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It only takes a nickle

Music Machine Trail

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Travel back in time on the Marysville Music Machine Trail, featuring 7 historical music machines on loan from the Nickel Music Collection of David Ramey, displayed throughout Uptown. Watch and listen to a variety of musical instruments (piano, xylophone, banjo, drums and more) play themselves! Pick up a trail map at Union Station and see them all for yourself.

Avalon Theatre
Open: Mon - Sat

120 E. Fifth St.

Machine: Link 2E

Instruments: piano with xylophone

Made in Binghamton, NY in 1924

Rustic Reflections
Open: Thu - Sat

112 E. Fifth St.

Machine: Seeburg KT

Instruments: piano with

violin pipes & percussion

Made in Chicago in 1923

Union Station 1820
Open: Tue - Sat

109 E. Fifth St.

Machine: Ramey Banjo-Orchestra

Instruments: piano with banjo & percussion

Made in Chicago in 1994

Bonus Stop
Union County Historical Society

246 W. Sixth St.

Limited hours

Admission is encouraged but not required

Wednesday 12:30 - 3:30

1st & 3rd Sunday 1:00 - 4:00

Machine: Seeburg K

Instruments: piano with flute pipes

Made in Chicago in 1917

Marysville Art League
Open: Tue - Sat

264 W. Fifth St.

Machine: Seeburg K

Instruments: piano with violin pipes

Made in Chicago in 1921

Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. Store
Open: Mon - Sat

119 S. Main St.

Machine: Seeburg K

Instruments: piano with


Made in Chicago in 1925

Wicked Treats Boutique
Open: Mon - Sat

138 E. Fifth St.

Machine: Seeburg KT

Instruments: piano with

xylophone & percussion

Made in Chicago in 1924

D.C. Ramey Piano Company

Marysville, OH

Since 1955, Dave Ramey Sr. set the standard of excellence in automatic musical instrument restoration. He received his education and training while maintaining the nickelodeon collection at Svoboda's Nickelodeon Tavern and Museum (Chicago Heights) during the 1960s.

Dave has trained some of today's most skilled craftsman in the art of mechanical music restoration. Upon earning the degree of Bachelor of Fine Arts, his son David Jr. began working full-time at the family business in 1986, after years of working after school and summers alongside his father.

In 1994, Dave Sr. received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Musical Box Society International for his work in the field of automatic musical instrument restoration and manufacturing. David Jr. relocated the family business to Marysville in 2008.

Collector Bart Off

Philadelphia, PA 

Bart Off first noticed coin operated music, or nickelodeons, when he was about seven years old. On warm summer evenings, Bart and his dad would walk about three blocks from their home in Philadelphia to the Dolly Madison Ice Cream Parlor to get some pints to bring home to the family. There in the shop was a tall piano with organ pipes waiting for young Bart to drop a nickel into the slot so it could perform a tune and bring a smile to the little boy’s face. The ice cream parlor closed its doors a few years later, but that piano and its wonderful music made an impression in young Bart’s imagination.

While he was a mechanical engineering student, Bart traded his radio collection for a non-working player piano. Bart lived on the second floor of an apartment complex, with a small narrow entrance hall. Unable to get the piano up the stairs, Bart repaired the piano at the bottom of the stairs. Luckily, the landlord loved the piano and offered to help Bart get it into his little one room apartment. The landlord used his bucket loader to lift the piano to the second floor so Bart could pull the piano inside. Soon after, the piano was sold and Bart found another. It too had to be lifted up to his apartment in the same manner as the first, in fact, this was done seven times as Bart repaired player pianos to help pay for college. The landlord would visit Bart regularly to check on his progress and enjoy the piano music.

Once out of college, Bart got hired at Bell Laboratories where he stayed for most of his career. Bart was part of a group that did plant design and supervised plant construction, requiring him to relocate several times. One of the first relocations was to Denver. When the relocation coordinator asked Bart if he had any items of unusual weight or bulk, Bart replied, “Yes, I have ten pianos.” The coordinator laughed and took it as a joke until Bart explained, “Really! I have ten pianos!” Bell Laboratories covered the expenses of $132,000, in 1977. 

The last move before retiring was back to the Philadelphia area. Bart had amassed a collection of coin pianos and orchestrions in various conditions. Bart had a large shop built on his property to repair and display his collection in 2002. He would open his shop and showroom to anyone that was interested in sharing his passion. Every year, around the first weekend in May, Bart would invite some of the many restorers, collectors, and enthusiasts he had come to know during his forty years in the hobby to his shop and showroom to spend the day listening to music. Carefully crafting his list of invitees to include people that may not know each other, he would try to invite someone new every year. Since it was always around the 5thof May, Bart would put on a few of his favorite ethnic Mexican music rolls and call it a “Cinco de Mayo” party. The event gained a certain notoriety for those in the hobby.

As he was slowing down with age, Bart made arrangements to see that his collection and Cinco de Mayo parties continue without him. Bart entrusted good friend and Cinco de Mayo regular, David Ramey Jr, with his collection and to share their common passion for nickel music.

Music Machine Tidbits

A time when all music was performed live. A time before smart phones and home smart displays; before CDs, tapes, and phonograph records, and radio. When music had to be experienced as it was being performed. Recorded music has existed for hundreds if not thousands of years, but it had to be reproduced live by intricately crafted mechanical devices that replicated human performers.

Ancient Greeks had crude self-playing mechanical pipe organs. Tower carillon bells appeared throughout Europe in the 13th century. Self-playing mechanisms were adapted for early keyboard instruments by the 17th century. In the 1700s music boxes were introduced. Through the 1800s, mechanical music blossomed, crafted in all shapes and sizes from small pocket sized music boxes to large self-playing pipe organs and

orchestrations able to fill a crowded concert hall with music. By the early 1900s, mechanical music reached a high level of sophistication with the introduction of automatic pianos, organs and orchestrations that operated from perforated paper music rolls. Many were made to be coin-operated and were displayed in all manner of public places to deliver music to the masses.

The popularity of these public music machines lasted about 30 years, replaced by the phonograph and radio. Today, automatic music machines are difficult to find, mostly existing in private collections and museums, relics of a bygone era. It may be the elusive, never-to-be-recaptured feeling of an earlier era that makes such instruments so fascinating today. The sound produced by a properly restored automatic musical instrument is the exact sound that our ancestors heard and enjoyed. One can listen to an old phonograph record or view an old film, but the experience is reproduced through a medium. It is not so with these musical time machines. There is no medium between today's listener and the

"performer" of years ago. The performer is here today and plays for you undiminished, with nothing lost or changed, just as in years past. The performance that delights the listener today may have delighted, in exactly the same way, Queen Victoria, Teddy Roosevelt, a Chicago speakeasy patron, or a Paris streetwalker years ago. Through the music of such machines, the emotions and entertainment of another time and place, come to life unaltered and undimmed today. Follow the trail illustrated in this pamphlet and discover several of these magical musical time machines located throughout Uptown Marysville.

The Nickel Music Collection features personal instruments and related items of a few collectors, including Bart Off and Dave Ramey, and is maintained by D.C. Ramey Piano Company in special cooperation with Brad McClincy.

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