Thursday, October 19, 2017






                                             Repairing a Reed Organ  -             Part 3

A Smith Reed Organ was brought to us for repair to playing condition.   This was not a restoration job, just a repair to good playing condition.

In the past, we had wire brushed all rusty screws before reassembly.  The advent of EVAPO-RUST has made this job a lot easier.  Just put the rusty screws in a bottle of it, wait 24 hours and you have nice clean parts.




As we proceeded in reassembly, we found the root of the stuck stops problem was a transfer of parts between stop hardware, which once identified, was easily corrected.



As with most older wood mechanisms, there were some split parts which we glued back together.



With reassembly completed, we checked to see if all the reeds sounded and had to free a few stuck ones.

The final job was recovering the front grille with the corrected cloth.




At this point, the job is essentially done and the organ is ready to return to the owner.






Wednesday, October 11, 2017




                                                   Repairing a Reed Organ - Part 2

A Smith Reed Organ was brought to us for repair to playing condition.   This was not a restoration job,  just a repair to good playing condition.

We got the problem of the big stack leak under control, but further investigation showed some cracks in the top half where the valves mount.    These were sealed with silicon sealer for the larger ones and shellac based sealer for the narrow ones.



Now we can start reassembly.   The bottom of the air chest was put in place and then the top installed.




The valve push rods were carefully arranged when removed, so as to be able to install them in the same position they came from.   Before the next layer could go on, the stop slides which were hard to move, had to be freed up and readjusted.






Wednesday, October 4, 2017




                                                             Repairing a Reed Organ  - Part 1                                                       

A Smith Reed Organ was brought to us for repair to playing condition.   This was not a restoration job, just a repair to good playing condition.

A quick try at playing it, showed that the bass section would play with a lot of pumping, indicating a good size leak.   The stops were hard to move and did not seem to change the sound.   The tremble section would not play at all.   The treble swell shade seemed to be disconnected.

Smith organs were assembled in the case, so you can't just unscrew the action and slide it out.   You have to disassemble layer by layer.












Once we got inside the air chest, a major leak became apparent.   Making the base out of several pieces of wood is common and the joints are normally sealed by gluing a piece of motor cloth over them.   In this case, the cloth had failed, leaving a 1/8 inch open slot.





After taking the bottom half of the air chest out, it was possible to tape off the reservoir and check the pumps.   The pump and reservoir assembly had been rebuilt about 35 years ago.   They tested to still be in excellent condition.   We treated the cloth with preservative and it should be good for a long time.

We removed the remnants of the orginal air chest crack patch, cleaned off the old glue and glued on
a new patch.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

                                                          


                                                                        Making a Coin Drop


We had an instrument ready to go into our self tour no charge area.   The instruments that play there use a quarter coin to make them play one song.   The Cremona C that was destined to go there, had no coin drop mechanism.   Commercially available ones are way too expensive for our budget, so we decided to make one.   The design is not ours.   It is patterned after our Johnson Nickelodeon, which was built in 1908.

The good thing about this design, is that with some wood, a table saw, a few scraps of copper and some time, it costs almost nothing out of pocket.





You route out the wood to fit the coin, make the two copper parts, one fixed, the other moveable and you are in business.

The coin slides down the slot until the copper parts trap it and at that point the coin itself completes the circuit and starts the instrument.

When the song finishes, the moveable copper part is slid over and the coin is released, breaking the circuit and stopping play.

Of course you have to make a pneumatic to work the moveable piece and get it all to work freely.

The next step is to mount it into the instrument and get the coin to drop onto and into the switch area.



Wednesday, September 20, 2017




                                                            Repair of the Link AX Part 7

In June of 2017, we moved the Link AX into the shop and started work.   Most of the detailed work is now finished and reassembly started.

You may remember that in our first check, we found that the soft pedal system interfered with the repositioned drum and we left that problem for later.   When we reinstalled the xylophone, we saw the basic problem was that the units were very tight against the case.   I now think that the repositioning of the drum assembly was a factory job or that perhaps the drum assembly was from a different instrument.   At any rate, there is very little room to spare, so we bent the soft pedal bracket to clear the drums.


When we loaded the paper roll, we found the reason the previous roll was so badly edge damaged.   The guides were narrower that the paper.   We repositioned them to give the paper clearance.  The drag plate was warped and did not sit evenly on top of the paper.   We bent it until it fit properly.


The v-belt pullet was installed on the motor and we now have a v-flat drive for the pumps.


There are a few cosmetic items to take care of; but we are about done with this job and all the functions now work.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

                                                               Climate Control

When Jake had the collection on Route 8, South of Franklin, the building had no climate control.   A  lot of condensation happened when the conditions were right for it and thus many of the metal parts of the instruments show a degree of rust.

