Marshall Historical Society

The Musical Museum
By Janet Dangler, 2020

The Musical Museum, first called The Old Music Store and a fixture in Deansboro until the 1990s, will be remembered as a wonderful place to visit - a marvelous musical menagerie developed by the Sanders family. It was a unique concept, because most museums strictly forbade the artifacts to be touched. The Sanders, on the other hand, determined that their Musical Museum - collections of rare musical instruments - would be hands-on as much as possible. Visitors were encouraged to "crank, pump, study, and play" those wondrous instruments, as one of the founders, Art Sanders, stated in his notes. People came from all over to experience the museum.

This collection began with the purchase of some music boxes from a scrap dealer by Hardie Sanders and Art Sanders. Hardie was an auto mechanic in Deansboro, originally from Georgia. He learned mechanics during the First World War, came to Deansboro in 1921, and opened his station, offering Texaco gas. He married Esther Skerritt, a prominent professional organist and silent move pianist, in 1922. Esther was musically inclined, and Hardie was mechanically inclined so it was a combination of their interests that started out as a hobby but became a business. Before they knew it, there were nickelodeons in the Sanders kitchen, music boxes under the beds, about a dozen melodeons in the living room, and a garage full of phonographs. They would pick up old player pianos, nickelodeons, and, yes, music boxes that everyone considered junk, and Hardie, the mechanic who could repair anything, restored those pieces of junk to working condition so that they would make music again. This was during the time when people were "streamlining" - music makers by either selling them for peanuts or throwing them on the scrap heap. Soon they were repairing for other collectors. People would stop in for gas and would visit the music room, or play the melodeons while they got their oil changed.

In the 1930s, the collection was opened to the public as a free exhibit. Visitors trooped into the house, taking pictures, talking loudly, and sometimes playing two musical instruments at the same time. After a while, the Sanders probably wanted their house back, and decided to add a room to the garage where Hardie operated his auto repair business, turning it into a place where the various instruments could be displayed and demonstrated. The museum was opened in 1948, and charged 35 cents admission.

The idea that the museum should be a place where people not only look at these priceless instruments, but be involved with the music produced was considered foolish by some, but the Sanders family countered that the instruments had been made and sold to be used, and that the sound was every bit as important as the look. The Museum helped to convince people that music could be fun, and the Sanders believed the Musical Museum was, above all, educational. Even non-musicians could enjoy the museum.

The musical museum and the diner next door. Photo taken in the 1950s Photo taken in 1982

The Musical Museum put Deansboro on the map!

Musically inclined New York State vacationers will likely enjoy a stop at the Musical Museum on Route 12B in Deansboro, fourteen miles south of Utica, suggests the State Department of Commerce. Besides seeing a large collection of old-time nickelodeons in a special Gay Nineties Room, visitors can play musical antiques that include melodeons, grind organs, woodwinds, strings, brasses, music boxes, street and player pianos, pipe organs and ear-tube phonographs. The Musical Museum is only one of the attractions listed in Vacationlands New York State.

MUSICAL MUSEUM Old-time musical instruments can be seen and played by visitors to the Musical Museum in Deansboro, 14 miles south of Utica. Instruments range from antique pipe organs to old fashioned hurdy-gurdies.

MUSICAL MUSEUM POPULAR WITH TOURISTS Musically inclined Riverdalians will enjoy a visit to the Musical Museum at Deansboro on Route 12B, 14 miles south of Utica. Visitors can play musical antiques, Including melodeons, grind organs, woodwinds, strings, brasses, music boxes, street pianos, harpsichords, ear-tube phonographs, player pianos and pipe organs.

DEANSBORO, N.Y. (UPI) — Past the dairy farms and the plowed corn fields just outside the hamlet of Deansboro is the Musical Museum. Inside is a musical funhouse of restored music boxes, grind organs, nickelodeons, player pianos, melodeons, and more. The family-operated attraction 14 miles southwest of Utica is as distinctive, for its unusual hands-on policy as for its unusual collection of antique Instruments and music devices from a simpler time

MUSICAL MUSEUM Old-time musical instruments can be seen and played by visitors to the Musical Museum in Deansboro, 14 miles south of Utica, N.Y. Instruments range from antique pipe organs to old fashioned hurdy-gurdies, according to New York State Vacationlands, a free guide issued by the State Department of Commerce, 112 State Street, Albany, N.Y. 12207.

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