Racine Calliope repairs

$1,290 of $5,000 goal

Raised by 30 people in 1 month
Kevin Gonzalez
on behalf of Chuck Christoffersen
Help restore a unique piece of Americana!

Calliope History
Our calliope was built in 1931.  It was purchased for $200 in 1938 by Racine citizen & local dentist Walter “Doc” Gearen.  The calliope was mounted on the wooden frame from a 1922 Franklin automobile and was driven by a steam engine.  Over the years, the instrument has been decorated with assorted circus ornamentation and is now powered by a gasoline engine and an air compressor. The compressor pushes air through ducts controlled by a 2.5-octave keyboard and into brass whistles that let loose with an ear-piercing sound.

Norman G. Baker of Muscaline, Iowa established the Tangley Company in 1914 in Muscatine, Iowa. He patented the name “Calliaphone” for his particular design of the instruments. The Tangley Calliaphones were built successfully from 1914 until 1931, when Mr. Baker was forced to leave the business for legal reasons unrelated to building the instruments.
The most popular of the Tangley Calliaphone models were the 43-note CA-43, which is the model that Fourth Fest of Greater Racine owns . This instrument has a keyboard, but also could be played with a Type A music roll automatically. As the Type A roll had more notes than pipes in the 43-note Calliaphone, some notes were coupled back to fit the instrument’s resources. Although standard Type A piano rolls could be played, special arrangements designed for the sound of the Calliaphone were written to show it off to its best advantage.
The Tangley Company additionally built the ST-43 and ST-58 models of the Calliaphone, which were advertised as being voiced for “indoor use”. The number refers to the number of pipes.
In 1984, Dan Miner of Donellson, Iowa purchased the rights to use the Tangley name and began to build Tangley Calliaphone using all the orginal plans under the name of  The Miner Manufacturing Company, Inc. He also built popcorn wagons and trucks, the Otto Accordion (an automated player accordion), and cut player rolls for the automated instruments. With his untimely death in 2008, Dan Dohman, a 22 year employee, purchased the business and changed its name to the Miner Company. And moved the company to Kirksville , MO
Tangley calliope is called “The Calliaphone”.  It’s 2.5-octave key board has 43 solid brass pipes operate on low pressure-high volume, while the player mechanism operates on vacuum.  The brass pipes are really whistles and the music can carry up to a mile.

Calliope players
Doc Gearen (above) originally owned and played the calliope at Racine's parades.  He last played it in the 1979 parade and then the calliope was sold to circus collectors from Milwaukee. In 1987, Ross and Terri Blomgren saw the calliope at an estate sale. Remembering it from their own childhood, they feared that the calliope would be sold to a circus collector from another part of the country. Their love of history and nostalgia led them to buy the calliope and return it to Racine.  
Ross played the calliope for six years in the parade until they sold it to Dr. Joseph & Nancy Geenen in 1993.  The Geenens immediately donated the antique wagon to The Kiwanis Club of Greater Racine. 

Gerald “Jerry” Buck (above) became caretaker of the calliope and would play it for the next 21 years.  Jerry passed away in 2015 &, as a tribute, the calliope was not played as it was pulled through the parade route (below).

Michael Becker (above) took over as the calliope player in 2016.  Michael studied piano and organ at Lawrence University. He has been employed as a church musician for over 30 years, serving congregations in Southeast Wisconsin and Northern Michigan. Since 2009, he has served at Mount Pleasant Lutheran Church (the “spaceship church”) in Racine.  In addition to church work, his musical interests and activities have included composing and arranging, directing and performing in musical theater and childrens’ theater, and, an occasional gig as a nightclub pianist. He is delighted and honored to be a part of this wonderful Fourth of July tradition in Racine.

4th Fest of Greater Racine 
click to visit the 4th Fest website 

On April 28, 1999 Fourth Fest of Greater Racine took ownership of the Calliope from the Kiwanis Club of Greater Racine. With the transfer of ownership there was a stipulation that Fourth Fest of Greater Racine accept all the conditions and terms of ownership that were delineated in the original acceptance.

Some of the Conditions and Terms of Ownership
1.       The calliope is intended to stay in the Racine Community and will be made available for Racine Area events. The calliope may be rented, to local organizations for Festivals etc. Rent received is to be included in the Calliope Maintenance Budget Account.

2.       In addition to the above, the Fourth Fest of Greater Racine Inc. agrees to:
a.        Maintain the calliope and keep it in good working order.
b.       Properly store the calliope when not in use.
c.        Utilize its best efforts to maintain the highest possible value of the calliope.
d.       Maintain the original craftsmanship and detail of the calliope.
e.       Insure the calliope at all times against loss and damage.

3.       It shall be noted that the Kiwanis refurbished (old paint stripped and painted in accordance with original craftsmanship).

4.       There are two plaques, one on each side of the calliope, that commemorate the donation of the calliope to the Kiwanis Club of Greater Racine Foundation by Dr. Joseph & Nancy Geenen in 1993. It is requested that the plaques be maintained and remain on the unit and be made a part of the history. 

What needs to be repaired?
1. Repair/replace damaged keys
2. Repair/replace the awning
3. Repair/replace the whistles
4. Repair/replace the rubber lines (from the keys to the whistles)
5. Major cleanup of the whistles (polish and buffing)
6. Touch up paint & general cleaning

If you would like more information please contact me.  Thanks in advance for your support!

Kevin Gonzalez
Director & Chair of the Fundraising committee
4th Fest of Greater Racine,
4th Fest website
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$1,290 of $5,000 goal

Raised by 30 people in 1 month
Created March 22, 2017
Kevin Gonzalez  
on behalf of Chuck Christoffersen
Susan + Bob Thompson
5 days ago

Keep making Racine's the Best 4th of July Parade in the country!

Jon Wilson
6 days ago
Leah Palmer
10 days ago

A great part of the parade and Racine's history!

Dustan Balkcom
11 days ago
David & Diane Kamm
12 days ago
Steven & Cheryl Turkowski
12 days ago
Marygail Vilmann
14 days ago

In honor of the men who have been on the Iwo Jima float

15 days ago
15 days ago
Kathy Novak
15 days ago

In memory of Jerry Buck

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