The old G.C. Murphy building, which is our present location, had steam heat and added an A/C system in the 1960s.   We had to replace both of them with a combined roof top unit.

We have done our best to reduce unintended air leakage, but we still have a humidity control issue.   We want about 50% relative humidity, so in the absence of a big humidifier in the winter months, we keep the temperature at 50 degrees and humidify selected machines that show sensitivity.

Summer humidity in the basement required 4 dehumidifiers running full time to get to 50%.   Further investigation found that the foundation was stone cemented in place.   A pegboard  covering with no vapor barrier was exposed.   We started a project to put a vapor barrier in place behind the pegboard to prevent moisture entry.   Over the last 4 years, we have done this in pieces, while also adding base plugs in selected areas while we had the peg board down.   The last 150 feet of the barrier was added this past winter.   While doing this, we found several direct air leaks, which we sealed.  



This picture shows the stone foundation wall, a portion of the vapor barrier and the pegboard cover.

Our success is demonstrated by the fact that we now need only 2 dehumidifiers, one running part time, to consistently maintain the desired 50% humidity.

Aside from the humidity control, this saves us about $20 per month on the electric bill.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017




                                                REPAIR OF THE LINK AX Part 6


In June of 2017, we moved it into the shop and started work.   Most of the detailed work is now finished and reassembly started.

You may remember that in our first check, we found the soft pedal system interfered with the repositioned drum and we left that problem for later.

The first problem we found was that both the on and off tracker holes were plugged.   That seemed an easy fix; but unplugging them fixed nothing.   So we started at the valves in the bottom leftside and traced hoses.


The #1 hose was plugged someplace, so we started tracing it.   The routing took it behind the valve area.   It was stuck and could not be moved.   Using the air compressor blew a hold someplace.


Pulling would not move it, so we decided to replace it.   Disconnecting from the tracker bar we followed it through the hose bundle on the right side of the case.


We replaced the line from the tracker bar to the valve.   A check showed all was well.   A later check showed it was still plugged, which meant the tracker bar had redeveloped a problem.    Attempts  to clean the nipple yielded more chaff, but also pierced the tracker tube.   We had to solder up the hole.   We then reconnected the tubing and all is well again.





It took longer to do, than to tell the story.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

                                                       


                                                              Repair of the Link AX Part 5


You remember that since the Link arrived from Jake's barn in 1994, it had been used on the first floor as part  of our guided tours.   Very little work had been done on it.   In June of 2017, we moved it into the shop and started work.   Most of the detailed work is now finished and reassembly started.

We made and installed a new mandolin rail, but the pneumatics and system was supposed to work; but would not function.

For the next few days, we traced hoses and fixed problems, such as the soft pedal that did not work, because the tracker was plugged.

Every few hours, I went back and tried to find out why the mandolin rail actuators did not work.
I emailed Paul Manganaro and he sent me a photo of the pneumatic actuator group.






At first I did not see the difference, but after some more looking and thinking, I realized that the one I was working with would hold the bar off, while the one Paul sent me, showed an assembly that would hold the bar.






During the last rebuild, someone put the locking bar on backwards.   Once you understand the problem, it is an easy fix.   To get to it, I had to take a few things apart, but in 45 minutes the problem was resolved.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017



                                                 REPAIR OF THE LINK AX     PART 4

You may remember that since the Link arrived from Jake's barn in 1994, it has been used on the first floor as part of our guided tours.    Very little work had been done on it.   In June of 2017, we moved it into the shop and started work on it.   Most of the detailed work has now been finished and reassembly started.

When the tambourine was put in place, we discovered one reason it had been damaged.   The paper music shelf had sagged over time and was actually sitting on top of it.   The question was what to do about it.





I decided to build a support on the tambourine mount to support the shelf high enough to clear the action.   It needed about 3/8 of an inch.

Having cleared that problem, it was time to put the back of the case on .   At some prior time, it looks like the cover had been flipped over and torn off the right corner of the back panel.   It had been glued back, but the alignment was off; with result being that the corner was too high.   The glued joint seemed solid, so we cut the corner down to match the rest of the top.

Probably as part of the incidence, some incorrect hinges were installed, ending up with 3 different sets for the 3 hinges involved.   We just took them off and will try to find a set of approximately original dimensions.   At least we will have them all the same.

The mandolin rail was discarded at some past time, so we will make a replacement.   The pneumatic controls are still in place, so all we need is the rail itself.   We have one which will be adapted; but more about that later.



Wednesday, August 16, 2017

                                                REPAIR OF THE LINK AX PART 3

You may remember that since the Link arrived from Jake's barn in 1994, it has been used on the first floor as part of our guided tours.   Very little work had been done on it; but it became increasingly apparent that it could use a little maintenance.   On June of 2017, we moved it into the shop and started to work on it.





