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Some New Jersey
Music Roll History

Written by
Frank Himpsl
Mailto Link Here

This article is being used with the express permission of the author and appeared
in the Mechanical Music Digest on Tue, 8 Jul 1997 22:14:42 -0400 (EDT)

From: FHimpsl@aol.com (Frank Himpsl)

Subject: Roll Companies in Good Old New Jersey

Dear Jody, In reference to Bryan Cather's request for information on the Newark and Orange, New Jersey, roll company labels, here's what I can offer, in the form of an impromptu discourse:

Standard Music Roll Co., Central Avenue, Orange NJ ; I am certain this company issued rolls under the following labels. There may be others.

Perforated Music Roll Co. ; all 65-note, circa 1900-06, large orange label, fittingly!

Electra, 65 note ; black label with company name, terrible paper quality
Electra, 88 note ; same label, same paper

Standard, 88 note ; No inscription on label, usually on light blue paper with a horizontal bar and framework in orange. Serial number at top, usually in 80,000 series. same paper

Perfection, 88 note ; Small rolls listed @ 25 cents, sold them 3 for 50 cents. No words on the roll. Orange label.

Arto, 88 note ; The company also issued 78-rpm records with same label name. Issued with and without lyrics on the roll. Red label when with words. Green label when without.

VocoWord, 88 note ; Same masters as Arto, but always with words. Blue label.

Simplex, 88 note ; Rarely seen, same masters as Arto

Standard, 88 note ; Large orange and black label with the word "Standard" at top. Last product of the company. Issued from 1923-25. Top name pianists and composers were enlisted on this series. Rare rolls to find. Both word rolls and instrumental numbers were issued.

Sing-A ; Red label on white paper, all rolls made with words printed on. Used Arto masters same as the others.

Supreme Music Co., Newark, NJ ;

As far as I know there was no connection between this company and Standard in Orange. It is possible that the Supreme rolls were made as a cheaper product by another firm, Bennett and White (also of Newark), who manufactured rolls under the "Artempo" and "American Art Record" labels. Bennett and White was destroyed by a fire about 1920, and could have started up with this new company name.

The Supreme rolls (and label variants) were very cheaply made, on poor paper. They also employed a trick of the Standard Music Roll Co., which was to wind the paper roll onto a much WIDER spool, thereby making the customer think he was getting more music for the money. In fact, these rolls were usually no longer than a 2-bit Perfection roll, but they sometimes sold them for 65 to 75 cents.

Supreme Music Co. Labels:

Supreme (green on white)

Globe (light blue on white) same masters as Supreme

Regent (bright violet on white) again, same masters

Simplex (green on white), not the same Simplex as mentioned above!
This label strongly resembles the Supreme design.

Sometimes you will also find these rolls custom labeled for some of the big NJ department stores of the day, such as Landay Bros., Bamberger's, Ritz and a few others. The same masters were used.

I believe that the Supreme Co. was possibly a forerunner of the Atlas Player Roll Co., (on 5th St. in Newark), which started manufacturing rolls around 1925. The label design is very similar to Supreme. However, there's a gap from 1922-25 where I've never seen a Supreme or related roll type, so it's possible Atlas was a different concern altogether.

Atlas rolls date from 1925 - 1932 and are most always found with a dark blue label design. In the early 1930s some rolls were made with an ornate orange and blue design, and the firm was referred to as "AMRCo." With Atlas rolls, the label color was usually (but not always) changed when re-done to indicate a department store name. The Landay Bros. labels were green, Bamberger's were brown, but Ritz Bros. and Wissner's were in the same dark blue. There are several more store's names which were inscribed by Atlas. All the masters were the same.

The Herbert Co. was yet another independent roll manufacturer in Newark, but dates from the early days (circa 1905-1911). They made rolls under both Herbert and Virtuoso labels, in both 65-note and 88-note formats. The same masters were used for Herbert and Virtuoso. Herbert labels were chocolate brown in color, whereas Virtuoso were usually gray with green lettering. These rolls were the best in terms of product quality to ever come out of Newark, being made of the best materials so as to rival Aeolian.

About Aeolian rolls: the 65 note rolls inscribed "Aeriol Piano" at top were the earliest products as far as I'm aware. Their convention of using extremely plain-looking 88 or 65-note labels started very early, probably around 1905 or maybe a year or two earlier yet. The Aeolian rolls SPELL OUT THE WORDS "Eighty-Eight Note" or "Sixty-Five Note" at the very top of the label. Rolls which have the NUMERALS "88" or "65" in the upper corners were not Aeolian products, but were all made by the United States Music Roll. Co. of Chicago.

Frank Himpsl


This page was last revised on March 12, 2019 by John A. Tuttle.

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