Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Grove Music Online. Grove is a registered trademark. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).

date: 25 November 2020

Fairground organ [fair organ, showground organ, band organ; Dut. draaiorgel; Ger. Kermisorgel]locked

  • Durward R. Center
  • , revised by Arthur W.J.G. Ord-Hume


[fair organ, showground organ, band organ; Dut. draaiorgel; Ger. Kermisorgel]

A mechanical organ used to provide music for merry-go-rounds and in amusement parks, circuses and skating rinks in Europe and the USA. The instrument originated in Europe as an outdoor version of the Orchestrion, voiced to sound above the hurly-burly of the fairground. Initially it was put near the entrance in order to attract attention. It was usually built in an elaborately carved and colourfully painted case which sometimes incorporated moving figures in its façade. All but the very largest instruments were designed to be portable. With the coming of bioscope (moving picture) theatres, the organ sometimes became the front of the show-tent, its façade incorporating entry and exit doors.

The earliest fairground organs, those of the late 1870s, were of the Barrel organ type. By about 1880 such instruments were being produced in sizes containing several hundred pipes and a variety of percussion effects; these large models were powered by steam or water engines and later by electric motors. Major builders of barrel-operated organs included Gavioli of Paris, Wilhelm Bruder of Waldkirch, Limonaire of Paris, and Eugene DeKleist of North Tonawanda, New York. In ...

You do not currently have access to this article


Please login to access the full content.


Please subscribe to access the full content.