The Music House Museum (MHM) was gifted with a 1901-2 Angelus piano player (or “push up player”) about two years ago. This is an rare instrument built by the Wilcox and White of Meridian, Connecticut. Wilcox and White were among the leading manufacturers of automatic instruments of the time and also build player pianos, organettes and player reed organs. This would explain why the design of the Angelus is not only a piano player, but also is equipped with two banks of organ reeds that can be operated separately from and with the piano player. A piano player pushes up against the piano and plays it by depressing the keys and expression pedal mechanicallys. The player piano is a later development (19-teens) when the mechanism was moved inside the piano case. The Angelus was unplayable at the time of its donation.
There is very little information about these instruments and their restoration in the literature perhaps due to their short lived period of manufacturing. Restoration of the Angelus at the MHM began with its disassembly and attention given to improving restoration efforts by its former owner and some idiosyncratic construction design by Wilcox and White. Due to other projects requiring attention, the machine’s parts was restored, but remained disassembled. Recently, Museum curator Glenn Kriese began to reassemble the instrument. Shown in the photographs are the various valve assemblies that contain and manage the flow of vacuum throughout the machine starting to be put into the cabinet. The upcoming challenge will be the re-insertion and connecting of the operating controls for the piano and reed organ components, as well as the roll player. This is not just a matter of connecting the “leg bone to the hip bone”, but requires regulation of the level of vacuum being received into each component. In the meantime, a library of approximately 200 rolls to play on the Angelus are catalogued and waiting in the Museum’s roll library to be used again.
The Angelus is among other instruments at the MHM awaiting restoration. These include a Reproduco pipe organ-piano player, several reed organs (one with chimes) and two Aeolian player reed organs (Aeolian Grand and Aeolian Orchestrelle). If you are interested in volunteering to help with this type of detailed work, please contact the Museum at 231 938-9301 and ask to talk to Glenn or Tim Keaton (Executive Director).