Hupfeld Helios III/39 Orchestrion
Lot 23W
A very fine and unique Hupfeld Helios Model III/39 Orchestrion, Early 1910s, The Classical Case model, with illuminated automaton scene,
Sold for US$ 482,000 inc. premium

Lot Details
Hupfeld Helios III/39 Orchestrion Hupfeld Helios III/39 Orchestrion Hupfeld Helios III/39 Orchestrion Hupfeld Helios III/39 Orchestrion Hupfeld Helios III/39 Orchestrion Hupfeld Helios III/39 Orchestrion Hupfeld Helios III/39 Orchestrion Hupfeld Helios III/39 Orchestrion Hupfeld Helios III/39 Orchestrion Hupfeld Helios III/39 Orchestrion
A very fine and unique Hupfeld Helios Model III/39 Orchestrion,
Early 1910s, The Classical Case model, with illuminated automaton scene,
Identification numbers:
No. 9525 stamped to piano frame
2019 on the electrical panel
3023 on the player-stack (both work numbers).

With a total of 296 pipes, with two sets of fifty melody ranks for forte violins, twenty ranks each for aeolines, flutes, piccolos, clarinets and trumpets, main accompaniment comprising two sets of fifteen aeolines and cellos, the bass section with twelve ranks of aeolines, cellos and trombones, the piano with twenty-five notes, with bass drum, tympani effect, snare drum, cymbal and ten orchestra bells, with solo capacity for the pipes, bells and mandolin, the six-roll changer behind stained glass in very imposing adverse-breakfront case, the automaton of lakeside dwellings before a mountainous landscape, precession ascending a stone arched ramp from house with running waterwheel, a windmill's sails in the mid-distance and a large lake with steep hills to the sides, reverse-painted trees and flora to the immediate foreground, within the main arched window panel, the whole scene changing from dawn to dusk using light effects to the sky, lights within the dwellings, trains and windmill, hot air balloon and Zeppelin flying overhead to complete the illusion, alternating red and yellow electric light bulbs with carved and incised intermediates above five-section textured and marbleised-effect stained glass flower frets, buttercup yellow cloth backdrop and central horizontal 'Wonder-Light' mirrored eye with coloured glass insets, flanking shaped five-colour panels with lozenge bars to centre, additional electric light bulbs to front cornice and sides lit when in operation, shaped crested title Hupfeld banner with flowering and tasselled Greek urns to top, flanked by lit flaming torches, simplistic square appliqués with blind quatrefoils, massive slight-tapered squared pillars, on shaped plinth base, on wheels.

With 50 rolls.
11' high 12' wide 4'6" deep


  • References:
    Encyclopedia of Automatic Musical Instruments, Q. David Bowers, 1972, pp.442-453.
    The Golden Age of Automatic Musical Instruments, Arthur. A. Reblitz, 2001, pp.62-74 (with this III/39 pictured on p. 73 and 74)
    Put Another Nickel In, Q. David Bowers, 1968, pp. 3-7
    Treasures of Mechanical Music, Arthur A. Reblitz and Q. David Bowers, 1981, pp. 177-186
    Automatic Organs, Arthur W. J. G. Ord-Hume, 2007, p. 419, 446 and 447.

    Ron Cappel and Company

    As is the standard for all lots in this collection, the restoration project on this fine example by Hupfeld left no stone unturned regarding quality of work and sourcing of materials. Highlights of the work include the refinishing of the case from a dull hue of dirt and years of grime, to the wonderful depth now witnessed today, and the replacing of the two side bevelled mirrored panels with art glass made to a contemporary yet sympathetic taste.
    Further inside, the need to replace the later PVC-covered flex, which carries the electricity to the illuminated automaton with the original specification VR cloth-covered type, is held in place by the original pattern ceramic posts.

    The original specification consisted of a single-roll mechanism, quite usual for the larger Helios orchestrions that usually had an attendant to play tunes selected by restaurant or café patrons. However, the automatic changer was available as an option. Fortuitously, an original Hupfeld multi-changer was located and retrofitted into the orchestrion, permitting a longer program. For those wishing to change this back to its original specification, the single-roll mechanism is still available and will accompany this lot.

    Soon after the roll has been activated, the grouped colored lights around the top of the case start to flash on and off in groups so as to create geometric patterns. This is managed by a live-cam box, driven from a worm-gear and belt from the automaton motor.
    The 'Wonder-Light' feature is essentially a horizontally-pivoted mirror-ball, with the added bonus of colored inserts and a petal reflector for the greatest light effect possible with a low-wattage light bulb.

    The illuminated automaton scene is one of the best seen on any automatic instrument. As the sun rises over a lake with a mountain beyond, an airship floats across the sky, the sails of the windmill turn and in the foreground, a train passes over a viaduct and disappears behind a watermill, whose working paddles are turned by the glass beaded water drops running over them. Just before nightfall, the windows of the dwelling beside the lake are lit; likewise the windmill and as the moon rises over the sky and is reflected in the water, the train returns once more with all windows and engine lights on, now joined by a funicular railroad, similarly lit.
    One is totally captivated by the scene as well as the music.

    This has to be the 'Aquarius' model made during this Golden-Age of Orchestrions.
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