Mechanical Music

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Earbuds, iPods and mp3s. If you’re going to remove humans from music, why keep it small and isolated? Be grand and witness the marvel of a self-playing musical machine. Behold: the orchestrion!

Think of a music box, but on the scale of an orchestra. They operate via cylinders or music rolls, like a player piano. The earliest version was the Panharmonicon, built by Johann Nepomuk  Maelzel in 1805. Midwesterners who have visited the House on the Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin, would have seen The Mikado, The Blue Room or the world’s largest carousel.

The Sanfilippo Foundation in Barrington Hills houses antique music machines, a steam engine collection, The Eden Palais Carousel built in 1890 and a theatre pipe organ. Tours are offered for groups of 50 or more at Special events are also available for charity and corporate groups. We’re hoping that Steampunk Chicago counts!





Care to buy your own. or just want to browse? There will be a Vintage Vinyl Record & Antique Radio Show at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Grayslake, IL, on August 11 & 12, 2012. It will offer antique phonographs, music boxes and mechanical music.

If you really are serious about ownership, contact Tim Trager of McHenry, IL. He has provided orchestrions, penny arcade machines, nickelodeons and organs to customers around the world. You can contact him for information or demonstrations at

If you want to save a little space and just hear the sounds, the Gay 90s Village has a wide selection of old-timey music on player pianos, nickelodeons and pipe organs.


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