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This site is devoted entirely to pictures and information about Mechanical Organs.

Mechanical organs first came on the scene way back in the 16th century, but the ones we are familiar with today started appearing during the 19th Century when Gavioli, an Italian living in Paris started building organs that operate by punched cardboard books of music. The most common system uses a key frame with metal keys that pop up through the punched holes and operate the pneumatic action that opens the valves to allow air from the bellows into the pipes. Another system uses a key frame with holes, similar to a paper roll operated piano, but in this case the air is sucked through the holes in the punched card to activate the pneumatic action. The oldest system uses pinned barrels (hence the name barrel organ) which is often incorrectly applied to the punched card organs too. The barrel organs had limitations because the music had to be arranged to fit on one revolution of the barrel, therefore the organ builders went over to the punched card system. There are some organs which use the paper roll system similar to that used on player pianos (pianolas). These were mainly made by Arthur Bursens, an organ builder of Antwerp. He incorporated this system in most of his Arburro series of dance organs. All these types of organs have, over the years become known by a variety of names, in America they often refer to them as Band Organs, but to be accurate, it is best to divide them into their various types.  Dance Organs, were built to play in continental dance halls, which were either static or mobile. Fairground Organs, were built to sit at the centre, or beside a fairground ride or show, to attract customers and many still do that today. Street Organs, were built to be pushed around the old streets of Holland to collect money for the owners, but nowadays they mainly collect for charity.

 

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