Traveling Circus, Menagerie and Wild West

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Content: Issue No. 4 July, 2000
The Official Journal of the Carousel Organ Association of America (COAA) Devoted to enjoying, preserving and sharing knowledge of all outdoor mechanical musical instruments, including band, fair and street organs, calliopes, and hand-cranked organs of all sizes.
Inside this issue: · Mechanical Organs of the American Traveling Circus, Menagerie and Wild West Fred Dahlinger -- 1 · Paul Eakins' Gay 90's Organ Collection Ron Bopp -- 3 · The Story of Captain John Leonard's Fascination with Military Band Organs Captain John Leonard -- 16 · Marion Roehl Recordings -- Some Reflections Harvey Roehl -- 20 · Gebroeders Decap -- Antwerpen, Belgie Roger Mostmans -- 22 · Emmett Kelly Clown Festival Band Organ Rally Report Ron Bopp -- 24 Editor/Publisher -- Ron Bopp Assist. Editor -- Angelo Rulli
Mechanical Organs of the American Traveling Circus, Menagerie and Wild West*
Fred Dahlinger, Jr.
Though they are largely unknown in our era of electronically-reproduced and computer-generated music, mechanical organs once commonly provided an acoustic musical accompaniment to many outdoor amusement enterprises. The general public and music historians typically associate the hand-cranked organ with itinerant street musicians; the pipe organ with churches and theaters; the orchestrion with palatial homes; and the band organ with the carousel. A review of the historical record reveals that each of these four types of instruments could be heard at traveling shows. Visitors to the menagerie, the circus and the Wild West exhibition were all exposed to a variety of mechanically-produced sounds during the heyday of these instruments. Mechanical organs were employed in two principal ways: In the most basic application they provided a musical atmosphere for the show grounds or inside the tents. In their most elaborate form they were housed in large, ornamented parade wagons that provided musical interludes in the daily street processions staged by traveling shows. After the parade, the wagon-mounted organs were parked on the show lot or inside the menagerie or another tent where their melodies continued to add to the sensory experience of visiting a field show. A traveling menagerie, or collection of wild animals that toured the countryside housed in portable cages, was the first itinerant show enterprise in America to be accompanied by a mechanical organ. The advertisements for the Museum of Living Animals of 1814 noted that it would feature "good music on the organ." An 1818 traveling menagerie had an organ with figures that moved on it. The style suggests the work of Ignaz Bruder (1780-1845), who is generally considered the founder of the Black Forest show organ industry. The Grand Caravan of Living Animals, an 1821 collection of beasts, called attention to their "music on a good Beloudy organ."
*copyright
. . . continued on page 7
Carousel Organ, Issue No. 4 -- July, 2000
Carousel Organ Association of America
President: Terry Haughawout Vice-President: Ron Bopp Secretary: Marge Waters
Editor/Publisher: Ron Bopp
Assistant Editor: Angelo Rulli
Reporter:
Hope Rider
The President Speaks . . . The staff of the COAA has been very busy the last quarter. Some things that have transpired to give the members more visibility to the organization are--we now have our own web site and webpage. We are working on our webpage to provide you with imformation on rallies, information on joining the group, plus many other worthwhile topics. We would like to have imput from the group on what makes sense to display on our webpage--if you have any thoughts please contact one of the staff. This is your page and it should have imformation that makes sense. Check out our new webpage: www.carouselorganassociation.org. We have also been working on our new logo--we are very close to getting this one put to bed. We have already contacted a company to make up transfers for hats, tee shirts and sweat shirts. Hopefully all of our products will be available for the Indiana rally.
I hope to see you at a rally this summer, drive safely and come enjoy the happiest music on earth!
Terry
From the Editor's Loft . . . As we move into our fourth issue the quality of articles for the Carousel Organ seems to improve. This issue features a landmark article by Fred Dahlinger on mechanical music in the circus. We all new it existed but have never read anything about it until now. In addition we have chance to read a lifelong love affair with the band and fair organ in the article submitted by COAA member Capt. John Leonard. Harvey Roehl has lent us his years of experience in making and marketing sound recordings -- a new insight into another facet of this wonderful hobby -- thanks Harvey! You will notice something new in the back portion of this expanded issue of the Carousel Organ. We now have display advertising. Approved by your officers and by a membership vote at the Houston organ rally we will now accept camera-ready advertising for one-fourth, one-half or full page advertising. Rates may be found on page 25. Know someone who is interested in organs and not a member of the COAA? Try and get them to sign up. The more members we have translates into more interesting pages of the Carousel Organ. Ron
On Stage Between January 22 and February 6, 2000, Charles Tyler (an avid Kansas City phonograph collector and street organ musician) cranked his OGM organ on the stage of the Missouri Repertory Theater in the University of Missouri's production of Inherit The Wind, a play about the Scopes "Monkey Trial". Charles and his organ shared the stage with Jiggs, a two-year-old monkey. While it was a lot of work, Charles enjoyed himself, and indirectly, brought the enjoyment of mechanical music to many others. Charles is pictured on the right holding Jiggs behind the OGM cart organ. Charles, a new COAA member, has attended organ rallies sponsored by the Heart of America chapter of AMICA and the Mid-Am chapter of MBSI. 2
Carousel Organ, Issue No. 4 -- July, 2000
Paul Eakins' Gay 90's Organ Collection Ron Bopp
Myentrance into the world of mechanical music, and specifically to the area of outdoor mechanical organs, had its start with Paul Eakins (Fig. 1) and his wonderful museum in St. Louis, the Gay 90's Melody Museum (Fig. 2). My interest in this
hobby began in 1970, just about the time when the museum was in its last year of operation. My family lived in St. Louis and a
trip downtown to the Arch, Busch Stadium (where the St. Louis Cardinals called home) and the Gay 90's Melody Museum was
inevitable. Later in the year, the museum closed its doors to be followed by a flyer in the mail advertising all of the instruments.
The saddening by this sudden termination of a new friendship was made only worse when I saw that my favorite instrument of the
whole lot, Sadie Mae (the pink fairground organ), was for sale for much more than I could muster, a staggering $8,000.00.
The memories of the museum still linger with me to this date and inspired me to produce
an audiovisual program on the life of Paul Eakins (I Believe If I Got Hold Of One Of Those, I
Could Make It Work) for the 1996 AMICA convention in St. Louis. From this information I
would like to elaborate on the organs in Paul Eakins' collection and museum. I refer to these as
being owned by Paul Eakins but it was a joint effort with Laura, his long-time partner and wife.
Paul passed away in the late 1980s and Laura still resides in their hometown of Sikeston, MO.
Paul had worked many years in the HEATING AND COOLING business. He was a workaholic and
the competitiveness of his business interest led to the medical condition of ulcers which then led
to "slowing down" (as dictated by his personal physician) and working more with a hobby--in
this case, mechanical musical instru-
ments. Paul was quoted in an
August 11th, 1962, article appearing
in the St. Louis Globe Democrat as Figure 1. Paul Eakins, circa
saying "Nothing I learned in the 1970s.
heating, plumbing and air-conditioning business was any good at all in
helping me figure out how to go about fixing them [the mechanical
musical instruments] but, it's just a matter of common sense." Paul did
most of his restoration work, especially the organs (sometimes staying
up to 4:00 a.m. to do it) but did have help from Ray Conley, who later
worked for G. A. MacKinnon of Charlotte, NC and later, the Floyd
Miles "Miles Musical Museum" in Eureka Springs, AR. As a pioneer
collector he was one of the first to tackle large fairground organs in the
Figure 2. The Gay 90s Melody Museum, across from Busch early 1960s -- noteworthy especially because there were no restoration
Stadium in St. Louis, circa 1970.
references on the topic.
The Eakins' were involved with two public displays of mechanical
musical instruments: the first was the Gay 90's Village in Sikeston, MO, and the second was the Gay 90's Melody Museum in
downtown St. Louis. A quote from one of his record albums, Fantastic, Honky Tonk Player Barroom Piano, adequately sets the
tone for this collecting advocation:
The Gay Nineties Village has been characterized as the Disneyland of the Midwest. It is one of America's fore-
most amusement centers. The Gay Nineties Village came into being when Paul Eakins, a mechanical engineer
with a growing plumbing and heating business, had to create a new and less strenuous life for himself on the
advice of his doctor. He turned to the hobby of collecting and restoring elderly nickelodeons. As often happens,
the avocation became a new career. Paul has gathered at Sikeston, Missouri, one of the largest collections of
calliopes, band organs, orchestra pianos and automatic banjos in the world, and has become a leading expert on
their care and feeding.
The Museums
The Gay 90's Village museum was open to the public from 1961 to 1966. The Gay 90's Village was part of a large tourist attraction which resembled a Wild West town. Next to the museum was another family-owned business, the Indian Trading Post. At first Paul's interest was American nickelodeons, but as he continued to collect he progressed to European instruments and in particular, fairground organs. In 1966 Mr. William Dooley, on behalf of the Lewis-Howe Company, a family-owned business that manufactured Tums antacid as well as "Natures Remedy," contacted Paul. Behind the Lewis-Howe business on 4th Street in St. Louis stood their warehouse (Spruce and Broadway). The city of St. Louis at the time was in a large urban renewal project and was tearing all the old buildings down. Mr. Dooley had a Coinola S orchestrion in his living room and with this interest in mechanical music and the neces-
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Carousel Organ, Issue No. 4 -- July, 2000
sity to preserve his warehouse, an idea then surfaced for a museum. Paul Eakins was contacted and this was the beginning of the
Gay 90's Melody Museum. The machines were not purchased from Eakins, but rather leased for a three-year period.
The physical set-up of the museum was very interesting. Each instru-
ment was showcased in its own booth (28 altogether) and was enclosed
in front by a wrought iron fence to keep the customers at arms length.
Each was tripped by a remote coin collecting box (25 cents) and there
was always a description of that particular machine nearby. Entrance
into the museum would find you on the first floor in the midst of sever-
al large fairground and band organs. A second floor also housed inter-
esting but lesser important machines.
The Gay 90's Melody Museum opened in July 1967 and remained
open for three years until closing in 1970. Fortunately for collectors and
historians today the museum was fairly well documented by postcard
advertising and photographic slides that were for sale at the time. The
music of the machines in this museum as well as Sikeston's Gay 90's vil-
lage has also been well preserved in over 44 music albums and tapes pro-
moted by Paul and Laura Eakins.
Figure 3. The Emperor, a 80-key Mortier Dance Organ
The museum, and its organs in particular, must have made a substan- which uses book music.
tial impression on the locals as the headlines of a July 18th, 1967, St.
Louis Globe-Democrat declared "Sounds of Gay 90's to Battle 20th Century Stadium Sonics" (remember, the St. Louis Cardinals
baseball stadium was just across the street). The article went on: "The gang in the bleachers at Busch Stadium will have to be
pretty riotous to drown out Big Bertha, Madam Laura, Sadie Mae and the Emperor--especially if they're all sounding off at the
same time."
As mentioned above, Paul Eakins remained owner of all of the machines in the Gay 90's Melody Museum. This was his limit
in the operation of the museum, however. It is speculated that the museum, while having a good traffic flow and business, was
not a moneymaking proposition. While all the machines in the museum were the property of the Eakins, not all of his and Laura's
machines were in the museum, as many remained in Sikeston.
The Organs
In addition to the many coin-operated pianos and orchestrions that
graced the collection were several selections of band and fair organs.
While only a few pianos were given a title, Paul had named most of
the organs (apparently having a fascination with women) and some
examples are Big Bertha, Sadie Mae, Madam Laura, Hot Lips
Houlihan, Katy Lou and Big Nelly.
One of the largest crowd pleasers at the museum was the
Emperor, a Mortier dance organ that was made in Belgium in the
late 1880s. Playing from 80-key cardboard books, the Emperor con-
tained 418 pipes plus 44 xylophone bars and the usual organ traps.
Paul Eakins purchased this organ from the Vat Hoesbek Beek Beer
Garden in Mishawalka, Indiana. As described in a record brochure,
the Emperor was noted to be "lavishly decorated with arabesque
carvings, hand-carved figures, and lions heads. When this machine
Figure 4. Paul Eakins demonstrates Big Bertha, a 82 fair organ. plays, it attracts people as did the Pied Piper of Hamelin." The
See text below for discussion of its origins.
Emperor eventually was sold to Disney World where it was never
used, and is now in the Neilson Collection in Pennsylvania.
