Together, Bill and Rosanna Harris have combined over 85 years in publishing, private business, and collecting. The collections have ranged from agricultural steam engines to coin-operated gaming machines to automatic music and more. In their business lives they have been involved in the restoration of automatic music machines and gaming devices. In their carving shop they created full-sized hand carved statues which held a slot machine as the central body portion. They also oversaw the carving of full-sized carousel animals including lions, tigers, and horses.
Recently, they purchased Carousel News & Trader and renamed it slightly to Carousel & Automatic Music News. This brought together two great loves of their lives. Music and carousels go together, as one subscriber put it, “like bacon and eggs.”
Bill Harris began collecting at a very early age and eventually found himself in Strasburg, ND (home of legendary Lawrence Welk) where he found a coin-operated nickelodeon. Rather than purchase it, he traded something of value for it. He took it home to Minot, ND and there he restored it. This was the beginning of many adventures in the finding and restoration of all types of automatic musical instruments.
Along the way he also collected agricultural steam traction engines. The collection was eventually sold in order to open his own business, Dakota Firearms in Minot. During this period of time, he also started a daily news sheet which was left at local restaurants particularly for the lunch clientele. This was the beginning of the publishing business which would produce the news sheet, several books, and a collectors’ magazine.
After moving to Denver, Bill continued his interest in the various collectibles. But he became more involved in gaming collectibles which led him to buy a collectors’ magazine, The Coin Slot. Although the subscription base was small, he could see the potential and knew that with the burgeoning interest in gaming devices, it would grow. During this time, he bought, sold, traded and restored gaming devices and automatic musical instruments such as nickelodeons, band organs, musical boxes and more.
In 1978, he met Rosanna who was working as a bookkeeper. They soon were off on many adventures of sourcing and buying antique coin-operated gaming machines. It was a natural fit, since Rosanna could handle the bookkeeping part of the enterprise and Bill’s bookkeeper was moving on. She eventually took over the position of the editor of the magazine, The Coin Slot opening up a new field for her.
Books were also a part of the publishing arm of their company and both were deeply involved in the planning and production of the books and magazines. (There were two magazines – The Coin Slot and Coin Drop International.) They became involved in several shows promoting antique slot machines, jukeboxes, automatic music machines, carousel animals, band organs, and related collectible merchandise.
A part of the slot machine side of the business developed 6’ tall, hand-carved wooden statues which surrounded a slot machine making a cowboy, Indian, miner, woodsman, or other figure. Each figure, although similar to the others, was totally unique in the facial and finished appearance. Eventually the carving side of the business gave rise to creating full sized carousel horses and animals. With help from well-known collector and preservationist, Marianne Stevens, their shop produced a good number of carousel animals that went mainly to collectors to fill out their collections. Two horses found their way to England to be ensconced above the entry to a well known entertainment park in Great Yarmouth.
In late 2013, after finishing a publishing contract with a private organization, Bill and Rosanna purchased The Carousel News & Trader. They changed the name slightly to incorporate enhanced content, becoming Carousel & Automatic Music News. Each issue has a blend of carousels and music to give readers a broader spectrum of both very special interests.