Bison Theatre

16 Market Street,
Brownsville, PA 15417

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Bison Theatre

Located on High Street (today renamed Market Street) in Brownsville. The Bison Theatre opened in 1913. Installed sound equipment in 1930. Closed on May 4, 1952 with Maureen O'Hara in “Flame of Araby” & Howard Duff in “The Lady from Texas”. The theatre was demolished and replaced by a parking lot.

Contributed by Ron Sterbenz

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

kencmcintyre on May 16, 2008 at 10:05 pm

More information on the Bison here:

simpsonr on February 11, 2015 at 7:02 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.

AndrewBarrett on December 21, 2015 at 11:51 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:

… 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?

AndrewBarrett on December 22, 2015 at 12:09 am

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?:

dsedman on February 18, 2017 at 6:35 pm

May 4, 1952 final day for the Bison in a protest over taxation.

Nessa on January 2, 2022 at 11:06 pm

I was in Brownsville today and popped into their little museum. They had an organ on display and the docent told me it had been in one of the downtown theatres, but it certainly wasn’t a pipe organ. Looked like an old parlor organ. If they have a larger theatre organ, he didn’t mention it. I didn’t notice a brand on the organ. Sorry no pictures, photography in the museum was discouraged and I wanted to be friendly.

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