Paul Eakins had happily rescued three fair organs from rotting conditions where they were stored in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
These three had all been featured on one gigantic carousel in Ramona Amusement Park, Grand Rapids, Michigan. The first was
Big Bertha (Fig. 4) supposedly an 82-key Limonaire fair organ that featured a buxom director up front along with two bell ringers.
Several organ authorities agree that this was not a Limonaire, however, and historian Tim Trager suggests that it might have been
a Frati as it is similar to the large Frati at Knoebel's Grove in Elysburg, PA. The organ was converted by Artizan to play the Style
E 87 key roll. The organ is now extensively altered and displayed in an elevated position on a dining room wall of the Grand
Floridian Hotel in Disney World, where sadly, it plays with all the stops off because it is too loud for the dining room.
The second of these was an 87-key Gavioli Dance Organ, Madam Laura. Also playing book music, this organ was said to
have been painted in colors to suggest a huge valentine. The faзade is decorated with three graceful figures, with the central one
being the lady director from whom the organ gets its name. While this may have been a Gavioli organ, it is the same organ as illus
4
Figure 5 (left). Sadie Mae, as she sat in the Gay 90s museum. Her color was pink and the brass trumpet and trombone pipes made a great contrast. On the right (Figure 6) is the identical organ but pictured earlier as a North Tonawanda Barrel Organ Factory (deKleist) Style 28A.
Carousel Organ, Issue No. 4 -- July, 2000
trated on p 906 of Bower's Encyclopedia -- an 87 key Muzzio organ (Muzzio sold organs made by Frati [primarily] but also some
from Gavioli--John Muzzio and Son of New York was an importer of fair organs around 1910.). Madam Laura originally played
from a pinned barrel but was converted by Muzzio to play 87-key book music. It is now in a private collection in North Carolina.
The third and most interesting (historically) organ was a 99-key Gavioli (wrong, but we will elude to that in the following para-
graphs) brass trumpet organ named Sadie Mae (Figs. 4 & 5). This organ contained 20 brass trumpets and 10 brass trombones as
well as violin, flageolet, piccolo, clarinet, flute, cello, bass and accompaniment pipes. It was originally played from a pinned bar-
rel but later converted to play Gavioli book music. This is the instrument I referred to at the beginning of this article, being offered
for a whopping sum of $8,000.00 at the time the museum closed. It subsequently went to Disney World (as did most of the Eakins
collection) and in producing their album "America on Parade" the Disney Studio chose Sadie Mae to represent the Eakins collec-
tion. Relevant to the following paragraphs was Paul Eakins account of the faзade (as described on a record album "Loudmouth
Sadie Mae"):
The ornamentation is magnificent, typical of the style that Europeans love so well. On each side, below the drum
sections, are most unusual stylized dragons with gold teeth. The central decorations are sprays of flowers with
a lute and two woodwind instruments. Curled around this are two little green snakes. The exotic draped wreaths
on the lower faзade consist of a great number of intricately carved flowers tied with cross-bound ribbons. The
classic laurel leaves are used in outline carvings enclosing oval medallions. Decorative newel posts add to the
elegance of the organ. Behind the brass horns may be seen the lovely blue and gold silk brocade setting off their
beauty. The same beautiful blue also sets off the bells. The main body of the organ is a flamboyant pink, along
with trim of reds, blues, aquas, and gold.
Over 20 years later, and having never being displayed for the public, Sadie Mae surfaced again in the late 1990s and was sold
to a St. Louis collector. Close inspection by several collectors at that time revealed that this organ was not a Gavioli organ as orig-
inally believed but rather a very early North Tonawanda Barrel Organ Factory (early deKleist) No. 28A. The snare and bass drum
and cymbal have been removed from the top of the organ and placed on either side. Was it a deKleist-made organ or was it made
by Limonaire? Opinion is divided amongst contemporary historians but never-the-less, it was not originally a Gavioli. Interesting
is the fact that this organ is probably the one and same organ featured in deKleist's
1901 catalog. The markings on the oak wood paneling on the facade of the existing
Sadie Mae in the Weber collection match exactly those in the 1901 catalog.
A fourth organ in the Eakins collection was the Gypsy Queen, a 52-key Gasparini
fairground organ (Fig. 7). The organ was originally a 61-key barrel-organ, which
was later converted to book operation. This organ had five figures on the front and
was named from the Gypsy lady painted on the top of the faзade. Tim Trager
believes that this organ has always been a 52-key organ and was later converted from
a 52 key book organ. Eakins spent 1300 hours restoring it. It was sold to the Bellm
museum in Sarasota, Florida, after the museum closed and now resides in another
Florida collection.
The last of the large European organs was Pinkey, originally an 89-key Hooghuys
fair organ which was converted to play the 82-key Artizan paper roll system. Three
articulated figures highlighted this organ as it played. Even though Eakins touted
this as a Hooghuys, historian Fred Dahlinger noted that "the grandson of the
Hooghuys organ builders looked at photos I supplied and stated it was not a
Figure 7. Gypsy Queen, a 52-key Gasparini Hooghuys." Again, contemporary historians agree what the organ is not and that it is
fairground organ.
probably one of the series of Gavioli organs with the faзade that features a large moth
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Carousel Organ, Issue No. 4 -- July, 2000
in the middle of the facade. This organ was also sold to Walter Bellm and and it also resides in the same collection as noted with
the Gypsy Queen.
The group of American band organs represented in the Eakins'collection was a good sampling of Rudolph Wurlitzer's entry into
the band organ business and these included the Styles 103, 104, 148, 153 and 157. The Wurlitzer Style 103, or Jenny as she was
fondly named, was the smallest of the mass-produced Wurlitzer band
organs. Jenny was one of the few (if any other) Wurlitzer 103s to be pri-
marily featured on a recording. In addition, Hot Lips Houlihan, a
Wurlitzer 104, likewise entertained thousands with its own recording
(Fig. 8). After Paul Eakins' empire of mechanical music was sold off
during the 70s and 80s, Hot Lips Houlihan was the only organ remain-
ing in his possession when Bill Pohl and I visited Paul in Sikeston in
1987.
A Wurlitzer Style 148 Band Organ, Sara Jane, was a splendid exam-
ple of a Wurlitzer brass trumpet organ. I can recall that when I visited
the museum in 1970 the temptation of "trumpet toss" must have been
too great for the younger admirers and a grate had been installed over
the brass pipes to prevent someone from "scoring." "Carnival Life with
Sara Jane" was one of several records featuring this popular organ.
Figure 8. Paul Eakins with his last remaining organ in 1987.
Katy Lou was a Wurlitzer Style 153 Military Band Organ, again fortunate enough to entertain thousands with its own recordings. Katy Lou,
along with Jenny, the Wurlitzer Style 103, were two organs that did not
go to Disney but rather ended up in "Russ Nichols Circus Music" caravan. Advertised as the "Largest traveling display of Band
Organs in the World" Russ and Connie Nichols of Columbia, MO, purchased these two organs as well as the Tangley Calliope at
the closure of the museum and put all three in a semi-trailer where they displayed them at rallies and fairs.
Perhaps the most infamous of the American organs in the Eakins col-
lection was the Queen of Kings Island, a Wurlitzer Style 157 Orchestral
Organ. Obtained from a carousel in an amusement park on a pier in
Asbury, NJ, this organ was restored to its original condition and then,
after the Gay 90's Melody Museum closed, was sold to Kings Island Park
in Ohio. Kings Island bought it to replace the another Style 157 that was
sold to mechanical music restorers Haning and White (that particular
organ ended up in the Bronson collection in Dundee, MI). Harvey Roehl
noted in a 1966 "House Organ" that it was used for some of the commer-
cial ads for Campbell's Pork and Beans on the radio.
In addition, the collection included the Artizan Factories Inc. Style C-
2 military band organ, known as Big Nelly which played the 61 note style
D roll (Fig. 9). Harvey Roehl in a Vestal Press House Organ review,
noted that this organ was one of the best sounding organs. It was sold to
Walt Disney World who later moved it to Euro Disney near Paris. Other American organs included a Wurlitzer Style 105 band; a Wurlitzer Caliola and an original Tangley Calliope.
Figure 9. The Artizan Factories, Inc. Style C-2, known as Big Nelly.
The Gay 90's Melody Museum closed on September 1, 1970 due to a lack of support by the St. Louis population. Although there
were 50,000 visitors in the first 8 months the numbers dwindled and the mechanical musical machines left the St. Louis area. As
reported in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat in late 1970 "Sour notes on the cash register have sounded taps for the Melody Museum."
About six of the instruments were sold directly off the floor but the rest were taken back to Sikeston with some of them going to
collectors and Bellm's Music of Yesterday Museum in Sarasota, Florida and the rest to Disney in Florida. Paul Eakins, in his mid-
seventys, died from a series of strokes in the late 1980s. Laura Eakins resides in Sikeston and has continued to sell cassette tapes.
Bibliography
Dahlinger, Fred; Personal communication, 2000
Eakins, Paul; personal communication, 1988
Eakins, Paul; I believe if I got hold of one of those,
Grossman, Art; photographer ("Pana-Vue" Slide series)
I could make it work (Autobiography), circa 1973
Nichols, Russ; personal communication, 1996
Reblitz, Art; personal communication, 2000
Roenigk, Marty; personal communication, 2000
Singleton, Bill; personal communication and Interview (via Cynthia Craig), 1996
St. Louis Mercantile Library Association; assorted newspaper articles
Trager, Tim; personal communication, 2000
from St. Louis Globe Democrat, 1960-1978
Ron Bopp is a long-time collector and historian of mechanical music with an emphasis on fair and band organs. 6
Carousel Organ, Issue No. 4 -- July, 2000
. . . Continued from page 1 (Mechanical Organs of the
When the organist was identified, he was usually a youth or
American Traveling Circus, Menagerie and Wild West) black. In 1826 one Daniel Benedict had responsibility for the
mechanical and musical organ of the Doolittle menagerie. He
Two hand organs, along with a bass drum and an Italian cymbal was a youthful white man. Black men performed the duty with
to accompany it, passed from one menagerie owner, John the 1870 C. T. Ames Menagerie and the Sun Bros. Circus of
Miller, to two others, Thaddeus and Gerard Crane, in 1821.
about 1914. The black man's association with the organ-crank-
English instruments were the types
ing position became so entrenched
typically used by early American
that the North Tonawanda, New
showmen. Most of them were import-
York carousel manufacturers at the
ed on speculation by merchant sea
turn of the century (1900-1901) fit-
captains and music supply houses. The
ted mechanical black figures to the
French and German organ building
barrel organs on their track mounted
industries did not yet flourish and
machines. They endlessly cranked
offer readily available exports until the
away their useful life in this menial
middle of the nineteenth century. For
position.
the time being, the principal source of
The mass appeal of the menagerie
many American imports, England,
waned by the 1840s and the animal
remained the primary supplier of early
collections became an adjunct of the
traveling showmen's' instruments.
expanded circus activities. Other
Joseph Beloudy, the maker of the
types of traveling enterprises,
instrument with the 1821 menagerie
including itinerant museums and
mentioned previously, is a document-
sideshows, similarly came to be
ed English manufacturer of hand
annexed to the circus. The circus
organs. They are so named because
scene was dominated by the big top,
they were placed into action by turn-
a one hundred or so foot diameter
ing a hand crank protruding from the Figure 1. This rare organ was made by Beloudy of tent that housed a 42-foot diameter case containing the mechanism. England. It is thought to be of the type used by the ring, in which the performance was Fortunately, a very rare Beloudy organ early American traveling menageries. Courtesy staged, and seating for the patrons.
still exists in England and provides Michael Bennett-Levy.
The show moved on a daily basis
some insight into the size and simplic-
commencing in 1825, when the tent
ity of the instruments that entertained Americans in the first to house the show first came into use. It traveled overland, by
decade of the nineteenth century (Fig. 1). The traveling organs horse, wagon and carriage, and moved to a new community
were not tall, upright units of the parlor type one would find in every day except the observed Sabbath. Making its presence
homes of the wealthy, but short, compact devices which were known was accomplished by advance advertising and the mak-
easily carried by a single person and stowed within a restricted ing of unusual sounds and presentations in the city on the day
space. These small instruments had two or three stops, or types of exhibition.
of pipes, numbering 60 or so in total. The small cases caused the
pipework to be extremely short, yielding quite high-pitched
pipes for the most part. We would probably describe them as
shrill or squeaky, or perhaps tinny, in our contemporary termi-
nology. When they went out of tune or played improperly they
could be abominable, as many mid-nineteenth century com-
mentators on street hand organs later attested.
