- Barbara Owen
A keyboard or automatic aerophone intended for outdoor use and operated by steam or compressed air. It was invented by Joshua C. Stoddard (b Aug 26, 1814; d April 4, 1902), who settled in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1845; he supported himself by keeping bees while working on a variety of inventions and experiments. His invention of the calliope (named after the Greek muse of eloquence) is said to have been inspired by his noticing the great carrying power of locomotive steam whistles.
Stoddard’s completed instrument was introduced to the public in 1855. It consisted of a steam boiler, a set of valves, and 15 graded steam whistles, played from a pinned cylinder. It was claimed that it could be heard for 8 km—the Worcester City Council banned Stoddard from playing it within the city limits. Having nevertheless secured financial backing from some Worcester industrialists, he developed a keyboard model and founded the American Steam Piano Co. After encountering financial difficulties a few years later, Stoddard was supplanted as head of the company by Arthur S. Denny, who changed the firm’s name to the American Steam Music Co., and later claimed Stoddard’s invention as his own. In ...