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date: 09 April 2020

Band organlocked

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


A mechanical organ (known as “fairground organ” in Europe) used to provide music for merry-go-rounds and in amusement parks, circuses, and skating rinks in Europe and the United States. 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 colorfully painted case which sometimes incorporated moving figures in its façade. All but the very largest instruments were designed to be portable, robust enough to travel around the country on rough roads. 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 band organs, developed during the 18th century, were essentially barrel organs: they had a wooden cylinder or barrel covered with metal pins that formed a musical program. By about ...

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