The pump drive on the links was by a flat belt.   The motor pulley is 2 inches in diameter.   Jake had substituted a v belt turned inside out for the flat belt, which had been working since we got the instrument.




The belt was showing age and full of cracks.   We also suspected it of slipping on the drive pulley.   I know it is not original, but I decided to change to a v flat drive.   That meant a 2.25 OD v pulley to get the pitch diameter of 2 inches.   The moor has a .375 shaft and 2 1/4 pulleys all have 1/2 inch bores, so we had to get a reducing sleeve for the new pulley.

At some point, we realized that the motor leads were bad.    If you wiggled the leads the motor would stop.    A trip to our local motor repair shop, where as DeBence supporters they do small jobs for us a no charge, resulted in a motor cleaning and new leads.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

                                                            Repair of the Link AX Part 2

You remember that since the Link arrived from Jake's barn in 1994, it has been used on the first floor as part of our guided tours.   Very little work has been done on it, but it has become increasingly apparent that it could use a little maintenance.   On June of 2017, we moved it into the shop and started work.




The tambourine had shown some playing problems, so we looked it over.   The basic mounting was in trouble.   The lower support pin had fallen out, letting the upper pin take all the shaking load and it had worked loose while stripping the screw threads.



The hole was now so big that even an oversize screw would not work, so epoxy was used to hold the upper support screw in place.




Beyond that the next level support had split and had been repaired by adding screws to hold it together.   I cut off the split area and glued a new piece of oak in its place.



The wood nuts on the shaker link were rusted in place and also brittle, so they were removed and the threads wire brushed to clean them up.   Then it was reinstalled.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

                                                              Repair of the Link AX

Since the Link arrived from Jakes' barn in 1994, it has been used on the first floor of the museum, as part of our guided tours.   Very little work has been done on it, but it has become increasingly apparent that it could use a little maintenance.   The most obvious problem was that the xylophone did not turn off and on reliably.   Jake had added a booster pump, which seems to indicate there were some other problems.

In June 2017, we moved it into the shop and started work.




The drum assembly was in the way, so we took it out.   This let us see that the drum assembly had been moved to the left, which interfered with the soft pedal pneumatic.   This was immaterial, as the soft pedal control was unhooked.  Set that aside for later.   We could also see that while the control was in place, the mandolin rail was gone, another set aside.   The control for the stop and start of the xylophone was removed for repair.



The vacuum valve was rebuilt; but was not in bad shape and should have worked, so the control for it was rebuilt.   Everything was then reinstalled.

As this point nothing has been tried, so we do not know what the next issue may be.




Wednesday, July 26, 2017



                                The Edison Standard Phonograph


The Edison Standard is a spring driven external horn phonograph model, that was introduced by Edison's National Phonograph Company, in April, 1899.   It sold for $20, but remember you were lucky to make $1 per day at the time.





We were given a good working one a couple of years ago and already had a non-functioning one.   Since the building is space limited, it seemed wise to sell one of them.

In order to sell one, it has to work.  So we decided to fix the broken one and sell it.   There were two main problems.   The spring was broken about 3 turns from the inner end.   The C reproducer  needed a lot of help.  We don't do reproducers, so we sent it out for repair.   The spring is simple, but as you probably know, it is dangerous to replace a spring if you are inexperienced at this job.   There was also a chipped tooth on one gear, which had to be replaced.


We got it all taken care of in early July of 2017 and will be sale shortly, but there is no horn to go with it, as they are readily available in reproduction form.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Our Nelson Wiggen Style 6




                                Our Nelson Wiggen Style 6






Oscar Nelson and Peder Wiggen, worked as engineers and factory supervisors for the J. P. Seeburg Company, until striking out on their own and forming the Nelson Wiggen Co. in Chicago in 1922.   They built some of the most complex vacuum operated nickelodeons of the era.

Built about 1925, our style 6 ownership is unknown until it was owned by Robert Sabo of Pittsburgh, who was in the process of restoring it, when he passed away.   His sister, Joan Hick, donated it to the museum in 2011, so that it could be restored, preserved and viewed by the public.

As received, the xylophone stack was without valves, though the woodwork to hold them was complete.   We completed the valves, built the pneumatics and hammers.   The wood bars were roughed out, but we had to tune them.   (The machine was built to A=440 specs.)  We assembled the wood block from parts on hand.   We built the soft pedal parts.
We designed and built the on/off valve for the xylophone, as we were unable to get enough information to reproduce the original.  Robert had completed work on the pump and roll drive, so no work was needed in that section.