The early organs did not include percussion devices. In sev-
eral cases the menagerie owner hired not only the hand organ-
ist but also had someone "double in brass" by beating upon a
drum or playing a set of cymbals to accompany the organ. At
other times one or more people playing a violin or clarinet may
have accompanied the organ. Before condemning this musical
ensemble, one must remember that the rural populations in par-
ticular were starved for music. Access to secular Sheet Music
was limited and musical instruments and those who could play
them were relatively uncommon. If one could hear a favorite
melody from the homeland, a classical selection or the latest
popular composition on a menagerie hand organ, there was little to complain about because there was no alternative. "Good music" could be interpreted to mean the only music.
Figure 2. The Davis Bros. Circus sideshow annex of 1911 featured a small hand organ to attract a crowd. It is shown here on the bally platform in front of the bannerline. Courtesy Circus World Museum
7
Carousel Organ, Issue No. 4 -- July, 2000
The circus had an enduring appeal and an ability to draw a was done by the trained horses Prince and Napoleon on Signor
diverse crowd under nearly all circumstances and in virtually every Chiarini's Italian Circus, combined with Raymond & Co.'s
locale. In time, the distant sounds emanating from the hand organ Menagerie. Sands, Nathans & Co.'s two elephant act of 1858 fea-
in the menagerie, museum or sideshow came to be regarded as one tured Albert cranking an organ while Victoria "waltzed" to its
of the symbols of the arrival and presence of the circus in smaller melodies. Similar pachydermatic operation of hand organs has
communities. As a reporter for the 1872 Jackson, Michigan, Daily been identified with the Cooper & Bailey circus in 1876, the
Citizen wrote, "The voice of the melodious hand organ was heard Howes Great London show of the late 1870s, W. W. Cole in 1886
thro (sic) the land mighty early this morning. Circus Day." The J. and the Lockhart elephants with the Ringling brothers at the turn of
E. Warner & Co. circus had arrived that morning to entertain the the century (Fig. 3). The elephant organ and dancing skit was so
Jacksonians (Fig. 2).
common by the early 1880s that noted zoologist William T.
In addition to the hand organs of the circus, it was not uncom- Hornaday (1854-1937) included it in his list of elephant acts when
mon for itinerant organ grinders that set out on the road from major he surveyed the circus use of pachyderms in 1883.
cities in the spring to follow circuses and become part of the din of
Circus Day. They were among the camp followers that relied upon
the circus to draw a crowd from which they could extract their
"coppers." The frequency of organ grinders seems to have reached
something of a zenith of awareness in the mid-1850s, when the
trade became pronounced across America as the result of immigra-
tion from particular Italian provinces. In 1854 there were singing
girls with an organ and tambourine in the vicinity of the Franconi
Hippodrome. Some stout, sunburned German girls cranked out dis-
cordant renditions of "Old Hundred," "Jim Crow," "Old Dan
Tucker" and similar pieces in 1855 near the Van Amburgh & Co.
Menagerie. The general impression of these music providers may be reflected in one reporter's account of a visit to a giant's tent in 1864, where "The music was a horrid hand organ which grated harshly on the ear, and our citizens were glad to have it cease."
Figure 4. The Kassino act of little people featured a typical street-type hand organ mounted on a small goat cart. the organ was half as big as the men who cranked it. Courtesy The Billboard.
Enterprising showmen determined other means by which an idle The most ambitious attempt at elephantine music was the Adam
hand organ might be returned to service. Applications which have Forepaugh "Musical Band of Elephants," schooled in the
been identified include elephant acts, clown and performer gags "Mysteries and Intricacies of Instrumentation" by Adam
and general performance accompaniment. Prior to the development Forepaugh, Jr. (1859-1919), son of the great showman and an ani-
of the military drills, which characterized elephant acts for many mal trainer of some repute. This grouping discoursed what might
years, simple physical maneuvers and skits were performed by be called "heavy" music from a hand organ, accordion, bass drum,
pachyderms in the ring. The first impresario to present an elephant cymbal, xylophone and bells, all under the direction of one of their
cranking an organ has not been established, but in 1855 there was peers who held a baton in her trunk. "Popular operas, patriotic, sen-
a unique example of a horse cranking a hand organ in the ring. This timental and comic airs" were described as the product of this
group of animal prodigies, with one writer indicating that
airs from the operas "The Beggar Student," and
"Iolanthe" could be heard. The Forepaugh elephant band
concept was later restaged on the John Robinson Circus
of 1903.
A few clown gags employed organs as either ethnic or
incidental music sources. The Kassino Midgets, a group
of little people who were hired by both Ringling Bros.
and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows and the Sells-
Floto Circus in the 1920s, had a hand organ mounted on
a small cart pulled by a goat for one of their gags.(Fig. 4).
Three clowns, Del LeClair, Al Darrow and Perky Perkins
staged a gag in which LeClair cranked a hand organ and
Perkins donned a monkey suit and metal cup. Darrow
played a cop who rousted the two as they begged for
money. It was a takeoff on the oft-repeated street scene of
the Italian with his hand organ and monkey. Ethnic cari-
catures were a staple of the stage and ring at the turn of
the century and the common Italian association with
street instruments provided fodder for several comedy
artists. One example, the Deltorelli &Co. act on the 1910
Figure 3. Elephant-crank hand organs were part of elephant acts as early as the Ringling Bros. World's Greatest Shows, did skits titled 1850s. Here is such an act illustrated in an 1894 Adam Forepaugh circus poster. "The Streets of Italy" and "Caruso and his Professor,"
Courtesy Circus World Museum.
working a cart mounted street piano into their work.
8
Carousel Organ, Issue No. 4 -- July, 2000
While on the subject of street pianos, it should be
noted that they were not as commonly found at circuses
as mechanical organs. The earliest mechanical piano to
be discovered was a "Self-Acting Piano" located in the
1874 museum of Adam Forepaugh's circus. It was
reportedly an attraction at the 1873 Vienna World
Exhibition and had a repertoire of fifty tunes, being no
doubt some type of cylinder-operated piano. The other
known examples are the fine crank piano in the 1891
Walter L. Main circus side show, a Pomero-made instru-
ment with a mandolin attachment on the Charles
Alderfer show in the late 1910s, an unattributed crank
piano with the Atterbury horse opera in 1921 and anoth-
er on the motorized Bardon & Doss outfit in the 1920s.
A coin piano, popularly called a nickelodeon and char-
acterized as the type found in bordellos, was with Dave Figure 5. The Spalding & Rogers Apollonicon of 1849 was the first large
Gillespie's 1914 touring troupe.
wagon containing an organ to travel with an American overland circus.
Neither the hand organ nor the crank piano is prop- Courtesy Howard Tibbals Collection.
erly called a hurdy gurdy. The hurdy gurdy is actually a hand-cranked violin, examples of which were reportedly operated by a German named Sanders on the 1826 Quick & Mead show and by another party on the 1827 Washington Circus. A precursor to one man band novelties was with the Nixon & Kemp Circus in 1857, described as a man with several bells on his head and playing a French violin in his hands which played by a crank--no doubt cranking away on a true hurdy gurdy. From the inception of the American circus in 1793 until the relatively recent advent of reliable sound reproduction technology, it was circus practice to hire musicians to accompany live ring performances. Circus musicians, or "windjammers" as they are called in the business, could adapt and pace their live, scripted music to accompany the performers' efforts in the ring. On
caused the first such contrivance to be built as a special attraction for their North American Circus in 1849. To carry the heavy burden over America's rudimentary roads, New York omnibus and horse car manufacturer John Stephenson (18091893) built a vehicle that was called the Apollonicon, after the Greek muse Apollo (Fig. 5). After experiencing difficulties during a few years' use, it is believed that the Erben organ was removed and placed on the duo's Floating Palace, a full theater mounted on a barge, with the Apollonicon subsequently utilized as an enclosed bandwagon. For those familiar with pipe organs, one can imagine the problems attendant to lugging a severalthousand pound instrument overland, subject to the vagaries of weather and less than expert maintenance and tuning.
occasion mechanical instruments were utilized to replace or
augment bands. About 1885, "Old" John Robinson recalled that
when he first entered the business in 1842 that the band con-
sisted of a hand organ, a clarinet and a bass drum. In 1859,
when the band walked off Gil Eldred's show a crank organ sub-
stituted for them at the next performance. A similar circum-
stance took place on the M. L. Clark & Son circus about 1910,
when the band went on a bender and was replaced by the show's
organ wagon. In 1894 Frank Irvin's 25-cent wagon show
claimed their seven-piece band was strengthened by a large
orchestrion of an unknown nature. In the case of the later
menageries, where ring activity accompanied the zoological
offerings, hand organs typically sufficed to accompany the pony
riding monkeys and such. In 1877 the New York Clipper report-
ed that Van Amburgh & Co. Menagerie proprietor Hyatt Frost
(1827-1895) had dispensed with the "old favorite," the hand organ, in favor of a six piece band. Undoubtedly the sophistication of the menagerie audience had advanced to the point that
Figure 6. In 1850 the G. C. Quick menagerie featured the Automatodeon, concealing the organ inside with painted scenes and draped material. Courtesy Circus World Museum.
simple organ melodies were no longer adequate even for rural
populations. The earliest of the wagon-mounted show organs were actu- ally pipe organs with self-playing attachments. They were constructed by a famous New York builder of church organs, Henry Erben (1800-1884). Well known circus innovators Gilbert Spalding (1812-1880) and Charles J. Rogers (1817-1895)
The owners of G. C. Quick and Co.'s Menagerie of 1850 desired to duplicate the Spalding and Rogers achievement and arranged for Erben, and no doubt Stephenson, to clone a near copy that they called the Automatodeon (Fig. 6). One must remember that neither of these devices contained a prime mover
9
Carousel Organ, Issue No. 4 -- July, 2000
est of all, The Salpingasian Chariot of Mnemosyne (Fig. 8).
In this case the instrument lived up to the billing, being a 20
foot long monstrosity which not only housed a large organ
but also had a Victorian-like false facade which elevated
upwards from inside the wagon to about fifteen feet for
parade purposes. Other circus organ wagons included
Adam Forepaugh's Car of the Muses, W. W. Cole's
Arionicon, John H. Murray's Apollonicon and the four
Steam Musical Orpheades of the early 1880s John
Robinson show.
Though little direct testimony has been discovered, con-
siderable circumstantial evidence supports the conclusion
that many of the virtuoso circus organs of the 1870s and
Figure 7. The Polyhymnia was an organ that served with the Yankee Robinson circus in the late 1860s. Note the decorative use of bells and exotic decorations to enhance the vehicle. Author's collection.
1880s were the handwork or responsibility of Wesley Jukes, a glassblower and ingenious mechanic who constructed and repaired automata, unusual display mechanisms and mechanical organs as early as 1871 for P. T.
or device to power the wind source. An individual, or perhaps Barnum's Traveling World's Fair. Born in Pittsburgh, Jukes'
two, was pressed into service to pump the lever which filled the career spanned over forty years, ending with an engagement in
chests with wind from the feeders, pump or bellows, as they Chicago where he may have maintained the remnants of the W.
might commonly be called. Following the Erben instruments C. Coup Rolling Palaces electric organ. Jukes' work associated
came the Apolonican (sic) of the 1858 E. Ganoung &
Co. Consolidated Circus and Menagerie and the
Polyhymnia of the 1866 Yankee Robinson show (Fig.
7). Both were short-lived attempts at hauling a large
musical device across the country roads. None of these
musical extravaganzas lasted more than a couple sea-
sons in overland operation, further progress in the organ
wagon line being inhibited until the adoption of rail
travel by circuses in the 1870s.
As Peter Sells (1845-1904) recalled it, expansion
came like an avalanche upon the circus business in the
1870s. The implementation of rail operations by circus-
es brought an immediate increase in their audiences and
a boost to both their popularity and profit possibilities.
