was given to the art glass and wood on the J than on other Seeburg styles. It seems that the Style J was made in limited quantities through at least 1917, as evidenced by this news item in The Music Trade Review, May 26, 1917: "During the National Association of Music Merchants Show in Chicago visitors to the Republic Building saw instruments. The new Seeburg automatic orchestra Style J aroused great interest." Today in 2012 Seeburg orchestrions are immensely popular, but only a few collections and museums will ever have a Seeburg J Art Style Solo Orchestra. 68x73x32 inches.