The Happiest Music on Earth


| November/December 1985



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2655 S. River Rd. Fremont, OH 43420

The 'Happiest Music on Earth' emanated from the Sandusky County Fairgrounds in Fremont, Ohio, on July 26-28, 1985, when the Mid-America Chapter of the Musical Box Society International held its 10th Annual Band Organ Rally. Attended by more than three hundred society members from across the country, the rally is the largest event of its type in the United States. Over seventy-five large and small band organs and calliopes were present at the gathering, which was open to the public on Saturday, July 27.

The instruments appearing at the rally were the same type which were seen and heard on the show grounds of America in the early 1900's. The band organ, an automatically played pipe organ controlled by specially punched rolls or cardboard, is usually associated with the carousels found in amusement parks and on carnivals. The signature of the circus was the calliope, used in the daily street parade and to accompany the band during the big top performance.

The advent of the loudspeaker and sound reproduction systems, combined with a change in America's musical tastes, eliminated the need for band organs and calliopes, which were relegated to storage barns or junkyards. Beginning in the 1940's, private individuals began to save and acquire these relics from another generation, expending much time and effort in their preservation and restoration.

Band organs built by Wurlitzer, Artizan, North Tonawanda and other American builders were at the rally, as well as calliopes built by Tangley and National. Several European organs, built in Holland, Belgium, France and Germany's Black Forest, were also shown. A special feature was the new organs, constructed by MBSI members whose workmanship rivals that of the old masters. Another attraction was organs built by Don Stinson of Bellefontaine, Ohio, America's only production band organ builder.

Held on the fairgrounds at the same time was an outstanding Antiques Show and Sale, where a large variety of antiques and collectables was offered for sale.