Flush with success and cash, boosters and visionaries
like P. T. Barnum sought out special acts, exhibits and
features with which to dazzle their patrons. Among the
first things Barnum acquired was an organ wagon,
which the show called the Harmonicon. Such grand Figure 9. Wesley Jukes probably built the organ that resided in this 1882 titles, at first taken from the names of the Greek Muses, Nathans & Co. parade wagon. Courtesy Circus World Museum.
were directly from the circus bill writer's voluminous vocabu- him with the 1882 Nathans & Co. New Consolidated Railroad
lary of alliterative language. Perhaps W. C. Coup (1836-1895), Shows, where he cared for an organ wagons called the Great
who featured at least three organs on his circus, had the grand- Golden Chariot of Beethoven and the Musical Car of Orpheus,
Perhaps the greatest of all circus organ wagons . . . Salpingasian Chariot of Mnemosyne Figure 8. Perhaps the greatest of all circus organ wagons was W. C. Coup's Salpingsaian Chariot of Mnemosyne, shown in this 1882 engraving. Courtesy Circus World Museum. 10
the latter said to be powered by a new electric engine (Fig. 9). There was also the Jukes Automatic Museum and two cars of automata, the Mechanical Car of Yorick with groups of automatic clowns and the Chariot of Kaiser Wilhelm, with mechanical birds flying and singing and automatic speaking figures. Perhaps among the most interesting of Jukes' mechanical contrivances were the automaton bands, which mimicked the movements and sounds of an entire human band (Fig. 10). On top of one Coup tableau wagon he installed such an ensemble that was called Brannigan's Band.
Carousel Organ, Issue No. 4 -- July, 2000
Figure 12. The military organ of the Mighty Haag Circus was placed inside of a small chariot and then displayed in the menagerie tent. Hopefully the lion nearby was a music enthusiast. Author's collection.
Figure 10. Another of Jukes' creations was the automaton band. Here is one that adorned the roof of a W. C. Coup circus tableau wagon about 1882. Howard Tibbals Collection. The wagons that conveyed and housed the mechanical organs originated in a number of ways. As already indicated, John Stephenson probably constructed both the 1849 Apollonicon and the 1850 Automatodeon. E. M. Miller of Quincy, Illinois, is credited with the construction of the Polyhymnia in 1866. Barnum's famous Orchestmelochor wagon started life as a bandwagon in 1868 and was substantially altered in 1879 to contain an organ. It is possible that one or more of the Coup organ wagons may have been built new by E. J. Quimby of Newark, New Jersey. Another of the organ wagons was built new in 1881 for the Burr Robbins Circus by Hodge & Buchholz of Janesville, Wisconsin (Fig. 11).
After the Orchestmelochor was altered to a tableau in the mid-1890s, the Barnum & Bailey show's twenty-some year old bell wagon was converted into an organ conveyance. The M. L. Clark show pressed a small chariot built by the Thompson Bros. of New Orleans into service to carry a new organ. The Mighty Haag circus similarly mounted a small military style organ in a small carved chariot and used it in both the daily parade and to enliven the menagerie tent (Fig. 12). The large Pawnee Bill Wild West organ wagon of 1904 is thought to have been built
Figure 11. The lady rider is Mrs. Al (Louise) Ringling, but it's the Ringling Bros. circa 1894 organ in the background that is of interest here. Author's collection.
Figure 13. The 1904 Pawnee Bill Wild West organ wagon had large fake pipework on both sides of the wagon. A large military band organ must have been concealed inside the wagon. Courtesy Albert Conover collection. by a Philadelphia wagon construction firm, likely Fulton & Walker, with carved ornamentation supplied by the Dentzel carousel firm, which may also have supplied the organ works (Fig. 13). Several of the wagons were fitted with drop bottoms, providing additional space to accommodate the height of the organs. At least two vehicles were fitted with telescoping devices that permitted a decorative pipe facade to be elevated during parade, artificially increasing the impressiveness of the device. The pipework fitted in these elevated pieces are thought to have been non-functional for the most part, but some percussion instruments, such as drums, might have been operable. 11
Carousel Organ, Issue No. 4 -- July, 2000
the middle of the street, to the
amusement of local citizens.
Electricity served to power sev-
eral portable organs. Electric power
of one type or another had been
available on circus grounds as early
as 1879, when the first show-
owned electric arc lights were
introduced. Thereafter, electric
power would have provided testi-
mony to the progressive manage-
ment of the show that utilized it.
The electric motor of the 1882
Nathans & Co. machine has already
been noted. It was pre-dated by an
electric-powered organ that was
reported to be part of the museum
annex with J. W. Couch's circus out
of Chicago. The large military band
Figure 14. This circa 1876 poster may depict the Harmonicon of the P. T. Barnum circus. The drum- organ, which graced the Pawnee mers and keyboard artist may have been automaton figures, but the boiler fireman was likely a real Bill Wild West operation, was
person. Courtesy Howard Tibbals collection.
referred to as an "Electric Organ" in
The typical motive power for most of the wagon-mounted organs of the 1870s was a little, perhaps one to two horsepower, reciprocating steam engine which was fed with steam from a small, vertical, fire tube boiler, all of which was housed within the decorative wagon. Contemporary knowledge of the steam calliope, coupled with clouds of smoke issuing forth from the boiler stack, often resulted in these organ units being referred to by the misnomer "steam organ" (Fig. 14). Most reporters must have thought that steam issued through the pipes and caused
show advertising. The Barnum & Bailey show reportedly had an electric organ in 1904, the 1906 Mighty Haag Circus claimed that they, too, had an electric organ and in 1907 the Cole Bros. Circus talked about their electric orchestrion in parade. In actual practice, an electric motor may have directly driven the organ crankshaft, but it would have been driven in turn by a small generator no doubt turned by an internal combustion engine or other primary power source.
them to speak, as in a calliope, but such was not the case.
Playing on high wind pressure (perhaps eight to ten inches of
water column, which is only a one-quarter to one-third pound
per square inch), these organs would have been quiet in com-
parison to their steam calliope cousins, which played on
upwards of forty pounds per square inch pressure.
Though circuses had owned and presented steam boilers with
calliopes since the late 1850s, fire inside a wood wagon result-
ed in trouble. On the very first day P. T. Barnum's
Orchestmelochor appeared in parade, fire somehow came to
exist outside the confines of the boiler firebox, resulting in the
destruction of the organ. Thereafter, the Barnum show's organ
was hand cranked, surely a tiring task as anyone who has hand
cranked a large organ for any period of time can attest. Another example of boiler misadventure is a bit more humorous. In his memoirs, Al G. Fields (1848-1921) related that Ohio circus man G. G. Grady (1831?-1895) tried to outfit his circa 1860s show with a "calliope" by concealing a hand organ and operator inside a closed wagon. To create the impression of steam, straw was burned inside some type of enclosed box, with the smoke to issue forth from the top of the wagon. Grady's knowledge of combustion was less than satisfactory. The fumes and smoke released from the fire nearly asphyxiated the organ grinder before the wagon was broken open to rescue the luckless operator. Unfortunately for Grady, the ruse was exposed in
Figure 15. A wagon that formerly hauled a chime of bells was converted into an organ wagon for the 1903 Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth. Circus World Museum collection. The Barnum & Bailey organ wagon of 1903 was fitted with a French-built gasoline engine, the operation of which initially stumped several so-called Bridgeport experts before someone was able to master it and explain the operation to head usher Charles Bernard, who was responsible for its operation (Fig. 15). From photographs, it is known that the organ was placed in the front half of the wagon and the engine in the rear, each wagon side having two large oval holes for ventilation and to permit the music to reach the parade observers.
12
Carousel Organ, Issue No. 4 -- July, 2000
One or two references have been found which describe Orchestmelochor of 1879. It is suspected that loudly voiced
organs being driven by the turning of the wagon's wheels as it trumpets, with brass resonators, clarinets and flutes would have
rolled through the streets. The drawbacks to this type of propul- been found in most of these wagon organs.
sion are obvious when one begins to think of the inconsistent
Perhaps the last 1870's organ wagon to survive largely
music tempo and the lack of power when the wagon was intact, the Barnum Orchestmelochor, was finally dismantled by
stopped, the operation of the instrument coming to a wheezing the winter of 1894 and converted into a regular tableau, the
end at inopportune moments. Transient pitches from unstable ornate top and instrument being sold at auction on December
wind, dropping registers and other operational problems would 11, 1894 (Fig. 16). After passing through the hands of a number
have been harsh on sensitive ears.
of showmen, the original parts that remained were decimated in
No detailed description of any of the early organ wagon inte- a Disney Studios wagon reconstruction program in the mid-
riors has been found. Given their 1870s to 1880s vintage, which 1950s. The artifact that exists at the Circus World Museum
pre-dated both perforated cardboard book and paper-roll tech- today contains but a few carvings that might date to its days as
nology, it is safe to assume that their musical programs were an organ conveyance. The largest Coup organ wagon was dis-
contained on interchangeable wooden cylinders, or barrels, into mantled and made into
which metal pins and bridges were fitted according to the organ two wagons by the mid-
scale and musical score. A few cylinders would have provided 1890s. Three of the
limited tune selection capability, there being six to ten tunes per carved muses which orig-
cylinder at most. It is probable that the organs were cased and inally decorated the ele-
not free standing within the wagon interiors, that is to say that vated skyboards survived
the wind supply, chests and pipework were all enclosed within the destruction of the
a protective wooden case with access openings for maintenance wagons and today survive
and to allow the sounds to issue forth. An uncased instrument in private collections.
would have provided perhaps greater space for pipework but Two corner statues from
would also have rendered the mechanism susceptible to damage the Barnum & Bailey bell
from the elements and personnel occupying the wagon. None of wagon that carried an
the instruments would have been huge by church or later organ in 1903 and 1904
amusement park organ standards, but the appropriate selection of speaking voices would have rendered both loud and pleasing music. A Barnum organ offered for sale in 1877 was described as "a large size trumpet organ, equal to a full brass band." The description suggests either a large brass horn orchestrion, which featured attractive sprays of bright trumpets, or an early form of
are preserved at the Circus World Museum. These are the only surviving remnants of a once prominent tradition of circus organ wagons.
Figure 17. Here is a small hand organ that bears the name of Taylor. Larger organs built by Taylor are unknown today. Courtesy Henry Ford Museum collection.
military band organ. A similar "imitation of a brass band" state-
Whether made in the Paris, Berlin or
ment was applied to the next Barnum organ, the
Waldkirch organ shops and bearing his sten-
cil, or constructed in his own New York
shop on Chatham Square, organs bearing the
nameplate of Henry S. Taylor (?-1895) were
the type most frequently offered for sale in
showmen's advertisements and auctions of
the nineteenth century. Called simply
"Taylor organs," they were frequently
referred to as "sideshow organs," the name
defining their typical place of purpose and
perhaps a general level of musical capability
(Fig. 17). A large imported sideshow organ
of the 1870s was described as having flute
and piccolo attachments, a tremolo and four
stops, in addition to two cylinders with per-
haps sixteen songs between them. The case
of it was also iron bound to protect it from
the rigors of daily handling. When the
Bunnell brothers liquidated part of the
equipment that comprised their side show
operation on the Barnum show in the early
Figure 16. The most famous circus organ wagon was the 1879 P. T. Barnum show's Orchestmelochor. It's shown here in 1891, with its top pipework and roof in a semi-elevated position. Author's collection.
1870s, one of the two organs they offered to sell was large and nearly new and was priced at $600.
13
Carousel Organ, Issue No. 4 -- July, 2000
Beyond the great organ wagons and hand organs furnishing incidental music in tents, showmen had other mechanical music features created for their patron's enjoyment. Forepaugh's 1874 museum included an automatic trumpeter and a mechanical organist who cranked a hand organ while smoking his pipe. One envisions an early savoyard-type device when reading the description. One of the Barnum show organs was decorated with mechanical figures that played with the music. It was positioned inside one of his museum tents in 1878. Among the other musical novelties that could be seen in Barnum's tents were a Gideon's band, a monkey band and a mechanical cornetist, which brought a lowly three-dollar bid when it sold at a surplus auction in 1880. In addition to the orchestrion like organs, a number of circuses procured instruments that can properly be called band organs. The American term "band organ" originated in the mid1890s. Presumably the addition of percussion devices, such as drums, cymbals, bells and chimes, caused the change from "hand" organ because the instrumentation now replicated the sound of an entire band. A second adjective, "military," was frequently applied at the same time because the pipework and percussion produced the sound of the popular military bands of the period, including brass trombones, trumpets, flutes and piccolos. While the metallic resonator organs were louder than their wood pipe counterparts, they more easily went out of tune with atmospheric changes and also attracted more interest from winged insects, which viewed the polished brass as so many points of attractive light. Quantities of bugs often clogged the pipe throats or pipe reeds after finding escape from the alluring shiny resonators to be impossible. Though most resources identify the German immigrant Eugene deKleist (1867-1913) as the first American band organ builder, the "first" American builder of larger showmen's' organs was Henry Taylor. Only a few of Taylor's smaller hand organs survive today, but as early as the 1880s he was constructing medium size barrel organs with at least 60 keys. Until the arrival of deKleist in the early 1890s, the only other American supplier of organs that may have consistently solicited showmen's' orders was the Molinari family of Brooklyn, New York. Their business seems to have focused more on the street organ trade than larger organs, but they advertised for show work in one late 1880s showmen's' guide. American circuses featured a variety of different band organ makes, there being no rationale applicable to the various acquisitions. A deKleist band organ served with the Al Bowdish circus. The Ringling Bros. World's Greatest Shows owned a 68-key cylinder-operated Frati organ, made in Berlin, and later had it converted to play continuous book music by Christopher Eifler. Perhaps the same, or another, Frati organ must have been with the Ringling-owned 1910 Forepaugh-Sells show, as they made a repair payment to Frati agent August Pollman at the beginning of the season. The Sun Bros. Circus had a medium size 58-key Wilhelm Bruder Sons organ from Waldkirch, the center of the German show organ industry, with their small railroad show. When the Barnum & Bailey show was in Europe in 1902 they had some dealings with the famous Berni brothers, buying a French brass horn organ, probably a Gavioli, from them.
