Roller Organ's and Organette's are hand-cranked reed playing instruments that were produced from the late 1870's through the mid 1920's. They cost much less than disk or cylinder music boxes manufactured during the same period, but quickly lost their market share after the introduction of the phonograph around the turn of the century. Organette's were produced by the thousands in both the USA and Europe and were considered the common-man's form of home entertainment. Sadly most of them ended up in the attic, in the barn or simply thrown away, but thanks to the internet they're enjoying a renewed interest.
Some organette's use paper music-rolls similar to a player piano, some use metal or cardboard disk's and others used a thick folded cardboard book-music as the media. The Autophone Co. of New York produced thousands of instruments called the "Roller Organ" which used pinned wooden cylinders that are commonly called "cobs" or "rollers". The name stuck, and even today paper-roll playing organette's are mistakenly called Roller Organ's. Organette's are a relatively inexpensive introduction to mechanical music as well as a great investment. So look around - there might be one waiting to be found in your attic, estate sale or local auctions.
CLICK ON ANY PHOTO TO SEE AND HEAR THE ORGANETTE PLAY!
The Autophone, invented by Henry B. Horton in 1878, was the first table-top organette mass produced in the U.S.A. These small pressure operated 22 note organette's were simply squeezed by hand which simultaneously advanced the music strip through the instrument. A larger 32 note table-top model and elaborate floor standing model were also produced. Horton also invented the Calendar Clock in 1864.
22-NOTE AUTOPHONE ORGANETTE
32-NOTE AUTOPHONE ORGANETTE
By lifting up and down on the metal "T" handle at the front of the organette the music sheet would advance through the instrument.
Autophone Company replaced the early model organette's invented by
Horton and began production of the Gem, Concert, Grand, Chautauqua,
Home Music Box and a few other branded names. Earlier models,
like the one pictured below, were pressure operated instruments which forced the air out
through the reeds. This was changed early on in production to the more
efficient vacuum system which became the standard for the majority of
American made organette's.
GEM ROLLER ORGAN (Early pressure model)
The earliest models stood on 4 turned legs with exposed book-paper covered bellows. Though the pallet valves were small and circular shaped , the mechanism design itself changed very little through it's production history.
CHAUTAUQUA ROLLER ORGAN (Rare Gem-Style model)
Roller Organs with the branded name "Chautauqua" were given away by the Larkin Soap Co. as a premium. If you bought $10 worth of soap they would ship you a free Roller Organ with 5 cobs!
CONCERT ROLLER ORGAN
The 20-note Concert was a step up from the Gem Roller Organ with a more elaborate case and front glass swell door. The reeds were generally tuned to a lower scale giving them a warmer tone. This early model has a resonator attachment covering the pallet valves.
GRAND ROLLER ORGAN
The Top of the Line in Roller Organs, the 32-note Grand Roller Organ sold for twice as much as the Concert so few were produced.
The Musical Casket is one of several 14-note organette's produced in the late 1800's. It used a simple paper-as-valve system that allowed air to be drawn directly into the reed when a hole in the music passed over the reed opening. Other organette's of this style include the Melodia, Columbia Orguinette, Reed-Pipe Clariona and Gately Automatic Organ.
MUSICAL CASKET 14-NOTE ORGANETTE
MANDOLINA 20-NOTE ORGANETTE
The pneumatic operated organette's, such as the Mandolina, Celestina, Symphonia and others were the most expensive organette's made due to their higher quality craftsmanship and more complex mechanical systems. Each individual note is actuated by a small pneumatic valve that opens the airway to the reeds. This pneumatic action allows the organette
to play fast and repetitive notes not possible on standard
paper-as-valve organette's or cob organs. They are by far the best sounding and most powerful of all the organette's that were produced.
TOURNAPHONE 25-NOTE ORGANETTE
The Tournaphone and Cabinetto had the largest music roll of all the table top organette's produced that's almost 13" wide! The large reed-block gives this instrument a deep mellow tone not heard on smaller organette's. The Tournaphone Company also produced the Aurephone and Celcelia organette's.
ARISTON 24-NOTE ORGANETTE
Produced by Paul Ehrlich, the Ariston is one of several pressure operated organette's that were produced in Germany. Ariston's were available in 16, 19, 24 and 36 reeds. Some models were also sold with a Tremolo Stop, Forte Stop, bells and double reeds. The majority of German instruments that were made used punched zink or thick cardboard disk's as the music media. Most European organette's are pressure operated rather than vacuum.
24-NOTE ORGANINA THIBOUVILLE-LAMY
The French made Organina plays folded book style music strips.
The Web Ring below is a ring of web sites for Enthusiasts
and Collectors of Crank Organs, Roller Organs, Organettes, Paper Roll or
Disc Organs, Barrel Organs, Busker Organs, Monkey Organs, Street Organs,
or any type of Hand-Operated Mechanical Reed or Pipe Organ.