Player piano roll cabinet, probably blackwood / cedar / oak / glass, made by Carl Meinzolt, Adelaide, South Australia, 1907
This elaborate early 20th century player piano roll cabinet bears the carved initials 'STT' to its upper top section and a carved quote from Shakespeare's 'Twelth Night' - 'If music be the food of love, play on' - on the frieze below. The meaning of the initials and the name of the cabinet's maker would have remained a mystery had it not been for the discovery of a card in the cabinet when purchased by the donor from an Adelaide pawnbroker. The card was typed with the following:
'European walnut cabinet / Made 1907 (Oak bins) / By Meinholt - German working / in Adelaide for Pengelley / Initials - / Sydney Temple Thomas / Twelth Night - Act 1, Sc 1, LIne 1'
Carl Christian Meinzolt (born 1861) arrived in Adelaide in 1894 from Hamburg, Germany, and established a cabinetmaking workshop, first on East Terrace, Adelaide, in 1895 and subsequently at several central Adelaide addresses. By early 1908 Meinzolt was living in Sydney where he married Mary King. He died, aged, 68, in 1928. According to Robert Reason (Art Gallery of South Australia), Meinzolt was a 'self-styled art cabinetmaker who preferred to work in the revival styles of Baroque and Renaissance'.* AGSA recently purchased a fine renaissance-style secretaire cabinet made by by Meinzolt in 1895, one of three other known examples of Meinzolt's work. Like the player piano cabinet, it bears the initials of the Adelaide resident who commissioned it as well as a carved motto.
While we do not, as yet, have information about Sydney Temple Thomas, the original owner of the player piano roll cabinet, it is likely he was an Adelaide resident and that he commissioned it in 1907. This coincided with the time when the first player pianos that actually contained the roll player mechanisms were beginning to be made. Prior to this the roll player mechanism had been incorporated in a seperate unit known as a push-up, which had to be used with a regular piano.
The cabinet is a fine example of early 20th century cabinetmaking in an 'art furniture' style with strong references to the Germanic origins of its maker. It documents the work of a previously little-known, but highly skilled, immigrant cabinetmaker in Australia and is a very early and elaborate example of a piece of furniture designed specifically to complement the player piano, a new form of domestic entertainment at the time. (The first piano player mechanisms having only been introduced on a commercial scale in about 1903).
* Robert Reason, 'Carl Meinzolt, secretaire cabinet, 1895', 'World of Antiques and Art', August 07 - February 08, p 182.
Made for Sydney Thomas Temple by Carl Meinzolt in Adelaide. According to the card found in the cabinet Meinzolt worked for a cabinetmaker named Pengelley.
Made for Sydney Thomas Temple by Carl Meinzolt in Adelaide. According to the card found in the cabinet Meinzolt worked for a cabinetmaker named Pengelley. The cabinet was bought by the donor from an Adelaide pawnbroker.