Hoosier showman Ed Barlow added a North Tonawanda Musical Instrument Works military-style organ to his show in 1908. The M. L. Clark circus had a Gavioli trumpet organ mounted in a small open parade chariot and a similar conveyance carried the deKleist military trumpet instrument of the Mighty Haag show. Sig Sautelle's various circuses had organs in 1898 and 1902, and in 1912 a Gavioli military band organ with chimes, a popular attachment which added brightness and enhanced carrying power. Andrew Downie's Walter L. Main operation had a cylinder-operated deKleist military organ that was repaired by Wurlitzer in the 1910s. All of these organs were used on the circus show grounds, the Ringling unit also going in parade after its acquisition in the early 1890s. Pawnee Bill's Wild West band organ, owned by the Mighty Haag circus after 1908, was the last frequently seen and heard circus-type organ wagon, surviving until about 1914. There is some information available concerning the cost of a complete organ wagon setup which helps to explain why only the better capitalized shows fielded large organ wagons. Two Chicago individuals offered a former Barnum organ apparatus for sale in 1877 and claimed that it had originally cost $5,000. The small tableau-like organ wagon which was built for Burr Robbins in 1881 was entered on the builder's books at $700, which did not include the organ or its power source. When Pawnee Bill tried to peddle his 1904 organ outfit a few years later he recalled that it had cost $3800. Mechanical organs of the size and type which would fit an organ wagon application listed from $500 to $1500 in a Molinari catalog from the turn of the century, a time when elaborate circus tableau wagons were being constructed for between $1500 and $2000. W. C. Coup noted that bandwagons and tableaus cost $1500 to $3000 two to three decades earlier. Escalating the costs to include an elevating apparatus for a decorative top, a steam boiler and a steam engine or other portable power source, one can see that the cost of a first class organ wagon could easily have approached three to five thousand dollars. This was double to triple the cost of the louder and more traditional steam calliope, which ranged in price from $1500 to $2500 new, and from $400 to $600 at resale. The only circus organ for which a purchase price has been found is the French organ and gasoline engine which were acquired by Barnum & Bailey for 1903. A ledger entry lists the cost at the equivalent of $1543, near the top end of the range stated above. Bargains could be obtained. When two steam organs associated with Jukes were offered at two different auctions in 1882, they brought bargain winning bids of $500 and $700, perhaps 10 to 25% of their original construction price. Pawnee Bill's went at private sale for $1200 in late 1908, less than one-third of the original price only four years previous. Perhaps the largest circus band organ was a mammoth 82key North Tonawanda Musical Instrument Works mechanism which is believed to have traveled with the Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth. Probably carried in the years 19171918, it is known to us only by an entry in a 1919 inventory when it was considered surplus. It was mounted on a Mack truck chassis and was among the earliest motor trucks owned by a railroad circus. Circumstances suggest that it was very similar to a contemporary Ward Baking Company advertising unit
14
Carousel Organ, Issue No. 4 -- July, 2000
which was contained in a decorative body
constructed by the Rech-Marbaker
Company of Philadelphia, the principals
of which included former circus wagon
manufacturers Jacob Rech (1828?-1904)
and Fulton & Walker, who did circus work
as early as the 1870s. The North
Tonawanda catalog price for this 82-key
roll operated organ was $2200 to $2800.
A heavy duty motor truck cost between
$1500 and $3,000, with the decorative
body perhaps running another $500. This
may have been the most expensive circus
organ ever at between $4,500 and $7,000.
Wurlitzer is the best known of the
American band organ builders, but perhaps only two of their products were used on an American circus lot. They were the
Figure 18. The Ringling Bros. organ wagon of 1903 was manually played. It may have been the heaviest organ wagon to ever travel with an American circus. Courtesy Albert Conover collection.
two instruments which accompanied the
Playable by either a midi-disk system or a plug-in keyboard, the
C. W. Parker Carry-Us-All style merry-go-rounds on the organ is featured as an integral part of Big Apple's stellar ring
Yankee Robinson and Sells-Floto circuses in 1915 and possibly performance.
subsequent years. These were small military band organs, about
Hopefully in the near future an American circus will again
the size of a common Wurlitzer 125. Very likely they were sec- carry a melodious and imposing mechanical organ, equal to that
ond hand instruments which were selected from Parker's usual which can be seen with high quality European circuses. The
stock of instruments.
Swiss national circus, Knie, once carried an impressive art nou-
One of the last band organs carried by a railroad tent circus veau-fronted Limonaire organ of at least 66 keys. Today, Circus
was the unidentified device which toured with the 1917 or 1918 Roncalli features an enormous 96-key Ruth/Voigt organ on their
Sells-Floto Circus. Described by its unidentified manufacturer midway, surprising listeners with its smile-making melodies as
as "the biggest ever put on four wheels," the late Bill Woodcock it sits amongst the other showground memorabilia which owner
saw it in the show's parade and remembered that it endlessly Bernhard Paul has collected, restored and preserved.
ground out the then popular song "For Me and My Gal" in the
The story of American circus mechanical organs will close
menagerie tent. No tent show carried another mechanical organ with a non-mechanical example, if only to clear the air as to the
until Circus Flora featured a Pell hand organ, made in England, nature of this well-known instrument. In addition to their
at dates in 1986 and 1987, something of a return to the earliest mechanical organ, steam and air calliopes, unafons and the
menagerie practice (ed--played by Carousel Organ's Assistant Classic Cathedral Chimes from Moscow's Famed Kremlin
Editor, Angelo Rulli). Nick Weber's Royal Lichtenstein Circus Tower (actually a bell wagon made entirely within Wisconsin),
of 1991, a school show operation, carried a new Stinson-made the famous Ringling brothers also placed a conventional
Caliola, a device with a calliope-like name but which in fact is straight pipe organ in a wagon in 1903 and used it both in their
an organ with wood pipes, and sometimes, drums and a cymbal. daily street parade and in the cathedral scene of their big top
Both of these organs played perforated roll or cardboard music, spectacle "Joan of Arc" (Fig. 18). This manually played organ
respectively, readily available from various sources, and catered was built by George Kilgen of St. Louis. It had four 61-key
to nostalgic tastes, as did the small hand organ owned by the manuals, only one of which was functional, a 27-note pedal and
Russell Bros. Family Fun Circus in 1995. The famous Royal 581 speaking pipes. The instrument was housed in a truly bulky
American Shows 89-key Gavioli band organ served as entry wagon built by the Bode Wagon Company of Cincinnati that
entertainment to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's 1995 cost $1425. Despite the brothers interest in it and several efforts
Clown College graduation ceremony in Baraboo, Wisconsin. A to keep it serviceable, some inherent constructional difficulties
few years ago a major indoor circus and a large new wave cir- caused its deletion from the show after only a few years use. Ed
cus both requested the Circus World Museum staff to explore Cross, the organist, played such staples as Mendelssohn's
several options to outfit them with a significant traveling organ. "Wedding March," Sousa marches and patriotic pieces like "My
The Big Apple Circus eventually acquired a special British- Country Tis of Thee."
made organ of 44 keys. Alan Pell created the organ based upon
the design of Bob Yorburg of Mamaroneck, New York.
Fred Dahlinger, Jr. has been interested in band organs ever since he first experienced the 89-key Gavioli of the Royal American Shows about 1962. He currently serves as the Director of Collections and Research at the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin and is the author of two books and over 50 articles on circus topics. One of his Museum projects was to manage the restoration of the RAS Gavioli, bringing it back to its full musical potential. 15
Carousel Organ, Issue No. 4 -- July, 2000
The Story of Captain John Leonard's Fascination with Military Band Organs Captain John Leonard
I grew up in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and my family vaca- that it would. I think Reed was one of the very first to use
tioned at Toronto Island, just south of Toronto, an important recorded music on his carousel. About 1939 he got the organ
shipping port on Lake Ontario. Hanlan's Point, one of the three repaired by Eatons, a large department store in Toronto. I don't
sections of the island, boasted of a large amusement park in the know what they did, but the organ finally played again.
1890s. The island was a major tourist area.
Unfortunately, Reed decided not to use the organ, even though
Naturally, there was a carousel with a band organ. I recall it worked. I remember how sad I was that he wouldn't use the
riding to the park on my bicycle and listening to the organ. I organ.
don't remember any of the tunes, but remember the banging of There is a sequel to this story. About 1957 the city of Toronto
the beater hitting the big bass drum and cymbal. The carousel decided to rejuvenate the park. The carousel and building were
rounding boards had pretty scenes painted on them. One of the dismantled. They sold the carousel and organ to Eatons. I tried
boards had the words "Herschell Spillman & Co., North to locate the organ, but was not successful. They sent me on a
Tonawanda New York, USA Builders." The carousel was a wild goose chase, but I had no luck at all. I told the Carousel
two-abreast model and all the horses were rockers. There were Society and Alan Herschell III about what happened, with the
also two chariots for those who wanted to sit. One rocked and hope they would have better luck ,but never learned the organ's
the other did not.
fate. Eatons is now out of business and what happened to the
The carousel was operated by Mr. William Reed, whose nick- carousel and organ is anybody's guess.
name was "Pud." He also had a refreshment stand where he sold Hanlan's Point boasted of an honest-to-goodness amusement
pop, ice cream, and candy bars, etc. Reed always dressed in park with a three-abreast Dentzel carousel, a Wurlitzer duplex
dark and looked like a preacher. They used a real brass ring to 165 band organ, a grandstand, roller coaster, steam railroad and
offer riders a chance to win a free ride. Reed's wife sold tickets lots of other rides. The park was named for the family who set-
and he would sit on a bench and keep his eye on the entire oper- tled there in the 1850s. They established a hotel for summer vis-
ation. The operator would ring a bell to signal the start of the itors and featured all kinds of attractions such as Scuba Diving,
ride, then he would throw in the clutch to engage the carousel. etc.
As soon as the carousel was at full speed, he would walk over Like most amusement parks, the place was started by a street
and turn on the band organ, which ran by pulley off the main railway company. They ran the streetcars to the docks where
drive motor. After one tune, he would shut it off then walk back one could board a ferry to the island. There was a separate
and turn off the carousel. Not
entrance to the park so that the
a very long ride, especially on
transfer from the streetcar
a 10-tune roll, but the cost
would not permit entry to the
was only 5 cents, which I
park. The railway company
guess was quite a lot back
built the grandstand around
then. If you caught the brass
1900 and big ball games were
ring, of course you got a free
featured there. Legend has it
ride. During the great depres-
that Babe Ruth once hit a ball
sion, Pud at least kept a cou-
out of the park and into the
ple people working, which
bay. The ball was never
was a good thing.
found.
