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






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.