The long-lost Wurlitzer 166 band organ described by Glenn Thomas in
the 150710 MMD has arrived in York, Pennsylvania, for restoration by
Hilferty Restorations. It is scheduled to be ready for public display
during the 2016 AMICA National Convention in Princeton, New Jersey,
after which it will be part of the American Treasure Tour collection
in Oaks, Pennsylvania, which purchased the organ to complement the
four other 165-roll-playing Wurlitzer band organs already there.
Imagine seeing so many historic Wurlitzer band organs (two of which
can play duets via MIDI additions to their roll players) in one
location, surrounded by thousands of other music machines and antique
attention-grabbers on two floors.
After its restoration by experienced and skilled restorer Joe Hilferty,
the organ will be pictured and described in an article to be published
in the AMICA Bulletin next summer, telling all that is known about the
organ, its history -- and what a history! -- restoration, and musical
One mystery that may never be answered is what the correct style
number of the organ is. We know from Wurlitzer records that the
organ's serial number is 3200 and that it left the Wurlitzer factory
for Denver, Colorado, in 1918, where it played for years at the
Broadway Roller Rink. It is listed in two official Wurlitzer
documents, where hand-written entries recorded all organs produced or
repaired by Wurlitzer. The Wurlitzer Shipping Dock ledger lists the
organ as a [Style] 175 Band Organ, shipped February 27, 1918, to Knight
Campbell Music Co., Denver, Colorado. Another Wurlitzer list (Serial
Number list) gives this entry for number 3200: 166 Special Band Organ,
9/1/1918, Location: Denver, Colo.
It is believed that the 9 (September) in the date that appears in
online transcriptions of the Serial Number list is a misreading of the
hand-written number "3" and that the date should have been transcribed
as 3/1/1918, not a half year later.
The mystery is, what led Wurlitzer to change the designation of this
organ from "175 Band Organ" to "166 Special Band Organ"? Although
the organ is pictured on page 943 of Q. David Bowers' "Encyclopedia
Of Automatic Musical Instruments," it does not look like the two real
166's pictured on that same page, one of which is the Weinberg Coliseum
organ, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ron Bopp's "The American Carousel Organ"
has clearer pictures of both the Denver Broadway Roller Rink organ and
the Weinberg Coliseum organ, which are clearly two different machines.
And the façade of number 3200 in the photo provided by Joe Hilferty (see
link below) clearly resembles Bopp's figure 213, which he identifies as
a Wurlitzer 175 Band organ.
Of the six styles of 165-roll-playing organs introduced by Wurlitzer
from 1914 to 1922, styles 163 (1917), 164 (1917), and 168 (1920) were
clearly directed to the skating rink market, with their complement
of volume-producing brass pipes. The 165 (1914) and the 157 (1922)
and the 166 (1915), with their swell shutters and array of automatic
register stops, were more orchestral in sound. Organ number 3200 could
straddle either category, given its size, complement of brass pipes,
and lack of automatic register stops.
Since organ number 3200 is the only one ever produced of that style,
it will probably never be known for sure what its correct style number
is, especially given Wurlitzer's notoriously sloppy advertising, e.g.,
giving the wrong number of pipes in a 165 band organ, using a picture
of the Style 175 façade in all its advertising for its Style 180,
introduced in 1922.
Irondequoit, New York
[ Façade of organ number 3200
[ Maybe the customer (or Wurlitzer) realized that more songs were
[ available in the catalog of Style 165 music rolls and so the organ
[ specification was changed after the original order was placed.
[ -- Robbie