Davis Carousel

QUESTION:  The Wurlitzer 165 displayed next to the Emperor here at the American Treasure Tour was once displayed at the Davis Carousel in Griffith Park, Los Angeles.  What type of machine complements it now?
A)  Another Wurlitzer 165
B)  Stinson 165 Military Band Organ
C)  Artizan B Band Organ
D)  North Tonawanda Musical Instrument Works Model 14 Band Organ

So, a week's exploration of the land that would become Griffith Park in the heart of Los Angeles, California is finally coming to a close. You've been wondering all this time where it was going, and now you have an answer: it's bringing us to one of the few remaining merry-go-rounds found in its original setting in the city: the Davis Carousel!  As with all things, the Davis Carousel does have a story. It was built in 1926 by the Spillman Engineering Company of North Tonawanda, New York.  Spillman was the maiden name of the wife of Allan Herschel.  Never heard of him?  Herschel is considered the first American (an immigrant from Scotland, but we are, after all, all immigrants) to establish a business dedicated to the construction of merry-go-rounds. He partnered up with his wife's brothers to create the Herschel-Spillman Company. It lasted a few years but bad blood between the partners led to a split and, we're sure, tense family gatherings. So Spillman Engineering went independent. But we digress.

Members of the Spreckel Sugar Company commissioned the carousel so that it could be placed at their Mission Beach Amusement Center in San Diego, California. The Great Depression did the center in, and in 1935 they closed down, and the carousel went to the city's Balboa Park as part of the California Pacific International Exposition. After two years, Ross Davis purchased it and moved it to Griffith Park, where it has been ever since.  Davis commissioned a band organ for his carousel and, in 1939, Wurlitzer sent him the very same Model 165 currently on display next to the Emperor in the American Treasure Tour's Toy Box. It is hardly a conventional 165, though. By '39, Wurlitzer had retired production of automatic music machines in their North Tonawanda factory, so they assembled the machine from what they had around, including a Model 157 facade. The machine is in near-perfect condition, showing off its original paint and having never required any restoration of which to speak. And the carousel continues to entertain kids, as it did for the daughters of Walt Disney, who went on record as saying the Davis Carousel in part inspired the creation of Disneyland. And, being in Los Angeles, there can be no surprise that it has also been on television, notably during a commercial in which a young James Dean was handing bottles of Pepsi to teenagers as they rode the horses.

ANSWER:  B)  Sintson 165 Military Band Organ.  We're sure you caught our joke - there's no such thing as a North Tonawanda Musical Instrument Works Model 14 Band Organ!  We always have a lot of fun here at the American Treasure Tour blog!



QUESTION:  Which paper roll arranger that the American Treasure Tour honors began his career perforating on a  Leebarjan machine?
A)  "Row" Whitlock
B)  Cassius Coolidge
C)  Johannes Seeburg
D)  J. Lawrence Cook

There are literally hundreds and hundreds of pieces of automatic music machines here at the American Treasure Tour.  Machines produced by American companies including deKleist, Wurlitzer, Seeburg, Link, Coinola, North Tonawanda Musical Instrument Works, Berrywood, and many, many more.  There are a number of foreign-made machines, too, including Arburo, Frer Decap and Mortier.  We are very proud of that, but recognize none of it would make much of a difference if there was no music to play on any of them.  In the days before MIDI, the only way to hear music on any of these machines was with paper rolls and cardboard books.  It took an expert to create these rolls, and they needed the proper tools to do it well.  One such piece was called the Leabarjan Perforator.

The Leabarjan was named after the three men who established the company to make them available to music lovers:  John LEAse was the man who actually invented the ingenious machine. Carl BARtels was pivotal in the development of the company, but it never would have happened without the financial backing of a man named JANzen. They opened their doors in 1911, and produced the machines until 1928.  When they closed their doors, they blamed the increased popularity of the phonograph.  Sadly, none of the investors were ever able to claim even a single cent in dividends from their invention.  Almost as sad, the American Treasure Tour currently does not have a Leabarjan Perforator in our collection. They are a highly coveted piece, and we would certainly be interested in knowing if you happen to have an extra one lying around....

ANSWER:  D)  J. Lawrence Cook

J.W. Whitlock

QUESTION:  Which of J.W. Whitlock's machines was once played for sitting President Richard Milhouse Nixon?
A)  Model A harp
B)  Model B harp
C)  Model 1 banjo
D)  Model 44 piano

You likely have never heard of a man named J.W. Whitlock; however, that is due more because of a disinclination to grab at headlines than it is because he lacked the innovative flair of peers such as Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. He also moved between projects such that his focus never lasted in one place for very long.  He created an electric starter for automobiles (he discarded it once he saw another had been installed in a car), he created an arcade game depicting a miniature horse race, but never bothered to patent it or produce many. It never reached a mass audience because he didn't want to devote the time to it. He also designed a boat for Henry Ford intended to traverse swampland. It was an early form of the fan boat. Although it never reached mass production, it did show Whitlock's understanding of water vessels.  He did reach people with his skills as a speedboat racer, making records that remain in place to this day.

