The Link Piano Company, Inc. was based out of Binghamton, NY, formed out of the remnants of the Automatic Musical Company. Automatic was formed in 1900 by the Harris brothers, who experimented with different sounds and styles, buying the pianos they modified by Schaff Piano Company of Huntington, Indiana. Automatic was on the verge of bankruptcy by 1910, so a committee of creditors appointed Edwin Link of Schaff to take control. He re-opened the company in 1913 as its president and produced about 300 machines per year – often offering xylophones in his machines rather than pipes as a cost-saving effort. The Link Company used the same fundamental design in the creation of their nickelodeons as did all of their competitors, with one major exception. They used the endless paper roll design, which required more space for roll storage, but did not require rewind mechanisms.
A number of nickelodeon manufacturers used endless rolls early on in the business, and some later. In fact, endless rolls were the standard in the coin piano industry from 1898 to 1905. They are less complicated to design than those with the more familiar paper roll machines in that they do not require a rewind mechanism, or a mechanism to regulate the speed at which the paper moves over the tracker bar to ensure a smooth sound. The primary disadvantages of the endless roll are the amount of space necessary to set it up, and the complexity of changing the rolls.
The roll is a 220 foot loop, connected on the end and playing continuously with fifteen songs, and less than two seconds’ pause between songs. Take note of the shelf on which the paper roll rests. Its angle is such that gravity helps push the paper roll away from the tracker bar so that the paper doesn’t bunch up near it. Believe it or not, we have far less problems with this machine than we do with many of our traditional paper roll-playing machines.
The Link machines were often sold to experienced route operators, rather than to private businesses, who placed them in stores and maintained them themselves. Most business owners did not want to deal with their complexity anyway, so it was likely in everyone’s mutual interest. Business owners would take a cut of the profits.