Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1899?–1905.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; pianos and carousel organs; last listed 1905.
A. Capra & Co. was active in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania around the turn of the 20th century. The firm manufactured barrel pianos and carousel organs, and likely barrel organs as well. It was last listed in 1905, but it may have been continued by the son under a different name; see note on G. Capra.
Actual carousel organs were a variety of automated organs containing a limited number of pipes and percussion stops which were specifically designed to provide music for carousels and merry-go-rounds. The term was also used more broadly along with "band organ" to indicate an automated organ for fairgrounds and amusement parks. Such instruments were larger than could be contained within the hub of a carousel. These instruments had to be loud since they were used outdoors in a crowded environment with noisy mechanical ride equipment running in the background. They often featured elaborately painted facades with gilt trim, and frequently moving visual elements similar to large mechanical clocks. If the firm made barrel pianos and carousel organs, it most likely made barrel organs as well. Both of these instruments are similar to a music box. A rotating drum with protruding pins (the barrel) plays the notes by either moving hammers which strike the strings (barrel piano) or pressing an internal key to open the wind to the pipes (barrel organ). In the latter case, the crank also operates the bellows to supply wind to the pipes. Instead of a spring for motive force, the operator turns a crank to rotate the barrel, allowing variations in speed. The operator changes tunes by changing barrels. The tunes are 'recorded' on the barrel by the placement of the pins by the manufacturer. By the late 1800s, both instruments were used almost exclusively by street musicians, although barrel organs had been used in churches in the 1700s. Editor.
A. Capra is probably Alessandro Capra, advertised as a manufacturer of barrel pianos in London from 1890 to 1894. From patent records, it appears that A. Capra was in Philadelphia by 1899,1 possibly in partnership with a Bertoldi. G. Capra was likely his son, there was a G. Capra operating the same type of business in Philadelphia at least as late as 1918, and possibly more than a decade beyond.2
There are no entries in the database that describe organs by A. Capra & Co.
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