I was digging through one of my file cabinets the other day and came across a rare original Seeburg Style H "Solo Orchestrion" brochure. Since many enthusiasts have never seen such an item, I thought it would be a good idea to place it in the MMD picture gallery and share it with MMD readers. Note that the brochure has been "colorized" by Seeburg and is quite attractive. Many of the old catalogs of Berry-Wood, Wurlitzer, Mills, and others were also produced in "colorized" formats.
This brochure was distributed by the Sanders-Dreyer Piano Company of St. Louis, Missouri. Sanders-Dreyer must have been a prolific distributor because a number Seeburgs existing today can be traced to this company. By the way, the files of this distributor survive today. Some of the files have been shared with me. Most interesting is the nasty and irate correspondence to one operator who had repeatedly failed to make payments on his coin piano.
The Seeburg Style H was probably the most beautiful keyboard orchestrion produced in America. A properly restored and regulated Seeburg H has a great sound! They are real toe-tapping machines! My favorite music on a Seeburg H is the ragtime music found on early rolls as well as the very late 1920's music found on rolls numbered over 1200. The late H rolls feature arrangements reminiscent of those found on the wonderful Capitol "G" rolls.
One great song on a Seeburg H is "Looking at the World Through Rose Colored Glasses". Another is "Lucky Lindy". The Style H has a mechanism which shuts off the piano and allows the pipes and xylophone to "solo". The design of this mechanism varied between early and late instruments. The drums in a Seeburg H when properly regulated have very good expression.
Nearly all Seeburg H orchestrions reside today in private collections. The only one on public display is in the Mining Museum in Butte, Montana. Another one, the former Melody Museum instrument, will soon be on public display in Eureka Springs, Arkansas in the Crescent Hotel. The following now-defunct tourist locations used to have them on display:
Klavestad's Stagecoach Museum in Shakopee, Minnesota,
Stella Foote's museum in Cody, Wyoming,
The Gay Nineties Melody Museum in St. Louis,
Bellm's Cars and Music in Sarasota (the museum is open
but the H is gone),
The Crystal Bar, Virginia City, Nevada, and
Sutro's Cliff House Playland at the Beach Museum (3 H's!).
Over the years I heard two interesting stories about Seeburg H orchestrions. The late Charles Smallwood, a pioneer collector, told a story about several H instruments in Nevada. He arrived too late to save them. He discovered that they had been junked and the statues used as fence posts! The neighborhood kids got the drums.
Another pioneer collector told me of finding an H on its back in a creek gulch in Montana. When its usefulness ended the Seeburg H was pushed out of the back of the saloon and into the gulch where it fell on its back and laid exposed to the elements for decades. When the collector found it, it had literally been bleached white by the Montana sun and arid environment. The elements had taken their toll. All he salvaged were some parts off the drum shelf.
Enjoy the Seeburg H brochure!