Bison Theater

16 Market Street,
Brownsville, PA 15417

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AndrewBarrett
AndrewBarrett on December 21, 2015 at 9:09 pm

Mr. Tunney, however, says practically nothing about Brownsville-area theatre organs or organ music in columns #78 through #84, his long, well-researched (with many interviews with people who, in their youth, had actually worked in these theatres) series on the theatres of Brownsville, Pennsylvania.

According to “The Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Pipe Organ”, by Mr. David L. Junchen, page 630, the “Bison Th.” in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, had a 2-manual Smith organ installed in 1915. This organ had Kinetic blower serial #D559, which was 1 Horsepower and delivered wind at 10" static pressure. Mr. Junchen did not give the # of pipe ranks in the organ in his book, because he did not have that information at the time of publication. I also don’t currently know how many ranks it had.

Mr. Junchen also gives the organ’s nameplate as “Smith”, which, in conjunction with the 1915 install date, means this was one of the small handful of organs built and installed by Mr. Frederick Smith’s fledgling first organ firm, the Smith Unit Organ Co. of North Tonawanda, New York.

This firm only built and sold a handful of pipe organs, before Mr. Smith made a deal with (coin piano and orchestrion maker) Mr. Seeburg in Chicago, and moved his pipe organ firm to Chicago in 1916.

The “Seeburg-Smith” organs subsequently built in Chicago and sold by Seeburg dealers between 1916 and 1921, were the most popular built and sold by any of Mr. Smith’s 5 successive organ firms… I believe they may represent perhaps as many as 2/3 to ¾ of all of the 200 or so Smith organs ever sold by all five companies (1. “North Tonawanda” Smith (North Tonawanda, New York); 2. Seeburg-Smith in Chicago; 3. “Chicago” Smith (without Seeburg, still in Chicago); 4. Smith-Geneva (Geneva, Illinois); 5. “Alameda” Smith (Alameda, California).

Anyway, Smith organs of all types are quite rare today, and I would love to know: does anybody know what happened to the Smith organ that was in the Bison Theatre in Brownsville, Pennsylvania?

Could it have been sold to a local church or organ enthusiast before the theatre’s demolition in 1962?

Do any parts or pieces of this organ, or photographs, documentation, or recordings, exist today?

I’d love to know more, thanks!

-Andrew Barrett

P. S. if you know more, why not join my Smith and Geneva Pipe Organs group on Facebook here?: https://www.facebook.com/groups/104769223198776/

AndrewBarrett
AndrewBarrett on December 21, 2015 at 8:51 pm

It is too bad the Bison is gone. According to Mr. Glenn Tunney in his June 4, 2000 article “AND THEN THERE WAS ONE: ONLY THE PLAZA THEATER REMAINS”, available here: http://freepages.history.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~glenntunneycolumn/column84.htm

… the Bison was torn down in the Summer of 1962. It had indeed opened in 1913, modernized for sound movies, and done a generally thriving business through the 1950s. What a shame! Does anyone have any decent photos of this theatre, especially the inside?

simpsonr
simpsonr on February 11, 2015 at 4:02 pm

Went there when I was in grade school. It was a small theater (couple hunderd seats?) and mostly showed western movies. It always seemed to have a lot of people in attendance and was popular with young and old alike.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on May 16, 2008 at 7:05 pm

More information on the Bison here:
http://tinyurl.com/5lyb5t