We've always lived in suburban areas, so we like to visit small towns when we can. Now that we're in Pennsylvania and the weather is temperate we decided to take a trip to yet another small town, one we've never visited before. Franklin PA.
For my wife the draw was the antiques stores. For me it was the Debence Antique Music World.
The Debence family long ago began to collect antique music machines of all sorts. They created a collection at their home outside of Franklin. When the old man died his wife decided to sell the collection in the hope that a local group might take it up and create a museum in this town. That happened several decades ago. It is the Debence Antique Music World.
So I visited this afternoon. What a collection! Two stories filled with items dating as far back as the latter half of the 19th century.
- Early Edison (and competitor) cylinder phonographs.
- Early disk-based phonographs.
- Drum and disk music boxes from all over Europe.
- Reed organs. And I don't mean those cheesy 1960s/1970s items. These are ornate furniture pieces from the late 19th century.
- Orchestrions and related all-in-one musical wonders ... piano, organ, drums, triangle, tambourines all in one instrument ... a marvel of industrial automation.
- Some of these were cast-offs from carnivals and amusement parks. Meant for outside use, these were LOUD!
- A combined violin- and piano-playing machine.
- Early player pianos with monstrous mechanisms behind the kick plate.
- Later player pianos ... the kind we're more familiar with ... the kind with the "works" sitting behind the music desk.
Those were all in the first-floor exhibit, demonstrated by the resident for an entry fee.
The downstairs no-fee display had many more instruments, including later/newer reed organs, early wire-recorders, mid-20th century phono-radio consoles, and much more.
All of the pre-electric instruments required energy from a human ... cranked music boxes and phonograph tables, pumped organ bellows, and so on.
Later ones were electrified with motors to drive the mechanics.
The curator mentioned that people from the Smithsonian examined some of these pieces and declared that they belong in a fine, well-funded metropolitan museum with proper conservatorship ... rather than in this out-in-the-woods little town of Franklin. It's just as well they're not. It was only a hour's drive to Franklin. I'm glad these items are not far away in Washington or New York.
All this made for a very pleasant hour today, after which I rejoined my wife as she finished her perusal of the antiques stores. Based on her judgement of the latter it's clear I got the best of the day.
FYI, you can find the Debence Antique Music World online at https://debencemusicworld.com