The music is contained on a paper roll with holes punched in it, designated as style 4X, which normally contains 10 songs.   The 4X roll does not have enough holes to play all of the instruments, so it "plays" a multiplexing device that switches instruments on and off, so they all get to play as some point in the song.   This was missing, but we got enough information to reproduce.

There are currently only 12 of the style 6 units identified, though many more were reproduced.   Ours is one of the four made, with the large selection of instruments including a Piano, Mandolin Rail, Trap Drum, Cymbal, Tambourine, Wood Block and Triangle.   Ours also has stained glass panels, which were rarely used.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

FACT SHEET FOR CREMONA J


What Is It?

The Cremona Model J orchestral style was built in Chicago, by the Marquette Piano Company, about 1915.   This was the largest orchestrion built by Marquette.

How Rare Is it?

There were fewer than 20 made.   How many survive is unknown.

How Does It Work?

The music is contained on a paper roll with holes punched in it, designated as style M, which normally contains 10 songs.   The punched holes are "read" by a vacuum control system, that in turn opens valves, allowing the compressed air  to enter the selected pipes and play music.   The vacuum and compressed air are supplied by wood and leather bellows pumps driven by a crankshaft, which is turned by the electric motor in the bottom of the instrument.

The M Roll controls the piano, mandolin rail, bass drum, snare drum, flute pipes, violin pipes, triangle, tympani and xylophone.

What  Is It Worth?   What Did It Cost?

In 2004, one sold for $37,000 on eBay.   The 1915 selling price is unknown, but it was probably in the $1800 range.


Where Has It Been?

Its original location was at the Salt Air Amusement Park in Salt Lake City, UT.   It was then owned by someone in Casper, Wyoming.   Jake bought it from the third owner, George Schubert, in Gering, Nebraska for $4000.

Background Information



The Marquette Piano Co. started in Chicago, building piano actions but about 1915, expanded to building complete instruments, thus becoming one of the first American firms in this industry.   Until 1907, J.P. Seeburg worked for them until founding his own company.

Sold under the Cremona name, their major production was between 1905 and 1920.   They built high quality machines with interior parts highly finished, even though not visible.

Our Stewardship

Jake wanted instruments to play and was not hesitate to bypass "unnecessary" features to that end.   There was a booster pump added; but many of the "unnecessary" features such as treble soft, piano volume and xylophone were bypassed.   We have rebuilt the piano stack, reconnected the original pump and activated the other bypassed features.   After three attempts to get the xylophone playing, we have been only partially successful in this regard.



Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Who Says A above middle C is 440Hz: Some personal research by Scotty Greene

When I started volunteering at DeBence, it was working on a Wurlitzer 105 Band Organ, made in 1928.   Among other problems, it needed to be tuned.   My background as a mechanical engineer made this look straightforward to me.   If you know the length of a pipe, you know what frequency it will sound.   Well, not really.  The formula has a fudge factor which seems to vary from one situation to another.   In spite of what Ralph Nader thinks, engineering is not really a completely exact science. Tuning is not really an Engineering problem.

The next revelation was that there was and is no real standard for what frequency a given note is suppose to be.

My first reference check with ANSI said A is supposed to be 440Hz.   Well, it turns out that is not necessarily true or universally accepted in all situations.   It was usually 432 Hz(the French standard from the 1860s) in the past.

We got to work on a Frati built about 1900 in Germany and working backwards from the way it tuned, it seems A was tuned to about 390 on that organ.  European orchestras today, sometimes tune about 440 to get a "brighter" sound.

One reference said German (German Natural History Society, 1834) and American standard  setting bodies wanted A=440 in the 1920s, but could not get anyone else to agree.   The A=440 standard was adopted by the Musical Industries Chamber of Commerce in 1925.

Most official standards seem to date from the 1930s.   The ANSI standard A=440, came out in 1936.   The American Federation of Musicians agreed with it.   At that point WWV started broadcasting an A=440 tone on the hour, so we could all get with the standard.   In 1955, ISO 16 was released calling for A=440.

The whole subject is further confused by deciding what temperature that standard is set at.  J.C. Deagan (zylophones) is quoted as saying A=435 was set at 59 degrees F and if you bring that pitch to 70 degrees F you get A=440.

We have noticed that an orchestrion with piano and pipes tuned at any standard, will go out of tune with itself as the temperature changes, because the pipes and piano change pitch differently.

Today, there is general agreement that various pitches are appropriate for different performances.
            1) American and UK concert pitch is usually A=440 and that is normally indoors.
            2) European  concert pitch is between A=440 and A=444, depending on the conductor.
            3) Baroque music is often played at A=415, unless it is 430 or in some cases 466.

