Pipe organThe Gazette article also describes the Beverly's sound equipment: “The pipe organ cannot at first be located but it does not remain long a puzzle. Down in front of the pit where an orchestra is usually found, behind more old rose draperies, sits Prof. Inkman, of Milwaukee, who has been engaged for the opening days, after which Mrs. Allen Rich will preside at the keyboard.
“This marvelous instrument is a Wurlitzer, and combines the pipe organ with large orchestra, and plays every effect necessary for the proper characterization of motion pictures.
“It puts life and emotion upon the screen and registers in sound every human appeal as it is expressed in the film, thereby giving naturalness and realism to the silent story that made the story of Peggy seem more real.
“It is entirely under the control of one man, and operated by hand. It was purchased of the Rudolph Wurlitzer Co., of Milwaukee.” 72
PhotoplayerTo discover more about the type of organ that was installed, I contacted an expert I found online named Greg Rister, owner of Rister Pipe Organs of Whittier, California.
He started working on organs in the sixties as a helper to his father, who had a part-time organ repair business, and then was employed four years at Rosales Organ Builders, Inc., Los Angeles, and ten years at Pipe Organ Craftsmen in Pomona, California.
I sent a description of the Beverly's organ to Rister and he replied: "...the Wurlitzer they installed may have been one of 'Photoplayer' style (see attached photo) rather than a larger instrument."
Looking at my research file, I discovered a Gazette ad (right) that appeared on the Beverly's opening night and was paid for by The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company. It features a now-grainy photograph of the "One Man Orchestra" installed at the Beverly that resembles the one in the image Rister sent.
Googling, I found the Photoplayer Restoration Trust, a group based in Opotiki, New Zealand, that is refurbishing a Wurlitzer similar to the Beverly's that was found in an Auckland garden shed.
Retired sewing machine repairman and shop owner Don Paynter is PRT's secretary; I e-mailed the Beverly Wurlitzer ad to him and he replied:
"...you had a Style 'K' Wurlitzer Photoplayer in your theatre...a beautiful instrument. There were over 8,000 photoplayers produced by about 12 different companies from 1912 to 1928 (Wurlitzer had 8 or 9 models) but only the 'K' could be played totally automatically and could be set up to change from one roll to another from the projection box. The K was 15 feet 4 inches long and weighed 4,000 pounds; 293 were built by Wurlitzer, 40 in 1916."
Promotional copy in a Wurlitzer catalog states, the K "...is designed particularly for a theater with a seating capacity of 500 to 700..."73
625 seatsThis fits information Andy Vidal, lead search and closing agent, Nova Title and Closing Services, LLC, Janesville, provided when he performed a title search on the Beverly at my request.
The document he forwarded included an indenture, "entered into this the twelfth day of September, 1936," that listed the Beverly's fixtures including "one electric sign, two display frames, drapes," various other furnishings, and "six hundred twenty-five seats." This is the only reference to the Beverly's seating I've seen and means it had 75 fewer than the Apollo.
The Wurlitzer Photoplayer catalog page continues: "This instrument is especially constructed with the most carefully voiced pipes, is equipped with the wonderful 'vox humana' pipes that give imitation of the human voice...In addition to these excellent features, this instrument includes a beautiful set of church chimes, orchestra bells, xylophone, and a complete set of novelty traps."74
It must have been a wonder to audiences with its manifold sounds, from percussive to nearly human.
Another Beverly ad stated tickets were ten cents for adults and five cents for children. At those prices it would take 50,000 adult or 100,000 children tickets to pay for the organ alone.
At the time, Janesville’s population was probably slightly below the 18,293 recorded in 1920.75
Wurlitzer Photoplayer Style K.
Image courtesy of the The Sanfilippo Foundation
Click for larger image.