phonograph museum


On the last day of my vacation after attending the clifftop festival and then playing a set of music at my friend’s surprise birthday party, I decided to go out digging for 78s all across the backwoods of northwestern Pennsylvania and visit a girl I had met on tinder while traveling who lives in a small-ish rural town called Franklin.

I must have hit a dozen thrifts and antique stores, and found only one record of interest before I reached my destination of Franklin. She was at work teaching guitar lessons and wasn’t able to hang until she had a break, so I took that time to hop around and find potential record spots.

My friend Nathan Salsburg who is touring with Joan Shelley messaged me a while back asking me if I had ever heard of a phonograph and vintage instrument museum that was in Franklin since he was then passing through there on tour but it was the first I had heard of it, and it was closed when he stopped there. It was open the other day and decided to see what it was all about.

I had noticed a bunch of garbage LPs for sale in the front so I asked the front desk lady my usual question - “Do you have 78s for sale?”, to which she said “Sure do, a dollar a piece”.

She hands me a book of their entire inventory and leads me through the museum, then up three flights of stairs to a luthier shop where a man was working on some kind of organ. Along the wall were probably 1000 78s on shelves standing vertically without any sleeves, organized in little cubby holes alphabetized my artist. I didn’t look at the book since I wanted to be surprised, so I started pulling them out one by one. I got to the Cs.

Now let me tell you something about 78 collecting. We always talk about dreaming about having some kind of big score in the “wild” aka not on the internet, of auction list, or through another collector - found in a junk shop or thrift for very cheap. For hillbilly collectors like me, we always joke about one day finding a Carter Brothers & Son record - an off the wall, raw, fucking amazing string band from Mississippi whose records are rarer than hens teeth.

“Man, wouldn’t that be funny if I found a Carter Brothers & Son record in here?” were the exact thought I had when I got to the Cs.

There it fucking is. I had to make sure I was seeing it correctly. I took it out and just stared at it. My heart started pounding, my hands started trembling and my brow started dropping sweat. Never have I ever found anything like this out in the wild.

To not waste time I looked in the book of inventory to see what else might be hiding in there. Nothing like that sadly, but found copies of a Harry McClintock record and an Ernest Stoneman record that I already had that I could pass to friends that do have them. I picked up a total of 7 records, for $7 plus tax.

Still in disbelief, I walked out with a Carter Brothers and Son record for one dollar. I had to call a few other collectors to tell them what had just happened.

I walked down the street to meet the girl, still sweaty and flustered from what had just happened. Thinking she would think it was weird or boring, she actually thought my story was great. And now she’s working on booking me a few gigs in the area, and spend some extended time together when I’m back. It’s about an hour and 20 minutes from where I live, sadly.

I’m not one to really believe in spiritual stuff but I believe there is something that brought me to Franklin that I cannot see, feel, touch, etc. either way, for records and for girl, bless Franklin Pennsylvania.

The single greatest and rarest record I have ever found while out record hunting. It may not mean anything to you but means just about my whole world to me.

(Matching okeh sleeve and crumb trading card weren’t included)