What it boils down to,isyou can tune to whatever you think sounds best for what you are playing  and someone will have a different opinion; but nobody can definitely say you are wrong.   If the instrument is tuned with itself, most people will thing it sounds fine.




Wednesday, June 28, 2017

MILLS VIOLANO VIRTUOSO

                                                   





What Is It?
Mills Violano Virtuoso Home Model which plays a violin piano duet.   First available for sale in 1912.

How Rare Is It?
It is thought that there were about 4000 of the single violin versions made.

How Does It Work?
The music is contained on a paper roll with holes punched in it, similar to a player piano roll.   The punched holes are "read" by a unique electrical system, where thin wires "feel" for the holes and make electrical contact which energizes a solenoid, which performs a function of playing a note on the piano or violin.

What Is It Worth?   What Did It Cost?
Sold for $2500 in 1925.   Most recent single violin units have sold from $20,000 to $60,000.

Where Has It Been?
We have little factual verified information about this machine's history.   It is alleged that Jake bought it at a sheriff's sale after a house of ill repute was closed in Warren, Ohio.

Background Information
The Mills Novelty Company built a series of gambling machines in their Chicago  location.   The violin portion of this machines was first built as a stand alone device, which was to be accompanied by a piano player.   It became obvious that it would be more practical to include the piano in the machine and that was done.   They built machines with up to three violins incorporated.

One was present on the Titanic when it sank.

President Taft saw one in Chicago in 1911 and was so impressed he supported a joint resolution of Congress declaring it one of the 8 great inventions of the decade.

What Were the Eight Greatest Inventions in the 1900 to 1910 Decade as Voted by Congress?
In 1911 Mr. H. C. Armstrong, Principal Examiner of the US Patent Office, was authorized to compile a list of the eight most meritorious ideas of the previous decade.   His list, in no particular order was:

-Steam Turbine Electric Power Generation and Distribution
-Electric Light Generation
-The Calorimiter (basis for color photography)
-The Telegraph
-International Harvesting Machine
-The Violano-Virtuoso


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

NELSON-WIGGEN STYLE 4X



                                                       


This is a Nelson-Wiggen style 4X orchestrion.   It could be set up to play either the 4X or G paper roll.  It differs from many contemporary designs using a single stroke marimba rather than a reiterating one.   The Nelson Wiggen machines were some of the most complex vacuum operated machines of the era and some of their critics said if there was a simple way to do something they would not even consider doing it that way.

This was one of the more popular instruments produced by Nelson-Wiggen, but how many have survived is unknown.

The music is contained on a paper roll with holes punched in it, which normally contains 10 songs.   The punched holes are "read" by a vacuum control system, that in turn opens valves allowing the compressed air to enter the selected pipes and play the music.   The vacuum and compressed air are suppled by wood and leather bellows pumps driven by a crankshaft, which is turned by the electric motor mounted in the bottom of the instrument.

Our machine plays a ten tune 4X roll, which controls a Piano, Mandolin Rail, Trap Drum, Marimba & Triangle.

Built about 1925, its location is unknown until it was owned by Jake, who got it in parts someplace in New York State and reassembled it.   It played for several years after it came to us, but got weaker as time went on.   We did some patch work to keep it playing, but by 2012 it needed serious work, so we did a fairly complete repair, including case refinishing.   In the process, we found Jake had bypassed several control function, which we restored to the original condition.

Background information:

Oscar Nelson and Peder Wiggen, worked as engineers and factory supervisors for the J.P. Seeburg Company, until striking out on their own and forming the Nelson Wiggen Co. in Chicago in 1922.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

An Early Cremona


This is a Cremona style C Nickelodeon, serial number 17268, built in Chicago by the Marquette Piano Company about 1905.   Cremona is an Italian town famous for violin and other stringed instrument production.   Perhaps this is why Marquette used this name for their piano based instruments.





This was one of the earlier Cremona styles and was also sold by the Piano Player Mfg. Co. as Rhapsodist style B.   Thus quite a few may survive in collections today. 

The music is contained on a paper roll with holes punched in it, designated as style A, which normally contains 10 songs.   The punched holes are "read" by a vacuum control system, which controls the piano and mandolin rail.    The vacuum is supplied by wood and leather bellows pumps driven by a crankshaft, which is turned by the electric motor mounted in the bottom of the instrument.   The roll drive is also located in this area and is a well designed system, more durable than many of the competitors.

We have no information prior to 2011, when this instrument was donated to us by Joan Hick, who donated it as the executrix of her brother Robert Sabo's estate.   Robert had started the restoration before he died and Joan wanted the work to be completed, with the instrument available to be viewed and played for the public.   The machine was delivered in many pieces and it was not until 2012 that Joan found the original stained glass and delivered it to us.   All the piano action parts beyond the 65 notes played by the A roll were missing and had to be reproduced from our "junk pile".    Most of the case had been stripped for refinishing, which we did not complete.   The carriage lamps were missing and a grant from one of our Board members paid for their reproduction.

