Turn-of-the-century skating rinks, carousels, dance halls, fairs, carnivals, theaters and resorts were richly filled with the lively, measured music of the band organ. This loud-voiced pipe organ is equipped with percussion devices. It is mechanically operated using pre-arranged music on perforated cylinders, books or rolls, much like a player piano. A remarkable machine, it dominated the entertainment centers until replaced by the amplified phonograph around 1928.
Less than 10,000 band organs—often confused with the very different steam whistle circus calliope—were built in the United States. The first was by Eugene deKleist in 1891 in North Tonowanda, New York.
In 1858, Franz Rudolph Wurlitzer arrived in Cincinnati, Ohio. He came from Germany where his family had built musical instruments. He and his sons soon became the leading instrument manufacturers and retailers in this country.
Wurlitzer purchased the deKleist factory in 1908 and by 1935, had 18 different styles of band organs in production. They discontinued the instrument in 1939.
City Park Carousel Band Organ
The fate of #72’s original band organ (not included in the 1914 purchase) is unknown. Records and tapes provided music for the carousel from 1940 until a community fundraising effort made the purchase and restoration of a band organ possible.
The City Park Carousel Band Organ is a 1920 Wurlitzer “Old Style” 146 Military Band Organ. Wurlitzer sold 29 of these organs—the most of any style shipped that year—for $1,025 each. Serial #3293 was in a group of 10 sold to the Herschell-Spillman Carousel Company of North Tonowanda.
It was installed in a Washington D.C. area carousel where it remained until 1972 when it was acquired by a collector near Chicago.
The Committee purchased #3293 and restored it at a cost of approximately $25,000. It was dedicated May 24, 1989 in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the C.W. Park #72 Carousel.
The Instrumentation consists of:
- Bass and snare drums, one cymbal, sixteen octave violin pipes which are outside and visible.
- Three wooden trombones, three octave stopped basses, fifteen wooden trumpets, fifteen stopped flue pipes, sixteen violin pipes and nine open pipes, all inside.
- Three open bass pipes, ten stopped accompaniment pipes and sixteen stopped melody pipes at the bottom.
- Three stops—one for trumpets, one for stopped flute and one for inside violin.