That is a photoplayer, or in its proper use, a nickelodeon player. It is a player piano made for accompanying silent movies. (A nickelodeon or nickel odeon was actually a theater where people paid a nickel to get in and watch a movie. The song Put Another Nickel In misuses the term, attributing it to a coin-operated player.)
They are rare because most of them wore out from use and were discarded at the end of the silent era.
Loc: The Heart of Screenland
Originally Posted By: Steve Cohen
I'm a collector of antique automated music machines, slot machines and jukeboxes and I gotta get me one of those!!!
Do you know about the Nethercutt Collection? It's a remarkable place in Saugus CA. It's better known for it's cars, all antique, all collectable and all fully functioning in showroom condition. On the 3rd floor is a collection of automated music making machines again all fully functioning and fully restored.
California has a deep and fascinating history and Huell did a lot to teach us what was interesting about little places that you might never have known about otherwise. I think part of his appeal was that no matter how big a place or structure he was "visiting" he never moved far from the human scale. Instead of quoting numbers, he would want to know "what was it like to work in a tunnel that long?"