I later learned that the
In 1920 the franchise for
carousel was shipped from
the street railway reverted to
North Tonawanda, NY, to
the City of Toronto and they
Centre Island in 1914. It's cost was $2,000, but I don't
Figure1. Captain John Leonard with his freshly restored North Tonawanda Musical Instrument Works Style 173 circa 1996
decided not to renew it but rather took over the operation
know if that included the
as a government entity. At
band organ; probably not. I never saw the back of the organ but that time the company then sold the streetcars, ferryboats and
was told it only had a single roll tracker bar. I also don't know the park to the highest bidder, who was Lawrence Soloman,
what style it was but I think it was a 146 Wurlitzer. Reed told who also owned the Toronto Maple Leafs baseball team.
me the rolls cost $12 each. Sometime around 1937 he replaced Soloman arranged a deal with the city to start up a new amuse-
the music with a 78 RPM phonograph and the organ wasn't used ment park. The city-owned streetcars ran right past the location,
after that. I can still recall one of the songs: The Merry Go it was close to the lake, and easily accessible with the then
Round Broke Down. As I stood there as a child I recall wishing newly-popular automobile. The park was named Sunnyside and
16
Carousel Organ, Issue No. 4 -- July, 2000
it remains to this day. Soloman purchased a new Spillman carousel, a four-abreast model with Wurlitzer 165 band organ. The organ now resides at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Soloman also purchased a Derby (horse) Ride made by Pryor and Church which also had a Wurlitzer 165 organ. The ride has since been sold at auction and its whereabouts and the fate of the band organ are unknown. The park at Hanlan's Point was taken over by the Island Airport and Toronto Harbor Commission in 1936. The old grandstand and stadium was torn down, but the Dentzel carousel remained and a few of the other rides as well. A few of the ferryboats stayed too, but business was nothing like it was in the old days as only one boat was used. The three-abreast Dentzel carousel was kept with the Wurlitzer organ and the organ was played all the time, whether the carousel was running or not, under the new management at Hanlan's Point. It was a happy time to go and listen to the band organ play all those tunes of the 1920s, like Oh Katerina; Oh, How I Miss You Tonight; Chicago; Always; and many others. In addition, the operator, Tommy Neale, was a friendly sort and a veteran of World War I. He'd talk with me, but never let me go behind the organ. He said someone from the office might report him and he could be fired. This was the depression, and if one looked sideways at the boss, you could get fired. I spent so much time there I was beginning to be a bit of a nuisance and the park employees tried to shoo me away. I finally did get a job with a fellow who ran some of the concessions in the park. Luckily for me, I worked almost next to the carousel, so I made money and could listen to the band organ. Sort of a young fellow's version of paradise, as it were. Also, there were lots of girls around. I'd give away free candy from the Ball Game concession that I managed, so it was a happy time. I worked there all of one summer and part of the next. By this time World War II had started and I applied for a job sailing on lake boats and so around the 1st of July I reluctantly said good-bye to Al Colton and shipped out. I stayed there for two years and then joined the Canadian Navy. In 1943 I was quartermaster in the naval barracks at Toronto and had lots of time off, which was spent around Hanlan's Point. I even moonlighted for Mr. Colton on some of my days off and also for another concession stand. Tommy Neale, the carousel operator, had joined the veteran's reserve army and a new man was running the carousel. He was a conscientious objector who was a bit on the religious side. He tried to preach to me, but I just let him talk. However, he did let me go behind the organ and watch the duplex roll system work. Eventually, I was able to change the roll while the organ was playing. In 1944 I was drafted and soon was on my way to duty in the North Atlantic. One advantage to duty in this area was that I was able to dock in and out of New York City and generally, while we would be waiting, a convoy would spend 5-6 days in Staten Island. There I was able to visit Coney Island by taking the ferry for a dime. Those were the days. I had a great time riding the Steeplechase, Feltmans, and Luna Park. The organ on the carousel was a Wurlitzer 146A which was destroyed in the fire there in 1945 or so. I also got to Palisades Amusement Park and spent time listening to the big BAB band organ. The roll frame was on the outside of the organ, very unusual. I also vis-
Figure 2. A much younger Capt. John Leonard in 1962. At 39 years of age he was the proud owner of his new organ which he displayed for the first time at the Milton steam show in Milton, Ontario. ited the old B.A.B. factory in Brooklyn and the man there, I believe his name was Antonuzzi, showed me around the place and told me lots of stories. I was not sure who he was, he was a big man and smoked Italian stogeys and he knew band organs. He told me a story that one time he was called to a carnival where the owner said he was having trouble with the band organ. It apparently played at the last location, but stopped working after being moved. Upon investigation, he came to learn that when the roustabouts moved the organ into the carousel, they rolled it end over end instead of carrying it. No wonder band organs had such a short life on carnivals and the workers hated the organs. I heard another story about a band organ being thrown off a bridge as the carnival moved from one town to another. . . . when the roustabouts moved the organ into the carousel, they rolled it end over end instead of carrying it. No wonder band organs had such a short life! By 1945 the war in the Atlantic theater was over and there was quite a celebration in Halifax, Nova Scotia, that nearly ruined the city. I used to go up there to Halifax Common, where the Bill Lynch show was performing, and listen to the band organ on the carousel. It seemed to me it was a Wurlitzer 146A. Later that summer I was drafted home on leave of 60 days, prior to going to the Pacific theater. I got back to Hanlan's Point a few times, but also visited the park at Sunnyside. By that time the Wurlitzer 165 had been converted to play Caliola music rolls and a lot of the notes were missing. I could never hear the music
17
Carousel Organ, Issue No. 4 -- July, 2000
on the Derby Racer as the ride made so much noise because the offered $25 for it, perhaps I bid too low, but Ralph Tussing of
horses ran on a railroad track and it was noisy. I don't know TRT Mfg. Co., told me, at that time, that's about all it was
what happened to this organ. The park was dismantled about worth. I did not see the organ again for about 25 years and by
1957 and as I was walking through the park I saw a roll frame that time I had been promoted to first mate on the ships and one
laying on the ground, but it was from a Wurlitzer 150. That's all day I took some time off to go over to the island and look at the
that remained from that beautiful organ.
place where I had spent so much time in my youth.
As it turned out, I did not go to the Pacific theater because It sure was sad. The carousel was still there, but nobody was
when I returned from leave the Japanese had surrendered and around. Vandals had stripped just about everything off of it. The
the war was finally over. By October I was a civilian and organ was only a shell, just the four sides. I couldn't find any-
returned to sailing. The years that followed did not allow much thing except a tracker bar, which I put in my pocket as a sou-
opportunity to listen to band organs. But I made one last visit to venir. I turned the carousel by hand and got on for "one last
Hanlan's Point in the summer of 1947. I had a couple weeks off ride." I don't know what happened to it, but there were some
plans around from Alan Herschell Co. and I
heard that the carousel went to Knott's
Berry Farm in California in 1961, but I real-
ly don't think that's happened.
Today I live in what was formerly known
as Port Dalhousie, on Lake Ontario, which
is the port that I sailed out of when I first
got in the business in 1941. At that time I
worked a passenger ship. Today the port is
known as St. Catharines, but we prefer to
still call it Port Dalhousie. In days gone by
there was an amusement park here with lots
of rides and a four-abreast carousel with
working band organ. When I was off duty I
would go to the park and listen to the band
organ. It played style 150 rolls and had the
Figure 3. Capt. John's North Tonawanda Military Band Organ with actor Robert Redford on name Wurlitzer stenciled on the faзade.
the set of The Natural. While the organ wasn't actually seen in the movie the music from the Later I learned it was really a Frati organ
organ was used in the background.
which was built in Berlin, Germany. I don't
and spent some time around the old carousel. The organ still know what the real story was, but I suppose the organ was
played on the Dentzel carousel. By that time Tommy Neale was imported to America then sent to Wurlitzer where it was
a mate on one of the ferry boats to the island. After that I was changed to the roll system. It originally was a barrel organ and
off to the lake boats again and never saw the carousel or band the door to gain access to the barrel was still on the side of the
organ after that. One time in 1949 the ship I was on came into organ.
Toronto with a load of grain about 10:00 at night and I looked
Back in the old days (1941), the C.N. Railway owned the
over towards Hanlan's Point and could see the old carousel run- park. Later, about 1950, they sold the park to Sid Brookson,
ning and the lights twinkling; but I didn't have the chance to get who was the agent in the park. Brookson maintained the park,
off the ship as I had to prepare it for unloading.
to his everlasting credit. As he got older, he sold off the amuse-
During this time of my life I had a long period with some- ment rides, except for the carousel. After a lot of dickering, the
thing that affects a lot of sailors, alcohol, and I was no excep- city finally purchased the carousel for $20,000. The citizens had
tion. I spent many a night ashore in a bar soaking up the suds. to come up with the money before the city would buy the
Eventually I had to seek treatment and I have been sober since, carousel. They did this with walk-a-thons, public subscriptions,
for which I am grateful. One time between jobs (which was a etc. Finally, they got the money and the city bought it. They
frequent problem in those days), I returned to Hanlan's Point asked Fred Fried, the noted carousel authority, for assistance in
where I saw the carousel still running, but without a band organ. determining who made it and he said "Looff." He was partly
The man running it told me the organ was broken and couldn't right, but not totally. The maker of the framework, platform,
be fixed. I think I know what happened. You see, in those early rounding boards and machinery was actually Geo.Kremner of
days they had a man by the name of Horace Malton repair the Long Island City, NY. However, the animals were made by
organ. But by this time Malton had retired and there was no one Looff. The carousel sits in the park today with its cannibalized
to repair the organ. In Canada at that time there were church band organ.
organ experts, but they did not know how to repair band organs. I had another shipping job in the 1950s and we would go into
Malton was unique because he was able to repair either. I wrote Port Dalhousie. I was first mate and I would go listen to the
to the street railway company, owner of the park, and offered to organ when we were in port. I knew the park foreman and he let
buy the band organ, but they declined, saying they were going me look at the organ, even the back. We reciprocated by pro-
to repair it themselves. As it turned out, they never did. I only viding the grease necessary for the organ gearwork. One time
18
they broke a gear wheel so we sent it to the ship's machine shop for new teeth, gratis, in exchange for their friendliness. All around it was a good deal. At that time there was a lot of vandalism at the park. They broke into the carousel and smashed the carved organ figures. This prompted an article in the newspaper and it garnered lots of publicity. A local art teacher arranged for her students to help restore and redecorate the facade and figures. This was a great improvement and fostered even more interest in the carousel and organ. At that time I finally decided "I am going to buy an organ." In 1955 I wrote to Ralph Tussing and noted that I was looking for a Wurlitzer 165. I thought that if they abused the old organ at Hanlans Point, there would be lots of 165s around. Tussing wrote back to say that he had just sold a 165 to a Mr. Walton in Mentor, Ohio, and he didn't have any other 165s, but he did have others and so he invited me to pay a visit. At that time I didn't have a car or license to drive so I couldn't do it. However, that summer I did have a month off and a friend was driving to New York City and I asked if I could go along. So off we went. When in NY I went to the old B.A.B. factory and saw Mr. Brugliatti (I think that was his name) about buying an organ. They had what looked like a Wurlitzer 146A but they had changed the roll system. I asked how much and he said $2,500. Of course I had no where near that much money, so I said I'd be back and left. I decided I was going to have that organ so back to work I went to save the money. I worked two jobs that year and the following summer I had the money to buy the organ. A friend went with me to New York City; alas, when we got to the B.A.B. factory we learned the organ had been sold! He did have a smaller organ, equivalent to a style 125 with wooden pipes and he was asking $750 for it, but it was not my kind of organ. He played a big Gavioli organ in his shop and told me it was the same type as the one at Euclid Beach, Cleveland, Ohio, but that isn't what I wanted either. I don't know why I didn't buy any of the B.A.B. organs, but I guess I thought it would be too hard to get rolls and ship them to Canada. At that time there was quite a high duty charged by Canadian Customs on band organs. One had to pay extra as they were classified as "amusement devices." Today they are classified as antiques and no duty is required. I again contacted Ralph Tussing at TRT Mfg. Co. in North Tonawanda, NY. So one day a friend and I visited Tussing and he showed me an organ for sale, although he didn't know the maker. He thought it was an Artizan, I thought it was a Wurlitzer. I liked the price and bought it. I had to save some money and he agreed to keep it until I returned. When I did he mentioned that he had an organ that would be $100 cheaper. He played it for me and because it had brass trumpets, I liked it even better so I bought that instead (Figures 1 - 3). Because I had never imported anything into Canada, I had a lot to learn. Tussing had all the paperwork done, but it was for export, not import into Canada. It turned out the paperwork was no good at all. So the battle began. The Customs authorities didn't believe me. They phoned Tussing (at my expense). He confirmed that I bought the organ from him. They wanted to
Carousel Organ, Issue No. 4 -- July, 2000 Figure 4. The Wurlitzer Style 125 band organ featured on the carousel at the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum was formerly in the collection of Captain John Leonard. know the value of the organ - I think he told them $1,000. They charged me extra because it was an amusement machine. They also charged me duty on the rolls: $3.27 per roll.. Tussing told me that when carnival people used to buy rolls, they would rub them in grease and dirt so they would look used and they'd get away not paying the duty, but I wasn't that smart. I took the organ to Toronto and put it in my dad's garage. Later I moved it to a storage garage and finally to my farm in St. Catharines. I rented the farm and the renter watched the organ for me while I was at sea. That year I made it to the rank of captain so I didn't have any time to take out the organ, but I did play it whenever I was at the farm. Finally, in 1962, I took the organ out for the first time to a steam show in Milton, Ontario. I guess it was a hit as they asked me to come back the next year. Later I bought two band organs from a carnival operator. One was a Wurlitzer 125 and the other a Wurltizer 146A. I got them real cheap and then had Tussing at TRT Mfg. Co. repair them and again had to go through all the hassle to get them into Canada. To make it worse, I also had trouble getting them out of the USA. Had to hire a bonded carrier, etc., etc., but finally got them home. For years I wouldn't take the organs into the U.S., but finally things changed and for the past 25 years or so I've had no trouble getting the organs out of and back into Canada. I sold the two Wurlitzers that I bought from the carnival. The 125 is now on the carousel at North Tonawanda (Fig. 4) and the other I bought back just last year for quite a bit more than I paid for it years ago. For the past quarter century I've had the good fortune to travel to many band organs, mostly in the U.S.A. The friends I've met has made it all worth while. I wouldn't trade any it for the world, what with all the good friends and good times. So I will leave you now, even though I haven't said enough. But then I never will!
