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MMD > Archives > December 2016 > 2016.12.06 > 01Prev  Next

Passing of Dave Morecraft, Steam Calliope Builder
By Fred Dahlinger

On December 5th, 2016, David Alan Morecraft passed away at his home
at the age of 57.  He is survived by his son Zachary Morecraft, his
daughter Danielle Runda, and his sister Kathy Piper.  He was preceded
in death by his father B.D. Morecraft, his mother Marabell Morecraft,
his brother Timothy J. Morecraft and his wife Linda Fay Morecraft.

David will always be remembered for his steam calliopes that he built
and for his performance in playing them in many parades.  His son,
Zachary, serves as a board member to the International Circus Hall of
Fame in Peru, Indiana, one of 55 National Historic Landmarks in the
State of Indiana.

Dave reverse-engineered the Thos. J. Nichol style of steam calliope
whistles and manufactured about six sets of them.  He personally
machined the castings, rolled and brazed the copper tubes and assembled
all the parts onto a manifold of his own construction.

On his own, through persistent trial and error, he personally revived
what was literally a lost art.  His calliopes are the best made since
the 1920s.  One of his recent instruments was installed on the
Minne-Ha-Ha on Lake George, New York. 

He also repaired several vintage calliopes, including those from the
1940 Cole Bros. Circus "America" and the instrument originally on the
Streckfus excursion boat "Washington."  Dave worked on the Nichol
whistles from the Sparks Circus calliope and others, his work taking
him overseas.

A retired Olson Shows baggage wagon was acquired and Dave rebuilt
and transformed it into a replica of the 1910s Yankee Robinson Circus
calliope bearing the number 44.  It appeared in numerous parades in
the Midwest.

Dave's goal was always to make steam calliopes truly musical, learning
how to voice and tune them better than anyone else.  His ceaseless
labors and devotion made him the worlds top expert on their mechanism
and operation.  He observed the calliope playing of the late Herbie
Head and taught himself how to play.  It's no mean feat when you're
confined to 32 notes.  Dave was a unique fellow, without equal.

Friends may call Tuesday from 4:00-7:00 PM at the Flowers-Leedy Funeral
Home.  Funeral Service will be held Wednesday December 7, 2016 at 1:00
PM with Travis Vasconcelos officiating.  Burial will be held at the
Mount Hope Cemetery, Peru, Indiana.  Love offerings may be made to the
family through the Flowers-Leedy Funeral Home.  Family and friends may
sign the online guest book at

Fred Dahlinger
Baraboo, Wisconsin

(Message sent Tue 6 Dec 2016, 22:53:00 GMT, from time zone GMT-0600.)

Key Words in Subject:  Builder, Calliope, Dave, Morecraft, Passing, Steam

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