The Art of Making a Circus Calliope Instrument

The Art of Making a Circus Calliope Instrument

Whether you’re a professional clown or an amateur circus performer, you can find a calliope instrument that suits your needs. These instruments are lightweight, portable, and easy to use, making them a perfect fit for a variety of circus acts. You can choose from air calliopes and hand-held calliopes, both of which offer a wide variety of sounds.


During the early twentieth century, there were few manufacturers of air-calliope instruments. Nonetheless, a few of the instruments are still being used today.

Many of the restored air calliopes still in use are still used in parades and theatrical endeavors. These instruments are great looking and they draw crowds. Some of the restored instruments are still used for commercial purposes as well.

The Air-Calio was a platform-style machine with three ranks of wooden pipes. It is partially enclosed on the top, and it has a continuous roll mechanism on the front. The case is deep enough to accommodate the pipework. This allows the keyboard to be housed in a raised case extension.

Traditionally, air calliopes were powered by steam, but they could also be used by compressed air. This made them more musical than the steam calliope, and it was safer for people to use them. The steam calliope was heavy and cumbersome to move around.

Joseph Ori constructed the first air calliope in 1905-1906. He was a mechanic for Capt. Louis Sorcho’s Deep Sea Divers show. Ori wanted to make a living by building air calliopes. He settled in Bloomfield, New Jersey. He started a company to build them in 1912.

In 1912, Joseph Ori started his Pneumatic Calliope Company. He developed a practical, low-pressure air calliope. He was a longtime showman, and he thought that an air calliope would be easier to use and maintain.

He believed that the steam calliope was cumbersome to transport and expensive. He also considered selling his calliope business. He re-engineered Harrington’s calliope, but his son said he did so “basically re-engineering” Harrington’s calliope.

He plans to make air calliopes from parts that are still in use. He plans to set up a small factory to build National air calliopes from the parts he has.

Today, air calliopes are the best pulling medium for the circus. They are loud and the note-swinging can reach a mile. The modern air calliope uses an electric motor to drive a blower. The instrument has self-playing capabilities and can play in four-and-a-half octaves.

Tangley air calliope

During the early twentieth century, there were very few air calliope manufacturers. The largest, however, was the Tangley Manufacturing Company. The company made calliopes from 1914 through 1931. The company reportedly generated over $200,000 in its calliaphone business each year.

The Tangley air calliope features a three-and-one-half octave keyboard in a chromatic scale. It is designed for church service and can be purchased by private families for home use.

The Tangley air calliope also plays a 10-tune “A” roll, which is the same tune that the original Tangley produced in the 1920s. The instrument plays at five pound pressure, and draws any ear in range.

The Tangley calliaphone was originally designed to draw attention. It could be heard as far as the eardrums breaking train whistles. The calliaphone was manufactured until 1931, when it was no longer legal to produce the device.

The Tangley air calliope is still in use today. Its design has evolved since the 1920s. It is now built with the latest machinery. It is also considered to be safer than its steam-powered predecessors.

The Tangley calliaphone has been a favorite among carnival and mechanical music enthusiasts for a long time. Many of them believe that the instrument will become the standard in musical instruments. Unlike a ten-piece band, the Tangley calliaphone is cheaper.

The Tangley calliaphone is now owned by the Miner Company in Kirksville, Missouri. The Miner Company has hundreds of these calliopes in use. The Miner Calliope is one of the few modern designs.

The Miner Company recommends yearly maintenance. They also believe that the air calliope is more musical than the steam calliopes of the past. This is because it uses compressed air instead of steam. The steam calliope was considered to be cumbersome, and required constant fuel replenishment.

The Tangley air calliope has proven itself to be a great mechanical music instrument. It is available in several models that are designed to meet the needs of different users. It is priced from $550 to $700. The company believes that the air calliope is a much cheaper alternative to pianos and pipe organs.

National air calliope

Unlike the steam calliope, an air calliope is easier to maintain and adaptable. The tonal qualities of air calliopes are also quite unique. They are more interesting and appealing. They also have a high survival rate. There are several air calliope manufacturers, including Artizan, Joseph Ori, and Tangley.

Joseph Ori started the Pneumatic Calliope Company in 1912. He had previously been a showman and a mechanic for Capt. Louis Sorcho’s Deep Sea Divers show. He was also an organist for dance bands. He decided to build his own air calliope because he believed it would be easier and more practical. He settled in Bloomfield, New Jersey.

Harrington had started building his own air calliopes around 1923. His air calliopes had gleaming brass whistles arranged in a pleasing way. They were available in two different models. The 53-note Model B was the most popular.

The National Calliope Corporation made similar calliopes. They used the same roll frame that Seeburg had introduced in 1923. They also used the same wind-motor that Harrington advertised. The National Calliope Corporation also continued to use the Seeburg automatic player system.

In later years, there were a number of other manufacturers. Some, such as Artizan, were sold by Electrotone Auto Music Company. Others, such as the Tangley Manufacturing Company, were more prolific.

The Tangley calliaphone is still considered one of the best calliopes. It has more whistles than a steam calliope. It is also more durable and a good choice for parades. The Tangley calliaphone is a favorite with progressive carnival owners. It can also be used for church services and private family gatherings.

There are a few restored air calliopes in mechanical music collections. Many of them are still used in theatrical endeavors. They are also a popular instrument for carnivals and parades. They are portable and easy to use. They are also cheaper than hiring a ten-piece band. They can be easily adapted to the needs of different audiences.

The Tangley calliaphone remains popular with Shriners clubs. It is still being manufactured and sold. It can be purchased for as little as $550 to $700. The Tangley company believes it will become the standard musical instrument.

Artizan Factories, Inc.

Artizan Factories, Inc.
Photo credit: Rhbrakman

Located in North Tonawanda, New York, Artizan Factories, Inc. was a musical instrument manufacturing firm that specialized in band organs and carousel organs. The firm was founded in 1922 by a group of former employees of the North Tonawanda Musical Instrument Works. NTMIW operated from 1906 to 1918. It was then sold to the Rand Company. During that time, the mechanical musical instrument side of the firm declined. The principals of NTMIW, including Stillman C. Woodruff, served as treasurer. Christian Maerten, a former secretary for the de Kleist Musical Instrument Manufacturing Co., served as the artistic director.

In addition to producing band organs, Artizan also manufactured automatic musical instruments. Its products included a series of band organs, which are now considered to be the finest of all American band organs. The company’s building was also designed to accommodate expansion. The firm was blessed with cheap raw materials, access to the Great Lakes and the Erie Canal, and easy shipping of instruments out of the area. The company was also known for its good musical arrangements.

In 1925, the company built a Style “D” band organ at its North Tonawanda facility. Its style was similar to the famous Wurlitzer style organ. It features 46 keys. The organ is currently located at Chippewa Park in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

After Artizan closed in late 1929, its masters were destroyed. Its building was also unable to compete with the larger Wurlitzer firm. However, the company was still able to produce a limited line of band organs. The company’s organs were known for their finely voiced pipes and good musical arrangements. Many of the organs were converted to Wurlitzer style rolls. Some of the Artizan organs are now part of collections.

In addition to its band organs, the firm also produced a number of pipe band organs for use with carousels. The 48-horse Merry Go Round at Mountain Park was saved through a community fundraising effort in the late 1980s. The Philadelphia Toboggan Company also built a carousel for the company in 1927.

Artizan was one of many competing musical instrument manufacturers in the area. In the late 1920s, the firm was one of the leading manufacturers of carousel organs.