The DeBence Antique Music World Museum houses a collection of more than 100 antique mechanical musical instruments dating from the mid 1800’s to the 1940’s. This collection was begun by Jake & Elizabeth DeBence in the 1940’s and continued to grow through the years. In 1965 the DeBences retired to the Franklin, PA. area and housed the collection in a barn which they opened to the public for viewing. After Jake’s death, Elizabeth offered the collection for sale. It was her fervent wish that the collection remain intact and in the area.
Citizens of Franklin and the surrounding area, realizing what a treasure the collection was, formed a non-profit corporation to purchase the collection and a building in which to house it. In a little over 7 months the community and surrounding area was able to raise over $1 million in order to accomplish this task. The collection was then moved from the DeBence farm to downtown historic Franklin. It now resides in the old G. C. Murphy 5 & 10 store on Liberty Street.
The collection is showcased along with a wide range of antiques. Lighting for the 1907 building’s main floor is provided by the DeBences’ collection of over 40 Tiffany-style hanging lamps. Many of the instruments in the collection are very rare. The 1913 Berry-Wood A.O.W. is the last of its kind in existence. The Cremona J “Tall Case” is one of only a few manufactured. The 1927 Artizan Air-Calio is the last original remaining. The 1930 WurliTzer 65 note band organ is the only one ever produced.
Guests not only enjoy seeing these mechanical marvels, they have the opportunity to hear many of them deliver their music of yesterday. In preservation, we create a tangible link with the past. In restoration, we take that which was all but lost and recreate it….not as a photograph or an artist’s rendering, but as an experience- an experience in which to see, touch, and hear.
This museum, in many respects, is a repository of our past- a timeline with which to chart where we have been and perhaps understand where it is we are going. It is testimony to man’s spirit of vision, imagination, and creativity…the very building blocks of civilization.