His greatest legacy, as far as the American Treasure Tour is concerned, is associated with his design and development of an automatic harp machine.  He began work on it in 1899, and his relationship with these magnificent machines lasted for almost twenty years.  He produced around 1,500 harps for the Wurlitzer Company, who sold them across the country.  They were hugely popular for a number of years, providing elegant music for people wanting a quiet experience.  Now, they are considered one of the pieces in the great trifecta of stringed automatic musical instruments, alongside the Encore banjo machine and the Mills Violano Virtuoso.  The American Treasure Tour proudly displays all three in our collection.

ANSWER:  B)  Model B harp

J.P. Seeburg, part two

QUESTION:  Which of the following companies was not in competition with J.P. Seeburg for jukebox production?
A)  Seeburg
B)  Wurlitzer
C)  Rock-Ola
D)  AMI/Rowe

Yesterday, we told the story of how the J.P. Seeburg Company became the greatest producer of coin-operated pianos and orchestrions (nickelodeons) in the United States during the 1920's. There were a number of reasons why business started going south towards the end of the decade - competition with radio being the biggest.  In 1927, production was completely shut down on orchestrions, despite the fact that the same year over one million paper rolls sold, the largest number in any one year ever.  Seeburg began to concentrate on what he called coin-operated phonographs.  The "Audiophone" was one of his first multi-selection jukeboxes, which came out the next year.  Then, in the early-1930's, J.P. retired from direct involvement in the business and left it to his son Noel.  Noel devoted his attention to jukebox production and made some innovations that blew away the competition.

In 1949, Seeburg developed the first device that allowed a jukebox to play both sides of a record.  Not only could it hold fifty 78 rpm records, but it could play both sides - allowing people to select between one hundred songs!  Seeburg almost caused all of their competitors to go out of business with this. Then, they took it to the next level the very next year by introducing machines that played 45 rpm records - the first company to do so.  45's had a better sound than 78's and were much smaller. They assured their dominance of the market when, in 1955, they came out with the V-200, which offered two hundred selections.  Over the years, though, jukebox sales fluctuated.  Seeburg tried to roll with the punches, offering innovations and retaining their dominance in the industry.  But, by 1980, they had to close their doors. Their name has appeared on CD jukeboxes and other mechanisms since then, but Seeburg's golden age is no more than a memory, to be celebrated by lovers of technology. Their machines are famously beautiful and a compliment to any collection.

ANSWER:  A)  Seeburg, of course.  

J.P. Seeburg

QUESTION:  The Seeburg Symphonola Model 148 Jukebox was more popularly called what?
A)  The Bubblemaker
B)  Timmy
C)  The Trashcan
D)  The Dancer

The American Treasure Tour is a wonderful place. Not only is there plenty to see and hear here, but our collective culture dominates everywhere you look. Some of the names that appear are still familiar today, even though the pioneers connected to them lived a long time ago. Today and tomorrow, the blog would like to honor a man whose creations changed how people listened to music throughout the twentieth century.  

Justus P. Seeburg was born in Gotthenburg, Sweden in 1871 and attended a manual training school there, which was located next to the Malinjos piano factory.  He developed a love for the piano and, when he emigrated to the United States in 1887, he settled in Chicago, where he pursued a career in piano construction. Within ten years, he moved to the Marquette Piano Company, makers of the "Cremona" pneumatic coin pianos better known as nickelodeons.  This is where Seeburg learned how to make these machines, which inspired him to establish the J.P. Seeburg Piano Company.  Between 1910 and 1920, the coin piano industry boomed, and Seeburg was riding the wave - moving to larger and larger facilities during the decade.  His great success can be accredited to a few reasons:  his machines were excellently constructed, they were durable, and they were beautiful. He reduced the price for manufacturing them by using standardized parts between the machines, which made repairing them easier, too.  Most significantly, though, he provided incentives to piano dealers to sell his machines. While other companies refused non-licensed store owners the right to sell their machines, Seeburg not only allowed anyone to sell them, but he was much more generous in sharing the profits with them. By the 1920's, Seeburg dominated the market and, in fact, designed what would become the best-selling nickelodeon of all time, the Seeburg L, or "Liliputian."  The small upright machine was a perfect compliment to tight quarters, such as speakeasies during Prohibition.  Stay tuned for more exciting information on Seeburg!

ANSWER:  C)  The Trashcan