by Christine Lorraine Morgan ~ April 5, 2022
It’s easy to forget what year it is when wandering through the timeless musical displays housed within the walls of DeBence Anqitue Music World in Franklin, PA. The instruments, machines and technological masterpieces of sound conveyance envelope visitors in their yesteryear sounds.
One of the larger, more memorable instruments at DeBence is the Wurlitzer Model 153, a mechanized one-man band of sorts. It is pretty easy to single out due to its colorful uniqueness.
The tag in front reads, “Wurlitzer Model 153 Dated 1919” on this duplex orchestral band organ. It was constructed in North Tonawanda, NY by the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company. This dandy specimen of musical history is an organ with 54 keys that play 46 notes, accompanied by a cymbal and two drums. There are 164 organ pipes because some of the keys are designated to more than one pipe.
It also contains a glockenspiel, which is visible in the lower half of the band organ. It is said that this particular model of Wurlitzer evolved into the standard by which other merry-go-round organs were judged.
Between 1916 and 1936, about 169 of these spectacular, unique music machines were built.
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Imagine how refined this Zenith Cobra-Matic radio phonograph looked in the parlor back in 1951. This relic from mid-20th century audio technology looks new and ready to play a stack of records, although according to the Cobra-Matic advertisement below the photo, it was ready to handle the “coming new 16 R.P.M.”
A great way to march to the beat of a rare and unusual drummer would be with this dandy Wurlitzer Model 148, which came from Tonawanda, NY. This 49-key organ plays 46 notes total, with rhythm provided by two drums and a cymbal! It boasts 129 brass pipes, 15 trumpets, 3 trombones, 16 piccolos and 16 clarinets.
Only 46 Model 148s were ever built, all between 1916 and 1936. It operates similar to a player piano, by reading a paper roll with holes punched into it. Amazingly, this particular model operates with two tracker frames, enabling it to play continuously because while one is rewinding the other is playing.
Price tag was around $1,050, which was a small fortune in the 1920s. The model on display at DeBence museum was previously utilized at a western PA skating rink until the mid-1930s in the Stoneboro/Sandy Lake area.