We completed the necessary work and moved it to the first floor in 2013.


Background Information:
The Marquette Piano Co. started in Chicago building piano actions but about 1905 expanded to building complete instruments, thus becoming one of the first American firms in this industry.   Until 1907,  J. P. Seeburg worked for them until leaving to found his own company.

Sold under the Cremona name, their major production was between 1905 and 1920.   They built high quality machines with interior parts highly finished even though not visible, using a lot of mahogany for the wood parts.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A German Organ in Texas


This is a Wellershaus Brothers Organ with 58 keys (notes).   It has 5 bass, 12 accompaniment, 18 melody, 11 trumpets, 6 trombones, 3 drums and 2 rank controls.   It has a total of 214 pipes.   Both control and play are driven from compressed air bellows.   The Wellershaus Brothers departed from the then usual colors of black with red or gold trim, to use a bright front on their organs.   The music was happy, the facade should be happy.

How Rare Is It?

We have no way of knowing how many of this model were built, but as far as we know, this is the only one in the USA.

How Does It Work?
The music is contained in a stack of "Book Music" composed of layers of cardboard glued to a central linen sheet.   The cardboard sections are about 7" long and accordion fold with the linen as a hinge.   The punched holes "read" a series of valve fingers, which open small primary valves that in turn opens pneumatics which move push rods opening the final valves, allowing the compressed air to enter the selected pipes and play the music.   The compressed air is supplied by wood and leather bellows pumps driven by a crankshaft which is turned by the electric motor mounted on the side of the case.   The book music is connected in a continuous loop and is the music installed in 1934, when it was converted from a barrel organ.

Where Has It Been?
Built in the village of Saarn in the Ruhr Valley in Germany before 1904, as a stepped case hand cranked barrel organ.   We know the pre 1904 date, because in 1994 Saarn was annexed by Mulheim and the front of the Wellershaus Organs carried the new town name.    It was in Holland in April of 1934, where it was converted to play book music by Louis Ch. van Deventer.   It was still in Holland in 1973, when Hank Veeningen owned it.

After coming to the U.S., it was repaired in Texas.   It appears to have traveled with some sort of carnival based on the damage from lots of assembling and tear down.   While in this use, it was repaired many times with unusual patches.   The attitude must have been let's keep it playing for one more day.   Jake bought it from a dealer in Rochester, PA.   When it came to us in 1994, it was not playing.    After being declared unrepairable by professional restorers, it was put back in operation over a two year period by our volunteers.   To the best of our ability, we undid the quick and dirty repairs and put the organ back into original condition.

Background Information
The Wellerhaus Firm was founded by Wilhelm Wellershaus in Remscheid Germany in 1793.   Wilhelm built and repaired clocks and then church organs.   Wilhelm's son Frederick, started his branch  of the firm in Saarn in early 1832, building church organs for outdoor use, which slowly grew in size up to 140 key models.   Julius' sons, August and Wilhelm, organized Gebruders Wellerhaus in 1880.   With August as the driving force, they moved into big high quality fairground organs.   They built the first colorful organ fronts as opposed to others with black finish.

The factory was destroyed in WW2, but rebuilt and struggled on until 1965, when August Jr. died.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

ABOUT OUR WURLITZER MODEL 148



This is a WURLITZER model 148 Duplex Military Band Organ, built by the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company in North Tonawanda, New York.   It is a 49 key organ, which plays 46 notes.   It has 4 manual stops and plays 2 drums & a cymbal.   It has 129 brass pipes, 3 trombones, 15 trumpets, 16 clarinets and 16 piccolos.   (Some keys play more than one pipe.)   It was probably built in the early 1920s.

How Rare Is It?
There were 46 of this particular model built, the first one in 1916 and the last one in 1936.   We don't really know how many are still in existence, but it must be a pretty small number by now.   As far as we know, there is only 1 other of this model presently in use in public, at Gage Park in Topeka, Kansas.   Wurlitzer made many other models of Band Organs and there are surviving examples of most of them.   The DeBence Music Museum has one of each of three other models of Wurlitzer band organs.

How Does It Work?
The music is contained on a Wurlitzer style 150 paper roll, with holes punched in it, similar to a player piano roll.   The punched holes are "read" by a vacuum control system that in turn opens valves allowing compressed air to enter the selected pipes and play the music.   The vacuum and compressed air are supplied by wood and leather bellows pumps, driven by a crankshaft which is turned by the electric motor mounted beside the organ.   This model Wurlizter is equipped with two tracker frames which allows it to play continuously, since while one is rewinding the other plays.

