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Roller Organ's and Organette's

   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. Produced by the tens-of-thousands in both the USA and Europe they were the least expensive form of home entertainment offering the largest selection of songs to choose from. By the mid 1890's the phonograph became more affordable to consumers and it soon began replacing the organette in the home. Unfortunately most organette's ended up in the attic, in the barn or simply thrown away. So look around.....there might be one waiting for you in grandma's attic, estate sale or local auction!

  The media, or music, varied for the many different type's of organette's. Some use paper music rolls similar to a player piano, some use metal or cardboard disk's and others use a 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" due to their similarity to a corncob. The name stuck, and even today paper-roll playing organette's are mistakenly called Roller Organ's.

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Autophone Organette

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 had several patents for improvements to the Calendar Clock which led to creation of the Ithaca Calender Clock Co of New York.


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.

The 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.

Early 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. On earlier models the reeds were generally tuned to a lower scale giving them a warmer tone. This early model pictured here has a resonator attachment covering the pallet valves which was only available for a short time.

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 large 13" cob played 3 times longer than the standard Concert Roller Organ.

Musical Casket Organette

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.


Mandolina 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 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 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.

Organina Thibouville-Lamy Organette                                       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.

Crank Organ Web Ring

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