This barrel piano is a more recent addition to the museum's collection and is believed to have been used to provide music for the Merry-Go-Round or carousel at Kingston Point Park.
A barrel piano, also known as a street piano, uses a hand crank to turn a pinned barrel. The pins in the barrel hit the levers of the piano hammers, which then strike the piano strings, making a sound. How the pins are placed on the barrel determines what song is played. The person operating the crank must move it in a steady rhythm, or the music will come out jumbled.
Sometimes confused with other crank instruments like the barrel organ (which uses forced air and pipes to make sound) or the hurdy gurdy (which turns a rosined wheel against the strings of a violin-like instrument), the barrel piano was often a feature of amusement parks. Also not to be confused with the steam calliope, which would have provided music aboard steamboats and was powered by their steam engines.
The museum's particular barrel piano, also known as a cylinder piano, was manufactured by E. Bona & A. Atoniazzi in New York City. Little is known about the original owners, but the company became known later as the B.A.B. Organ Company. You can read more about the company history here.
To hear what a barrel piano might have sounded like, check out this video of one playing a very complex piece of music.
If you would like to see the barrel piano in person, come visit the Hudson River Maritime Museum and head to the East Gallery.
In this "Featured Artifact" post, we're examining two cloth items in our collection - a pair of hat bands from the Hudson River Day Line.
Much like Naval ships, steamboat crews wore formal uniforms and there was a hierarchy of crew within each department. Of the two hatbands, one is a more general one that simply reads "Day Line," indicating the crew member worked for the Hudson River Day Line steamboat company.
The other hatband, reading, "2nd Mate," indicates the rank of the bearer. Second Mates are usually third in command of a vessel (behind the Captain or Master and First Mate) and usually act as watchkeeper, ensuring crew rotate through four hour watches and managing vessel safety and security. Sometimes they also serve as navigator.
Both of these hatbands date to the 1930s, a time when the Hudson River Day Line was at its height.
In this photograph of Hudson River Day Line senior staff of the steamboat Peter Stuyvesant, from 1947, you can see the uniforms and the clear ranks on their hats. The captain (Frank Briggs) wears a white hat to differentiate him from other officers. His hat band insignia is larger and clearly reads "Captain."
Although difficult to read in this image, the other officers are also wearing hatbands clearly denoting their ranks. To the left of the captain is the Chief Engineer, and to the left of him, the First (1st) Mate. To the far right, seated, is the Purser, the man responsible for ticketing and purchases aboard the ship. Can you tell what the other hat bands say?
Note also that the senior officers wear double-breasted jackets, and the junior officers single-breasted jackets.
Unfortunately, only Captain Frank Briggs is identified in this image. If you recognize any of these men, please let us know!
By the 1960s, all crew hats were changed to white, but the uniforms were changed and, depending on the department, became less formal.
Did you or anyone you know work aboard a Day Line vessel? What was their role? Tell us in the comments!
Thanks to Dan Donovan for assistance with today's blog post!
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The Hudson River Maritime Museum has thousands of artifacts and ephemera in its collections. On a regular basis, we will be sharing our favorites as part of our new "Featured Artifact" category of the blog.
We have been posting a lot about ice and winter sports here on the History Blog, so it's only apt that our first Featured Artifact is this beautiful piece of ephemera [paper items meant to be thrown away] from the Ray Ruge Collection. Ray was instrumental in reviving the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club in the 1960s and was an avid ice boater. His widow donated his large collection of ice boating history, photographs, ephemera, correspondence, and more to the museum. You'll be seeing more of Ray and his collection in the coming weeks.
This issue of Harper's Weekly (coincidentally ALSO from January 16, although in 1869, rather than 2021) featured "Ice-Boats on the Hudson" on the cover. Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization was a national weekly political magazine published out of New York City between 1857 and 1916. Often beautifully illustrated with lithographs based on photographs, Harper's Weekly chronicled daily life, and many of its illustrations grace the museum's walls.
"Ice-Boats on the Hudson"
The original article, transcribed:
"The ice-yacht is a boat on skates, and is impelled by the wind in the same manner as an ordinary yacht. There has been for some time at Poughkeepsie, in this State, and Ice Yacht Club, modeled after the New York Yacht Club. Thus the frozen waters of the Hudson do not by any means impede the winter navigation of the river; indeed, with a strong wind and upon a smooth surface of ice, one of these ice-boats will attain a speed of one mile per minute, thus outrunning the locomotive, and literally flying with the speed of the wind.
"For several winters a race has been contemplated between these singular yachts; but the condition of the ice has never been favorable at the time agreed upon. Our illustration on this page shows the fleet at Poughkeepsie. This fleet consists of eight boats: the Flying Cloud, owned by IRVING GRINNELL; the Icicle, by JOHN ROOSVELT; the Snow Squall, by THEODORE V. JOHNSTON; the Una, by AARON INNIS; the Flying Dutchman, by THEODORE VAN KLEEK; the Haze, by JOHN JAY INNIS; the Restless, by Commodore O. H. BOOTH; and the Snow Flake, by THOMAS PARISH."
Editor's note - the Icicle is on display at the Hudson River Maritime Museum.
This blog is written by Hudson River Maritime Museum staff, volunteers and guest contributors.
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