What Did It Cost?
In 1916 the selling price was $1,050.

Where Has It Been?
It was used in a skating rink in the Stoneboro/Sandy Lake area of Western PA until 1935.   When it quit working, it was allegedly replaced by an amplified phonograph, playing 78 RPM records of Ken Griffin at the Hammond Organ.   There is a problem with this story as the first Hammond was not available until 1935 and Ken Griffin was not recording yet.   Jake bought it and had it put back in playing condition.

Background Information
The Wurlitzer Company got its start in Cincinnati, OH in 1856 when Rudolph Wurlitzer, a German immigrant, started importing German musical instruments for sale in the USA.   The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company was incorporated in 1890 and operated a manufacturing plant in Cincinnati.   In 1909 they bought the distressed deKleist firm in North Tonawanda, NY, which had been making mechanical music machines.    This factory became the Wurlitzer manufacturing center for their line of player pianos, orchestrions and band organs.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wurlizter Model 153 Duplex Orchestral Band Organ






This is a Wurlizter Model 153 Duplex Orchestral Band Organ, built about 1919 by the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company in North Tonawanda, New York.   It is a 54 key organ, which plays 46 notes, actuates 6 stops and plays 2 drums and a cymbal.   It has 164 organ pipes. (Some keys play more than one pipe.)  It is equipped with a glockenspiel (the row of small bells on the lower front of the machine).   This model became the standard  by which Merry Go Round organs were judged.

How Rare Is It?

There were about 169 of this particular model built, the first one in 1916, with the last one in 1936.   We don't really know  how many are still in existence, but it must be a small number by now.   As far as we know there are only 3 of this model presently in use in public.   Wurlitzer made many other models of Band Organs and there are surviving  examples of most of them.   The DeBence Music Museum has one of each of three other models of Wurlitzer band organs.

How Does It Work?

The music is contained on a paper roll with holes punched in it, designated by Wurlizter as style 150, similar to a player piano roll.   The punched holes are "read" by a vacuum  control system that in turn opens valves allowing the compressed air to enter the selected pipes and play the music.   The vacuum and compressed air are supplied by wood and leather bellow pumps driven by a crankshaft, which is turned by the electric motor mounted on tope of the organ.   This model WURLITZER is equipped with two tracker frames which allow it to play continuously, since while one is rewinding the other plays.

What Is It Worth?   What Did it Cost?

In good condition, the current value is in the $20,000 range.   In 1916 the selling price was $1500.

Where Has It Been?

Built about 1919, its location is unknown until it was in use at Idora Park in Youngstown, OH.   Jake purchased it from Idora in the early 1980's.   At Idora it was played behind an ornate front façade, from the previous German organ, but Jake was not interested in the façade at their asking price, so he bought it less the façade, which was later destroyed in a fire.   Today, it plays behind a reproduced façade.   The center section is an original Wurlitzer part donated by a museum member.   The drum and top sections were built by us from photos of original units.

Background Information

The Wurlitzer Company got its start in Cincinnati, OH in 1956 when Rudolph Wurlitzer, a German immigrant, started importing German musical instruments  for sale in the USA.   The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company was incorporated in 1890 and operated a manufacturing plant in Cincinnati.  In 1909, they bought the distressed deKleist firm in North Tonawanda, NY, which had been making mechanical music machines.   This factory became the Wurlitzer manufacturing center for their line of player pianos, orchestrions and band organs.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Artizan Air-Calio

                                                        
Our Air-Calio, serial number 604, was built in 1927 in the Artizan Works in North Tonawanda,
New York.   This 46 note model was introduced as "The new Calliope with an Extra Punch.   Special  voicing  of pipes pitched  to play with band and lower bass tones than any other calliope made makes the instrument smooth, of pleasing tone and great volume without being offensive."   It started life on the midway at Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh, PA.   It is visible on page 144 of Jacques "Kennywood, Roller Coaster Capital of the World".   From there it joined the Larry Givens collection, where it was photographed for inclusion on page 844 of Bowers "Encyclopedia of Mechanical Music".   When that collection was broken up, it was then owned by Mr. Clark of Meadville, who used it in parades in the Sharon, PA area, until it failed. 

In 1957 it was stored in a barn in New Wilmington, PA.  Jake heard about it and went to see if it was for sale.   The story passed to us, was that he was told "it doesn't work, it's in our way, just take it".   To which Jake's reply was "I need a bill of sale", so he paid $1.00 and got a bill of sale.


The tracker bar is scaled to play 65 note Wurlitzer Caliola or APP rolls once you reverse them side for side, but since Artizan used a pneumatic system for play (they called it rewind stop) rather than the Wurlizter mechanical system, you need to add the "play" holes in the roll as well as reversing it for use here.