Captain John Leonard and his wife, Pauline, live in Port Dalhousie, Ontario. Capt. John is a frequent visitor to organ rallies in the states, attending both Mid-Am as well as COAA rallies. 19
Carousel Organ, Issue No. 4 -- July, 2000
MARION ROEHL RECORDINGS
- Some Reflections -
Harvey Roehl
In 1980, when The Vestal Press was still going strong, Marion and I decided to have another sideline business of making recordings of some of our mechanical music
Of course carnivals were never the source of much wholesale business; their stock in trade is cheap schlock. But the carnival managers and owners bought from us for their personal
machines. This was done completely independently of The use, and every year many "regulars" would stop at our booth
Vestal Press, with the required capital coming from our own and ask "what's new?" Besides, it gave us an excuse to have a
pockets. Why did we call it Marion Roehl Recordings? I don't nice Florida trip each February when we desperately needed a
know; we could have called it Osopeachy Productions or some- couple of weeks of sunshine!
thing cutesy like that, or maybe it was plain vanity. But that's
As for markets, we never did anything with recordings of
what we did.
reproducing pianos, on the theory that to the general public, the
From the beginning, we decided to produce what we thought finest example of perfect reenactment of any artist is just so
could be sold to the general public, and not necessarily to the much more piano music. A market that took us by surprise were
hobbyists. Only by so doing would we be able to generate any sales to the amateur clowns. When we brought out our record-
volume of business, and we knew that that volume would have ings of calliope music, we figured that circus fans would be the
to come from the gift-shop and souvenir shop trade. We also source of great sales. It turned out that this never amounted to
knew that to meet the requirements of this trade, good artwork much, but sales to the amateur clowns were terrific. How come?
for the covers of the products was vital, so we paid plenty of There are a huge number of folks involved in amateur clowning
money over the years for this. What do I mean by good art- for kid's parties, and they all want background music. There's a
work? I mean that whatever is on the cover that might catch the high-quality fancy magazine, Laugh Makers, devoted exclu-
glimpse of the casual stroller down the aisle of a gift shop must sively to amateur clowning. There are a number of catalog out-
instantly tell what the products is about, hopefully to the extent fits that do nothing but supply this market, and once we got into
that he or she will be sufficiently attracted at least to walk over, one or two of these catalogs, the rest of them followed suit. A
pick it up and look at it.
smaller spin-off of this
We soon learned that the first thing
was magicians, who often
this casual "looker" does is examine
want background music
the tune list. If well-known titles
for what they do and some
aren't there, it goes right back on the
of our stuff seemed to
rack! Never mind that some really
appeal. Several catalog
terrific musical arrangements are
outfits cater to both
present; if the prospect has never
groups. This leads to
heard of the tune(s) chances are the
copyright matters. When
gift shop or souvenir stand has lost a
we first started doing
sale. The hobbyists don't care -- if
recordings, we didn't pay
word gets around that such-and-such
much attention to copy-
a CD or cassette has some terrific
rights--but it was soon
stuff on it, they're going to buy it.
obvious that now that our
Hearing is believing. We became
materials were getting
members of the Carnie's organization
"out there" in some vol-
in order to be able to have a booth at Figure 1. A sampling of the CDs and cassette tapes produced by ume we'd better make
their trade show, held each year in Marion Roehl Recordings.
sure we paid applicable
February in Gibsonton, Florida. We
royalties. What we
made sure we had simple equipment that would permit secured was the right to sell the product, and this in turn gave
prospect-listening with a cheap headset, and this is the key. the buyer the rights to use the CD or cassette for personal, pri-
Listen to these and other recordings with a headset and you vate use.
think you're in a studio! It was always fun to watch folk's
As far as was reasonably possible, we tried to use public
expressions. More often than not, an "I'll believe it when I hear domain material, and in the case of the amateur clown market
it" look on a person's face turned to a big smile and they'd sug- this turned out to be important. What our royalty payments did
gest hubby or wife listen, too, and then the sale was made. A not do, and over which we had no control anyway, was the right
SONY Walkman and a headset work wonders. A "boom box" for the buyer to use the recordings for commercial purposes.
couldn't work that way. With its tiny speakers the impression About the last thing a lady doing amateur clowning for kid's
can never be the same, and the folks in the neighboring booths parties needs is to be hassled by ASCAP for using copyrighted
wouldn't tolerate it for long, either.
materials without paying a fee for so doing! So we made sure
20
our "Clown and Calliope" materials and most of the carousel music recordings were strictly public domain, and clearly labeled as such. This turned out to be a great sales help. Of course the flip side is that tunes most likely to be known by the public may not be available, but for party background music this isn't a factor. On the other hand, a product like "Christmas Carousel Music" almost has to have tunes like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and White Christmas for which royalties are applicable. Without these one is stuck with mainly hymn-type material. And by the way, for those readers who are familiar with the product line, when Wayne Holton arranged Ave Maria for the Wurlitzer 150 carousel organ roll, I couldn't help but wonder if we'd aggravate the Romans amongst us! Turns out it was done so beautifully that we got tons of positive feedback on the selection, from everywhere. I enjoy saying that I never owned a microphone. We could have invested in recording equipment and learned how to use it properly, but we elected to bring in professional recording persons to do that work. We'd get the instrument all ready, have our music all set to go, and then let a properly qualified person "do his thing." This way we always had the benefit of "state of the art" knowledge and equipment; our time was better spent on the instruments themselves and the preparation of the music. The actual production of the recordings, based on the master tapes our recording man would provide, was done by a huge TimeWarner plant, located about 60 miles south of Vestal. We never got beyond the shipping dock so never did see the inside of the place, but we were told they had the capacity of producing a million CDs every 24 hours! And it's easy to believe, based on the number of 18-wheelers lined up ready to take away products. We'd squeeze Marion's minivan between them, pick up maybe 1,000 or 2,000 items, and be on our way. One day a stranger to us, Larry Kilmer, sent us some 78 rpm records we'd never seen or known of before, records made by the Herschell-Spillman Company. They were all carousel music, and we soon found out that they were made by that firm to be used with their "Merry-Org"-- a jukebox-looking device that was really a sound system played from a record player. Apparently the idea was for the operator being able to get away from having to maintain a band organ. The man doing our "sound work" at the time said he could "clean them up" considerably (they had plenty of scratch and wear) so we went ahead and produced Historic Carousel Music. Later we learned that Dick Bowker had a complete set of the originals that he had purchased when in high school. Dick loaned his like-new 78's to us, with the stipulation that we hand-pick-them-up and hand-return them, which we were delighted to do even though it meant two all-day trips to Pittsburgh. We eventually produced a CD from these. We never did find out what the organ was that had been used for the recording, but the rolls were obviously Wurlitzer 165. Maybe a reader can fill in this mystery for us! All sorts of interesting little sidelights turn up in every business. As car buff, I was quite intrigued by the little-known exis-
Carousel Organ, Issue No. 4 -- July, 2000 tence of the Dodge Brothers March, of which I acquired a copy of the sheet music, written by Victor Herbert in 1920. The fact that Herbert was the writer instead of Joe Schmoe led me to dig into the story. It seems that Horace Dodge, one of the two Dodge Brothers of automotive fame, was by the early `teens a very wealthy man and he was a patron of the arts in Detroit. Whether he was paid to write the March or did it out of good will I don't know, but in any event the tune is "dedicated to Horace Dodge!" A lady associated with the archives of the Dodge mansion was very helpful; she was able to get for me from Chrysler's files Xerox copies of some internal dealeR Newsletters of the day. The march was first performed at a big Dodge dealer's convention in New York City in 1920; some 1,000 dealers from all over were there. Herbert himself conducted the Dodge Brothers band, made up on Dodge employees. Neither John or Horace Dodge heard it; they both died earlier that same year. Each dealer received copies of the march, as well as some 78rpm records, and it was predicted that soon everyone in America would be whistling the tune "to the benefit of everyone in the Dodge business"--whereupon it was promptly forgotten. Until, that is, when we engaged Tom Meijer of the Netherlands to arrange it for us for our 57-key Gavioli, for a production to be titled Fair Organ Follies. This, together with the other gems prepared for us by this wizard noteur made probably the best production we did. And you know what? We went to the factory to get our order and the next day the new owner came and took them away so we really never had the fun of promoting it ourselves, though it has done very well. We did all our marketing via telephone, though had we been 20 years younger we'd have gone to gift shows. We developed all the business we wanted, operating out of our home with little or no overhead costs, but to build up good volume in the gift shop and tourist souvenir trade one really should get to these shows. In spite of this, we developed a very good relationship with many gift shop owners and managers; folks we never met in person and probably never will. To do business with a prospect, I had to make "cold calls" and I'm pleased to report that not one person ever slammed the receiver on me. Maybe one in 4 or 5 was willing to accept some samples, and maybe 1 in 3 of these eventually became a customer. One big frustration was turnover of shop managers in the bigger outlets--often we'd develop a nice relationship with a shop manager, only to have him or her leave and the replacement wouldn't give us the time of day. Others, on the other hand, were more or less permanent and welcomed our calls. We could tell from our files about when the time was ripe to give them a call. If the business was so neat and profitable, why did we sell it? Very simple. It ties one down, and we couldn't travel as much as we would like to have. We developed several fine prospects to take it over, but for one reason or another they had to back off and for very logical reasons other than the nature of what we had to offer. We eventually sold it to Dave Miner in Iowa, and he reports that they're doing well with it and that's good news for both of us! Try his web site; www.minermfgco.com Click on Recordings and you'll see the whole list!
Harvey and Marion Roehl have succeeded in collecting a great all-around selection of mechanical musical instruments; founded and headed the Vestal Press; and provided carousel music via Marion Roehl Recordings. 21
Carousel Organ, Issue No. 4 -- July, 2000
Gebroeders Decap -- Antwerpen, Belgie A Short History Roger Mostmans
The origins of the Gebroeders Decap firm
1914 he owned five organs which together brought in 900
The Gebroeders Decap (Decap Brothers) organ building busi- Belgian Francs rental income a month. When the First World
ness was founded by Alois Decap who was born on the 4th War broke out his mule was requisitioned by the army. Later he
February 1864. He was one of the five sons of farmer Livien acquired a horse to move the organs around with.
Decap and his wife Sophie Mortier. Alois married Emma Alois Decap's marriage produced six children; Firmin was
Verhaege, a daughter of Ludovicus Verhaege and Henrica born in Merckem, Livien and Maria in Ekeren, and Frans, Lйon
Mortier. It is worth mentioning that both Alois Decap's mother and Camille were all born in the Esschenstraat in Antwerp, on
and mother-in-law were called
Mortier. Given that the surname
Mortier is not common in
Belgium, it is possible that there
was a family connection with the
famous organ builder Theofiel
Mortier, especially as he was born
in the same region as Sophie and
Henrica.
Around 1888 Alois came with
his wife and son Firmin to
Ekeren, near Antwerp. Alois'
brother Armandus also moved to
the Antwerp area where he made
melodeons, a kind of accordion.
At first Alois worked the land,
and to augment his earnings,
played the accordion at fairs and
in cafйs. When his son Firmin
was old enough, he went along Figure 1. The Gebroeders Decap family tree.
with his father; this is how they
both came into contact with mechanical organs. Around 1895 the site where the organ business would later be established.
Alois began renting out and dealing in small organs which at The company is still at this same location today, although the
first were delivered by dog cart and later by a mule and cart. By street has been re-named Essenstraat.
