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.