[ Arthur Hardie Sanders quietly passed away on January 19th, 2015,
[ in Clinton, New York. An announcement of the death is at
[ His wife, Elsie F. Sanders, died six months earlier, noted at
[ Dave Smith wrote this tribute at the request of the Reed Organ
[ Society (ROS).
A Tribute to Arthur "Art" Sanders, 1924-2015
To give someone such as Art Sanders a deserving tribute presents
quite a challenge. He touched so many lives that it would be
impossible to give him the credit he is so rightfully due. One
cannot mention Art without including his family and of course
"The Musical Museum" which, quite honestly, was his extended family!
I was able to visit with Art and his wife, Elsie, many times at the
museum and at their home. As much as I enjoyed playing and studying
the 17 rooms of instruments on display at the museum, the real "gold"
was after hours when Art would kick back and share much of his personal
history and how the museum came to being. I will try and now share
some of that with you as some of what Art was able to accomplish are
things we can only dream.
Arthur Hardie Sanders grew up in Deansboro, New York, which is a very
small hamlet close to Utica, New York. His dad, Hardie, ran a garage
across the street from the Sanders home. Art attended college in Ohio
(if memory serves me correctly) studying theater and drama.
As Art grew up, he and his mom, Esther, and his dad gained an interest
in some of the many musical machines and instruments that were so
prevalent in the surrounding area. Utica -- in its colorful past being
known one time as "Sin City of the East" -- produced all types of
musical machines that would have been in speakeasies, bars and hotels,
Also close to Deansboro is Cherry Valley, NY (Swan & Eldredge melodeon
makers), Saquoit, NY (Barnard & Prior harmoniums) and even Syracuse, NY
(Goodman, Spang & Phelps organ makers), and several early pipe-organ
The area was ripe with instruments and, when some of them began falling
out of vogue in the late 1930s and '40s, the Sanders family was very
eager to give many of them a new home. It did not take long before the
Sanders' home was overrun with organs, nickelodeons, violin machines,
music boxes and all the rolls and accessories that came with them.
The automobile repair garage across the street would become what was
so famously known as "The Musical Museum est. 1948". The car lift was
never removed and remained in the workshop. Instead of lifting Model
A's & T's it would lift large pianos, nickelodeons and organs that were
Art's mother, Esther, insisted the museum be a "hands-on" exhibit,
and that policy remained in effect until the museum closed its doors.
That same policy also made for a nightly routine of fixing broken stop
knobs, emptying jammed coin chutes and all the necessary repairs as a
result of over-enthusiastic patrons.
Art was always giving of himself and was eager to share as he gave
literally thousands of demonstrations to the countless visitors that
came to the museum. It was this attitude that inspired he and a few
others to begin thinking of forming some sort of organization devoted
to the reed organ.
The Reed Organ Society was born in the back room of the museum and
its two- or three-page hand-typed newsletter was copied on a well-worn
desktop copier. If you visited at the right time, chances are you
might end up folding newsletters or affixing labels!
Art was also very active in local matters and served on the town board
for many years. He was always becoming involved, and how his manual
typewriter ever survived for as long as it did is only a testament to
The museum continued on until the late 1990s and in Sept 1998, The
Musical Museum & Olde Lamplighter Shop were auctioned off. I know it
was very difficult for Art to see the museum come to a close but taxes,
building upkeep and all the unpleasantries of reality had taken their
toll and the inevitable had come to be.
I sat with Art at the auction and listened as he was interviewed by
one of the newspaper people attending. The newsman asked, "What do you
think of what is happening here today?"
In a matter-of-fact tone, Art replied, "Oh, this is fine."
"No, no, no, I mean, how do you really _feel_ about everything that has
happened," demanded the newsman.
Art turned in his chair to face him, canted his head and held his arm
out toward the front of the tent where everything was being sold, and
responded, "Look, these are my children. They brought me much joy.
I have housed them and cared for them for years, and many times brought
them back to life, and now they are moving on and going to new homes
where they will continue bring joy to countless many. How can I ask
for better than that!"
It may seem strange as I thought the world of him, but I hadn't
talked with Art in a couple years. It was obvious that through our
letters and phone calls, it had come to the point where I only reminded
him of the past and the legal battles over the museum. So I just
slowly stopped communicating. It was only after searching his name
periodically on-line that I found his death announcement.
Art spent his last years at a retirement home near his wife, Elsie.
He seemed to have found comfort at the retirement home and took charge
of running the bingo games, etc.
Many people who visited the Musical Museum in Deansboro came away with
not only lasting memories but also a new-found interest that they would
expand upon. May Art Sanders be remembered for so graciously and freely
giving of himself for others.
Bainbridge, New York