The Wurlitzer 153: America's Most Popular Carousel Organ
Updated: Jun 8, 2018
Of all the dozens of makes and models of band organs, there are more Wurlitzer 153 band organs on carousels today than of any other type of organ. In fact, in the coming year, around 12 carousels across the United States will be operating to the sound of a style 153 Wurlitzer. That's not even counting the many more in private collections and several sitting in amusement park storage facilities. In total, there are likely around 60-80 of this model still around out of the roughly 170 originally built.
The number '170' is an estimate based on the original Wurlitzer factory ledgers. There is at least one Wurlitzer 153 with a serial number not listed in these ledgers, likely a result of some mistake made by a worker at Wurlitzer. It wouldn't be unlikely that a few more mistakes like this could have been made, hence '170'.
The popularity of this organ is thanks to it's attractive carved facade and full rich sound - all of which being able to fit in a relatively small space. In addition, all Wurlitzer 153 band organs were equipped with Wurlitzer's duplex roll system; this allows for continuous music without waiting for a roll to rewind. The 153 is the smallest organ Wurlitzer built where every single organ was equipped with this system. William Dentzel as well as other carousel companies marketed their rides with the style 153 through the 20's and to this day, several examples of 153s with their original carousels still exist. Despite having only 3 bass notes from the 150 scale, the musicality of this organ is still quite vast being able to play traditional marches and waltzes as well as more popular fox-trots. Wurlitzer 153s can easily play in the keys of C and G and with some creative arranging occasionally support the key of D. The 3 automatic registers as well as percussion add contrast to the organ allowing for several different levels of expression.
The Style 150 Tracker Bar Scale
1. Swell Shutters Open 2. Bells On 3. Additional Automatic Stop 4. General Cancel 5. Coin Trip (To allow for coin operation) 6. Snare Drum 7-9 Trombones G, C, D 10-12 Bass G, C, D 13-21 Accompaniment G, A, B, C, D, E, F, F#, G2 22-37 Melody G, A, B, C, C#, D, E, F, F#, G2, A2, B2, C2, C#2, D2, E2 38-52 Counter-Melody C, D, E, F, F#, G, A, B, C2, C#2, D2, E2, F2, F#2, G2 53. Bass Drum 54. Roll Rewind
The iconic sound of a Wurlitzer 153 is due to its clever design and selection of pipes to give a rich, brilliant sound within a somewhat compact organ case! The instrumentation of a 153 is as follows:
Bass: 3 Wood Trombones, pitched at 8' These are on separate keys from the rest of the bass section. Perforations for the trombones are often slightly shorter for emphasis. 3 Open Diapason, pitched at 8' 3 Stopped Diapason, pitched at 8' 3 Octave Stopped Diapason, pitched at 4' These come on when the additional automatic stop (tracker hole 3) is activated. Accompaniment: 9 Violins, pitched at 4' 9 Additional Violins, pitched at 4' These come on when the additional automatic stop (tracker hole 3) is activated. 9 Stopped Flutes, pitched at 4' Melody: 32 Violins (2 ranks) 16 Stopped Flutes 16 Octave Violins These come on when the additional automatic stop (tracker hole 3) is activated. 16 Open Flutes These come on when the additional automatic stop (tracker hole 3) is activated. 16 Bell Bars These come on when the bells (tracker hole 2) are activated. Counter-Melody: 15 Wood Trumpets 15 Cello Pipes These come on when the swell shutters (tracker hole 1) are activated. 15 Stopped Flutes These come on when the swell shutters (tracker hole 1) are activated.
Once again, there are a number of carousels around today where you can hear a Wurlitzer 153 in person. Consider visiting the following locations:
Kennywood: 4800 Kennywood Blvd, West Mifflin, PA 15122
Hersheypark: 100 Hersheypark Dr, Hershey, PA 17033
Cafesjian's Carousel: 1245 Midway Pkwy, St Paul, MN 55103
Canobie Lake Park: 85 N Policy St, Salem, NH 03079
Nunley's Carousel: Charles Lindbergh Blvd., Garden City, NY 11530
Prospect Park Carousel: 95 Prospect Park West, Brooklyn, NY 11225
Dorney Park: 3830 Dorney Park Rd, Allentown, PA 18104
Tuscora Park: 161 Tuscora Ave NW, New Philadelphia, OH 44663
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium: 4850 W Powell Rd, Powell, OH 43065
Bushnell Park Carousel: 1 Jewell St, Hartford, CT 06103
DeBence Antique Music World: 1361, 1261 Liberty St, Franklin, PA 16323