Livien, Frans, Lйon and Camille would later form the Decap
Brothers Company. Firmin became a bargee, Maria a house-
wife.
Alois Decap and his son Livien began building organs in the
Essenstraat in 1902, initially in a modest workshop. Shortly
after the First World War a partnership was formed after which
the business was officially conducted under the Decap Brothers
name.
The Decap Brothers established a true family business in
which not only the first and second generations were involved,
but also the third and fourth.
It is worth mentioning that Camille Decap's father-in-law
made the three-wheeled carts for the many street organs which
were built and exported to the Netherlands in the 1920's.
Frans Decap left the company in 1933; Livien retired in 1955
and Lйon in 1970. In 1944 Camille Decap's son-in-law, Louis
Mostmans joined the firm. He was a furniture maker by trade
and specialized in making organ cases, fronts and later pipes.
Figure 2. A 52 key Decap street organ.
Camille Decap took over the firm in 1970 and turned it into a limited liability partnership (PVBA). Camille's grandson
22
Carousel Organ, Issue No. 4 -- July, 2000 Decap organs always have an extensive rhythm section comprising of a full drum kit and extra percussion instruments such as wood block, tambourine, temple blocks, maracas, etc., so that all dance rhythms can be achieved. Some organs include real xylophones or glockenspiels. In 1953 we first used electronic sound-production in our organs and since then the use of electronics has become commonplace in them. Electronic control systems to replace perforated cardboard (with obvious advantages for commercial users) have also been introduced. Not withstanding these modern developments, the old pneumatic technology has remained, and in 1989 we began building traditional full pipe organs again. Figure 3. A historical photograph showing the 105-key Dancing Star dance organ on location in a dance hall. Roger Mostmans joined the company in 1972. Since the death of Camille Decap in 1974, his daughter Martha, her husband Louis Mostmans and son Roger have formed the core of the business. In 1997 Decap Brothers became a limited company (NV). Characteristics of the Decap organ Decap Brothers have continuously tried to give their organs a unique character. Decap organs are immediately recognizable by their sound as well as their outward appearance.
Decap organs are immediately recognizable by their sound . . . In 1933 the first self-playing accordions were introduced onto the organs; two years later in 1935 the first full drum kit was incorporated into an organ front. The next year, 1936, dummy saxophones were added to the fronts. In 1943 the wind supply was changed over from the traditional bellows to electric blowers, and the book wheel, enabling continuous play, was introduced in 1955. Figure 4. Three action figures adorn the front of this 92 key Robot Organ.
Figure 5. A 2000 (Retrostyle) midi dance organ. The instruments In 1902 Alois Decap and his son Livien founded an organ business which would grow to be one of the largest of its kind in Belgium. At first they only repaired organs which they hired out, but later began to build fair organs for other customers. Gradually, the product range grew and over the years included roll and book playing orchestrions, fair organs, street organs, dance organs, electronic organs, Robot organs and combination pipe and electronic organs. Eventually the scales and dispositions of the various instruments were standardized. The company built 72, 92 and 121 key pipe organs; 72, 92 and 105 key electronic organs; 92 and 105 key Robot organs and 105 key combination pipe and electronic organs. In the 1980s computer control was introduced, as were accordion-playing figures; since 1989 52 -key street organs have also been made. The first MIDI computer-controlled organ was built in 1996.
Roger Mostmans is the great grandson of Alois Decap and has helped run the Gebroeders Decap firm since 1972. He resides in Antwerp, Belgium, where the tradition of organ building continues. 23
Carousel Organ, Issue No. 4 -- July, 2000 Emmett Kelly Jr. Clown Festival & COAA Band Organ Rally Houston, Missouri Ron Bopp Over 50 members of the COAA met in Houston, Missouri to initiate the new organ rally season on May 5 and 6, 2000. Eight large organs and as many or more smaller cart organs added to the festivities of the Emmett Kelly Jr. Clown Festival. 30 to 40 clown circulated in the main street of Houston entertaining vis-
Figure 4. Paul Dyer's Dyer 165 attracted attention from festival onlookers.
Figure 1. Emmett Kelly Jr. taking a rest on the 1950s fire truck which he and his son, Joey, rode in the festive clown parade. itors. Of course, the big draw was Emmett Kelly Jr. and his son, Joey. Emmett Kelly Jr. comes from his home in Arizona every hear to help his home town of Houston with this festive event.
Rain? Well we did experience some Saturday but only in light amounts. It was the heavy rain in other parts of Missouri that bothered Eastern COAA members in their trip home as Highway 44 was impassible due to the flooding in the St. Louis area. Figure 5. Tom and Kay Bode crank matching OGM organs.
COAA members played their organs Friday afternoon and evening and were then treated to a barbeque dinner at Emmett Kelly Jr. Park, which was sponsored by the Houston Chamber of Commerce.
Figure 2. Joe and Emmett Kelly Jr. appear early in the day as plain `folks.' Photo by Mark Mitchell
Saturday we played all day until the crowd dwindled in the late afternoon. Saturday evening we enjoyed a sumptuous buffet at the Golden Hills Trail Rides Resort, conducted a business meeting (presided over by President Terry Hauthawout) and then enjoyed a batch of photographic slides of organs and rallies in the past by Ron Bopp.
Figure 3. Dale Heller and grandson enjoyed playing for the visitors. 24
Figure 6. "Faces in the crowd!"
Carousel Organ, Issue No. 4 -- July, 2000
Do you have something for the Carousel Organ? All items (of interest to our readers) are welcome for inclusion in one of the forthcoming issues of the Carousel Organ. Please submit photos, articles, newspaper clippings, or what-have-you to Ron Bopp, 55801 E 365, Jay, OK 74346 or by email: [email protected] Phone: 918-786-4988 Fax: 918-786-8049
Carousel Organ Advertising Rates
Business Card: 1/4 page:
$20.00
All
$45.00 rates are for
1/2 page: One Page:
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$150.00
issues
The Great Canadian Nickelodeon Co. Ltd Restorers of all Automated Musical Instruments RR#4, Mount Forest Ontario, Canada. NOG 2LO
Send check and ad copy to: Marge Waters 7552 Beach Rd Wadsworth, OH 44281
Phone 1 519 323 3582
Fax 1 519 323 0309
Email [email protected] & [email protected]
Web Page; http://members.aol.com/tgcnc/
Ron Bopp author of The American Carousel Organ · Photographic Encyclopedia · 308 pages, 450 illustrations, CD · $59.00 plus $5.00 postage ($45.00 without CD plus $3.00 post) Bopp's Carousel Music, 55801 E 365, Jay, OK 74346 25
Discover the Happiest Music on Earth! Band Organs, Fairground Organs, Dance Organs& Monkey Organs Bought -- Sold -- Traded Free Advice Given to All! Tim Trager, 3500 Spring Road Oak Brook, Illinois 60523 Tel: 630-654-1145 Fax: 630-654-3006 E-Mail: [email protected]
Carousel Organ, Issue No. 4 -- July, 2000 Gene "Doc" Headley
Doc Headley, faithful attendee of all organ rallies in the mid-portion of the country, passed away on May 15, 2000 at the age of 67. Known for his sturdy laugh and firm handshake, Doc was recognized for his calliope/fire truck combination as well as his smaller version, a Pell organ mounted on a golf cart -- all bearing the familiar slogan "Same Day Service, The Headleys." Recently he had acquired a new Stinson organ. Doc leaves behind his wife, Phyllis, and one son and three daughters. In addition to mechanical music he was very involved with community affairs as well as having a love of antique tractors and farm equipment. MECHANICALMUSICBOX.COM
Finest Restorations Pipework Alan S. Erb (PE.ME) 2318 Tahiti Street Hayward, CA 94545 510-783-506
--or--
4019 Ponderosa Dr. Carson City, NV 89701 702-883-6494
Dick's Antique Music Repair Richard Lokemoen Restorer of Historic Musical Instruments since 1968 Workshop/Shipping Address: 703 LAKE STREET MERRIL WI 54452-1566 Mailing Address: 1600 E SEVENTH STREET MERRIL WI 54452-1645 Phone: (715) 536-1906 ORGELN -- fur Gott und die Welt Heinz Jaeger & Wolfgang Brommer Master Organbuilders
Angelo Rulli Purveyor of Pell & Le Ludion crank organs Collector of organ grinder collectibles 651-407-0101 Band Organs Style 105 SP 44 keys with Snare Drum Bass Drum and Cymbal Plays Wurlitzer 125 Rolls Johnson Organ Co., Inc P. O. Box 1228 Fargo, North Dakoka 58107 701-237-0488
am Gewerbekanal 5
Fax: 001149-/681-9370
D-79183 Waldkirch, Germany
[email protected]
http://www.t-online.de/home/jaegerbrommer
26
Carousel Organ, Issue No. 4 -- July, 2000 27
Carousel Organ, Issue No. 4 -- July, 2000
Meet Your Member
Bill Water's musical interest started
As new collectors, we made the usual
with his playing a violin as a child and
mistakes in purchasing mechanical music.
continues with his membership in the
Eventually, after spending many enjoyable,
Shrine Drum and Bugle Corp., in which he
happy and informative hours with Carvel
plays a drum. Bill's interest has always
Stotts and his lovely wife Helen, we pur-
been the large organs, beginning with his
chased the Stinson 165 that has been taken
childhood memories of going to his
to every Mid-Am Organ Rally (MBSI) since
father's company picnic, which was
1986 when it was purchased. In addition, our
always at Euclid Beach Park in Cleveland.
collection now includes a number of
Bill was fascinated with the Gavioli and
organettes (for many years we rarely came
Wurlitzer organs that were in the skating
away from a mart that one was not pur-
rink and on the carousel.
chased).
Our interest peeked when we attended
The friends we have made through the
the Pumpkin Festival in Circleville, Ohio a
musical organizations are some of the best
couple years after we were married and saw a huge block long organ (we have no idea who the maker was, but the facade
Marge and Bill Waters proudly play their Stinson 165 band organ.
anyone could ever ask for. We have never encountered anyone who would not share their knowledge and graciously open their
was very ornate and the music great). The beginning of our collection homes to let the groups see their collections.
of music was a Story and Clark pump organ which Bill purchased at an
When the Carousel Organ Association of America was organized,
auction for twenty dollars and for several years we tried to "corner the we knew there was a need for an organization that specialized in out-
market" on pump organs, several of which we still have. Shortly after door mechanical music and of course joined immediately. We look
the first pump organ was purchased, we joined the Music Box Society forward to many years of great organ rallies organized by the huge
and from that time on, the Waters family never missed the annual Mid- number of knowledgeable and fun members!
Am Chapter Organ Rally.
Another COAA Rally -- Bearcreek Farms
Kim Pontius has arranged for the third COAA rally of this year. It will be held at the Bearcreek Farms in Bryant, Indiana. The rally is scheduled for July 28, 29 and 30. Registration is $5.00 per person and your check and information (including what type of organ you are bringing and what electrical requirements you need) should be sent to Kim at 230 Woodland Drive, Hartford City, IN 47346. Bearcreek Farms is 200 acres of fun including an antique village (Bloomfield), the Tin Lizzie Museum (classic cars) and a country fair complete with a restored Chance carousel. In addition Swiss Days celebration is being held in nearby Berne, IN. Motel reservations may be made at the Bluffton Motor In (219-824-5553) in Bluffton, IN. This is 25 miles from the rally site and the nearest motel with rooms available. Camping reservations may be made with Bearcreek Farms and may be made with Carla at 219-997-6823.
Organ Rally Dates
Event Mid-America (MBSI) Annual Band Organ Rally
Location Crossroads Village Flint, MI
Contact Person Sharon & Carl Curtis 734-428-0268
Date July 20 - 22, 2000
COAA Organ Rally Bearcreek Farms
Bearcreek Farms Bryant, IN
Kim Pontius 765-348-0107
July 28 - 30, 2000
COAA/Snowbelt (MBSI) Pioneer Power Show
LeSueur, MN
Ralph Schultz 612-873-6704
Aug. 26 - 27, 2000
Heart of America (AMICA) Old Threshers Reunion
Mt. Pleasant, IA
Gary Craig 314-771-1244
Sept. 1 - 3, 2000
Mid-America (MBSI) Monkey Organ Rally
Sandusky, OH
Bill & Marge Waters 330-334-1344
Sept. 8 - 9, 2000
Fullerton Arborfest and Band Organ Rally
Fullerton, CA 28
Frank Nix 818-884-6849
Mid-Oct., 2000

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