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MMD > Archives > September 2001 > 2001.09.10 > 01Prev  Next

Mechanical Music at 1901 Pan-American Exposition
By Tim Trager

The 1901 Pan-American Exposition was important for mechanical music
in that it showcased a mechanical instrument made for Wurlitzer, then
headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, called the Tonophone.  The North
Tonawanda Barrel-Organ Factory which was headed by Eugene de Kleist
designed and built the instrument for Wurlitzer.

The instrument was a coin-operated automatic piano played by a pinned
cylinder, but instead of being operated by direct mechanical linkages,
the Tonophone was pneumatically operated.  The cylinder pins lifted
levers which opened valves to a pneumatic mechanism which operated the
piano.  The Tonophone was a success at the exposition and won a gold
metal!  It was also a commercial success too.

Initially the North Tonawanda Barrel-Organ Factory produced only
cylinder operated mechanical organs for carousels, carnivals, skating
rinks, and amusement parks.  Initially, when Mr. de Kleist approached
the Wurlitzer Company to sell them organs, Wurlitzer said "No," _but_
they said that they could sell a coin operated piano.

The piano that was developed was the Tonophone.  It took two years
to develop the Tonophone and they cost $200.00 each.  The initial
Wurlitzer order was for 200 instruments from de Kleist.  Thus it
was the Tonophone that led to a chain of events that eventually led
Wurlitzer to move from Cincinnati to North Tonawanda, New York, after
they bought out de Kleist 1909.  To my knowledge, the gold medal exists
and is located with the Wurlitzer Company files at the Smithsonian
Archival Center in Washington, D.C.

Click on the following to see a poster advertisement of a Tonophone:

To my knowledge, only four Tonophones are known to exist today.

The Tonophone, as well as a number of other de Kleist mechanical
instruments, were displayed also at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition
in St. Louis in 1904.  A picture of this display appears in Q. David
Bowers book, "Put Another Nickel In".

The orchestrion which was a associated with Frank Bostock's animal show
was a barrel organ similar to those produced by Eugene de Kleist.

Tim Trager

 [ See "Revisiting the Buffalo Pan-American Exposition of 1901", at
 [ and
 [ -- Robbie

(Message sent Sun 9 Sep 2001, 19:14:08 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  1901, Exposition, Mechanical, Music, Pan-American

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