When it came to us, it was missing the mechanical parts to stop and start the roll drive and the tapered speed control cone was split in two.   The keyboard allowing hand playing was defeated and the play & rewind buttons were disconnected.   All this and several other features have since been restored.

The accepted story is that only 3 of this model were built.   Only one other is now known, residing in Wisconsin.   It was badly damaged in a fire and has been rebuilt.   It has a set of bells mounted behind the pipes.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

BRUNSWICK MODEL R


                                                           





This is is a Brunswick Model R phonograph, serial number 227064 in a lowboy style cabinet, probably built in the early 1920s.

How Rare Is It?
Brunswick was moving into the number 2 spot in phonograph sales in the early 1920s, so there are probably a lot of these still in existence, though the lowboy style is less common.

How Does It Work?
The music is contained in the 78 rpm disc record.   For lateral cut records, the grooves move the needle on the reproducer sideways, which vibrates the diaphragm the needle is connected to, which reproduces the music stored in the disc.   From the diaphragm, the vibrating air is conducted through the tone arm to the back of the built in horn, which directs the sound to the front of the phonograph.   A major feature of this model is the 1917 patented Ultona tone arm, which incorporates a pickup for lateral groove records as produced by everyone except Edison and also a separate correct reproducer for the Edison vertical cut records.

The turntable is driven by a spring motor that you wind up with the side crank.   When fully wound, it will play 3 records before needing to be wound again.

What Is It Worth?
Current selling price in the $300.00 range.

Where Has It Been?
We have no information prior to 2015, when it was donated to the museum.   When it came to us it needed some work.   The front grille had been inserted upside down, which jammed it in place.   While removing it we further damaged it and the first order of restoration was it's restoration.   The Ultona reproducer was stuck in an in between position due to swelling of the pot metal and had to be freed.

Background Information
John Brunswick moved to America from Switzerland at the age of 14.   He started the Cincinnati  Carriage Company and expanded into wood products by 1845.   The company slogan was "If it's wood we can make it and make it better than anyone else".  They became a major player in the billiard and bowling areas.   They got into the phonograph business in the early 1910s by first building cabinets  for others, then by producing complete phonographs.   By 1920, they were moving into second place in this market, overtaking Columbia and still behind Victor.   Their ownership of their own cabinet making facility allowed them to be first in introducing the all electric phonograph in 1925.



Thursday, April 20, 2017

Calliope, or Band Organ?

                                                                   
If you are reading this blog you may not be confused, but we find that the difference between a Band Organ and a Calliope escapes many of our visitors.

Calliope was the ninth Greek muse presiding over beauty and elegance.   The word means beautiful voice, which may be a stretch for many instruments bearing this name.   Basically a Calliope is a bunch of whistles.   This instrument grew out of steam operated equipment, which had whistles used for a warning device,   Somebody listened to the whistle and figured if there were a bunch of tuned whistles, you could produce music with them.    From manually operated whistles, the move to a machine reading music from some source was a logical step.



A Band Organ grew from a different ancestor.   The church organs from the Middle Ages were powered by air generated from a pump worked manually.   The pipes were mostly wood and with some modifications they could be voiced to give various tones.   By the mid 1800s, experiments were under way to add reeds to the wood pipes to mimic trumpets.   If you had enough different sounds available, it could sound like a band, thus the Band Organ was born.   They went under several names depending on their intended purpose.   Thus the large European Dance Organs intended for ballrooms.   When used at an amusement park with a kiddie ride or a carousel, they were usually called Band Organs.   Placed on the midway, they might be called a Fairground Organ.



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Not What We Thought It Was



When the museum was opened in 1995, we had a lot of "Extra" items that came along, which were put in storage, mostly on the second and third floors.   When we started our "Open all Floors to the Public" project, we slowly cleaned out these areas and cataloged and stored the items more properly.  

We had one phonograph listed on our inventory as a very early Columbia table model, which we had tucked away and paid no attention to.


One of our summer interns was checking out these stored items for proper ID and condition.   It did not take long to see that this phonograph was not a Columbia, but an external horn 1906 Victor VicII, without a horn.




Once we understood what to look for, we found the horn in our miscellaneous stored parts.   After cleaning and repair, this phonograph became a fine addition to our first floor tour area and is played on many of our tours.

The Victor VicII was first introduced in 1901 as the E model.   Transition to the Vic-II name came in 1905 with the change to a tapered tone arm.   It was a single spring motor table model with an external horn, selling for $30.00 when introduced.   Production continued until 1920, by which time the price was $37.50 and something like 125,000 had been made.

Ref:   www.victor-victrola.com for background information.