H. G. Johnson Quality Electric Nickelodeon
By Tom Dawson
photos by the author

[This text appeared first in MMDigest 1998.11.28 and 1998.11.30.]

I am in the process of restoring a nickelodeon that I bought about three weeks ago.  I just am wondering if anyone has any info on the company.  It is an H. G. Johnson Quality Electric, Menomonie, Wis.

It had a wonderful quarter sawn oak case with lots of fancy trim and three excellent stain glass front panels with outdoor scenes in the glass.  The case appears to be almost identical to the Cremona style A art case piano on page 498 of Bowers Encyclopedia (2nd down from top).  Plays an A roll, has mandolin rail and 24 note glockenspiel or bells.  I understand Cremona pianos were marketed under other names.   Could H. G. Johnson be one of them ?

The spool frame looks like the Monarch on page 709 of Bowers' Encyclopedia.  It has the pulley on the front belted to the flywheel, but the pumps are horizontal and look like Cremona.  Also, I have figured out that the serial number fits in with Cremona for a date of approx. 1915.  The serial number does not fit in with H. G. Johnson number at all.  (They made player pianos in Bellvue, Iowa.)

The case is built for a nickelodeon and not a standard player.  It is deeper and made as wide as possible on the inside.  The pedals are also different.  They are round and have music lyres cast into the top.  I am working on getting some pictures.

Though the details are hard to see in the picture on page 498, the style A-art (later case) is almost exact.  The only difference I can see is the Johnson has a smooth bottom board and is not paneled like the Cremona in the picture.

Restoration is coming along nicely and was just wondering about the company behind this instrument.  I have not found any reference to this company in any of my books.


Tom Dawson