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by Dr. Bill Black

In 1914, Norman Baker founded the Tangley Calliope Company of Muscatine, Iowa. The company produced a machine sold under the name Tangley Air Calliope and was later called a Calliaphone.

Earlier versions of a calliope existed on river boats which were operated by steam. The pipework could be loudly voiced to operate on the steam pressure used to propel the boat. The music produced was very loud and could be heard for quite a distance. This music was often used to announce the approach of the steamboat.

The Tangley machines were designed to operate on compressed air pressure thus eliminating the need of a source of steam. The Tangleys operated with a range of five eighths of an inch pressure to one and a quarter inches of pressure. The lower pressure models were termed Theater Calliopes which were voiced a bit softer and intended for indoor use.

The higher pressure versions were plenty loud. The idea here was to use the music to attract attention to a particular area. Thus they were very useful for advertising purposes. Today, the sound of the calliope is most often associated with the traditional music of the circus.

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