Tuesday, February 02, 2010

ABC Wednesday

C is for Calliope

First of all Calliope was one of the lively daughters of Zeus.

She was the eldest of the Muses, the goddesses of music, song and dance. Calliope was the goddess of eloquence, who bestowed her gift on kings and princes, and the mother of Orpheus. In the picture below look for the Muse playing the Lyre, or carrying a scroll. - that would be Calliope

As we approach modern times (relatively speaking) the calliope has a nice ring to it and speaks to us of fun and fairs and riverboats. Nowadays a calliope is a mechanical musical instrument that produces a sound by sending gas, or steam or compressed air through large whistles. In the age of steam a calliope was a most convenient instrument in any place where a steam supply was available for other reasons, - it does not make gentle music and neither is it capable of nuances of emotion, but its merry, rather raucous music, is perfect for steamboats and carousels out in the open air where it can be heard for miles. On a steamboat the excess steam is used for pumps and various anciliary apparatus. "When a steam plant is slowed to a stop steam pressure demand is reduced and the excess must be relieved somehow. They can either open a valve and release it in a loud roar, or they can pipe it to make music." (riverexplorer)

I had so much fun researching the whistles and keyboards that are all part of the calliope, - it seemed to me to be a part of America that interpreted so well her spirit in those years from the 1850's to the 1950's.

Joshua Stoddard of Massachusetts, patented the calliope in 1855, originally intending it to replace bells at churches, - if you want to learn more about their construction
Wikipedia has a wealth of information.

Unfortunately there are few steamboats left on the big rivers of America, but enjoy this sample of a Calliope, gaily decorated and blowing off steam in a musical fashion

Is there a carousel in your memories? One that housed a calliope and could be heard above all the noises of the fairground and will be forever associated with pink cotton candy and hot dogs, and when you were very small was a great and exciting adventure?

We have a calliope of sorts in our memories. Shortly after we were married we bought a 1933 yellow two seater with a rumble seat and wire wheels, - the perfect car with which to start a marriage, romantic and lighthearted and the prettiest yellow (and don't forget, with wire wheels!). On VJ day Charles attached an old four note whistle from a 1920's Essex car to the exhaust and created our own small calliope which we took to town and joined in the celebration.

There are more interpretations of C here, at ABC Wednesday, thanks to the generosity and hard work of the ABC crew and Mrs. Nesbitt.


Sylvia K said...

What a fun post for the C Day! Love the history and the look and the lovely photos! Thanks for the smiles!


magiceye said...

wonderfully informative take on the theme!

Reader Wil said...

How clever, Charles, to create your own calliope to the exhaust of your car! Your post is both enjoyable and interesting! I enjoyed listening to the steamboat calliope. Thanks for sharing this post.

shopannies said...

love calopie music I could sit and listen to it forever for sure

snapperoni said...

thank you for posting this, now I know the story behind it. :P

Wanda said...

Very enjoyable post Hildred!

lv2scpbk said...

Love the carousel. I collect carousels.

Also, On behalf of the ABC team, thanks for participating.

Barb said...

I enjoyed this informative post, Hildred, especially the last section about how Charles attached a whistle to the exhaust! I could just picture you both in that little yellow car, tooting you way to town.

Joy said...

Love the steamboat, interesting post. I never know how to pronounce her name.
There is a Steam Gathering. every year, a few miles from where I live, a treat for the child in all of us.

Christine H. said...

I'm so glad I read this post! I feel like I should have known that Calliope was a daughter of Zeus and that it was a steam instrument, but I knew neither. Now I'm smarter, thanks to you.

Roger Owen Green said...

Binghamton, NY, USA, my hometown, has SIX carousels in the area,. Used to go to a couple all the time. So I know & love well the sound of the calliope.

Susan said...

I found your blog via the ABC wednesday link. Looks like you live near Kerameos area. I often travel through there on my way to visit my folks in Oliver.
I didnt know that about Caliope. I always just thought it was an instrument. Thanks for the education.

Tumblewords: said...

Wonderful narrative and imagery! Excellent C choice!

photowannabe said...

Loved your post for C. Went on the Delta Queen a few years ago. The Calliope was was amazing. Sometimes it almost blew our ears out.
I love the old time carousel too. Its quite magical.

Jay said...

I loved this post! I had no idea that that was the reason calliope music was associated with riverboats, but of course, it makes sense! And I supposed that when they were tied up at a jetty was a perfect time for them to make music because the engines weren't doing anything.

Love the mini calliope on your car too! And - a strange and fun coincidence - the first car we had when we were married was yellow, too!