Self playing organs have been around for a long time, in many small churches barrel organs were the norm, as there were few parishioners able to play a keyboard. Pinned barrels were of the form used in the larger musical boxes. In the latter half of the 19th Century the paper music roll first made its appearance. M. Welte and Sons claim to have built the first organs and orchestrions using paper music rolls with pneumatic action in 1887. Reed organs were the earliest form of instrument using paper music rolls that were at all popular. This was probably due to the fact that suction wind was already being used to produce the sound, and the addition of a player mechanism was relatively easy to achieve. A large number of these instruments were produced up until the mid 1930s, with their perfection being reached in the Solo Orchestrelles of the Aeolian Co. 58, 65 and 116 note rolls were available for these instruments with all the best loved tunes in both UK and USA.

The following text is from the Web site In the 19th century the reed organ became as popular a domestic instrument as the piano. Reed organs were generally cheaper and more easily mass produced than pianos at least until the 1890s. Reed organ mechanisms are simpler than complicated piano actions: all that is required is essentially opening and closing the pathway to the reed. They are not touch sensitive like a piano. It is no surprise therefore that effective player organs appeared before player pianos. All that was needed was a simple mechanism to switch notes on and off. Player pianos required a far greater degree of finesse in order to give acceptable results.

A small scale roll was entirely sufficient since their musical scope would be extended by the various stop pitches available in the organ. For example Aeolian's 46 note scale was effectively producing music over an 82 note range. The 46 notes of standard 8ft reed stop pitch was supplemented by two further high octaves in the treble at 4ft and 2ft pitch and one octave in the bass at 16ft pitch. On the same basis the 58 note scale was effectively a 94 note range when stop pitches are taken into consideration.

Good orchestral music requires a good orchestrator. Good organ music similarly requires good stop registration. There is as much an art in effective orchestration as there is in registration. With the player organ the hands are free to register the instrument much more effectively than if the same instrument were played manually and very complicated effects are possible when combined with all the technical possibilities of a well programmed organ music roll.

Player organs are however now quite rare. They never achieved the popularity of player pianos. This was due to the popularity of the reed organ generally being on the wane by the turn of the 20th century and also the cost and size of the better quality instruments. Because of their general size they are sadly less collectable. Scarcity does not enhance the price - the market is much smaller and demand is very reduced. If instruments require repairs these are potentially much more than those for player pianos.

Whilst thousands of musical roll titles were originally available with these instruments, most of the rolls now encountered with instruments or for sale generally are of classical favourites. The reason for this is that such music was more often than not the taste of the majority of the highbrow wealthy owners of these players. Sadly, because of the relatively small number of playing instruments left there have only ever been a few very limited attemptds to make new music rolls.

A lot of rubbish has been written about player organs by player piano folk who probably don't even own one. To understand the instrument and its music you should have some small appreciation of the fact that the piano and the organ are two entirely different instruments whose only common characteristic is the keyboard. Their performance capabilities, historical repertoire and development are entirely different.

We summarise that on the larger instruments, in order to achieve a rapid action, high pressure vacuum was needed. This was the same as in the player pianos also available at the time. The organs were cheaper and easier to make. Player pianos had to have a very careful gradation of tone or they would sound ``mechanical'' whereas in the organ the pipes were either sounding or not - there is no other keyboard control.

Organettes are small mechanically played instruments with free reeds and were produced by several of the reed organ makers. They were typically used for Victorian home entertainment, as were the better known musical boxes. A lot of information about them is contained in a book by Kevin McElhone and published by the Musical Box Society of Great Britain [53].

We note that the 20 note, 5-1/2'' wide paper roll can be played on the English Automatic Seraphone, Seraphone, Celestina or Ariel. The 14 note rolls were also a common format, and would also play on a variety of instruments such as the Mechanical Orguinette as produced by the Aeolian Company.

Kevin has produced an extensive repository of music listings for all known organettes:

All these instruments are now extremely rare.

Ariel (dates unknown)

This was an organette with 20 notes playing 5/1-2'' paper rolls and produced in England. Indeed research by Roger Booty [13] suggested they were made by J. Pittuck, 63 Union Street, Stonehouse, Devon. It is very similar to the Seraphone and may share parts in common. The Ariel has four stops: Flute 4', Vox Humana (fan), Forte and Melodia 8'.

This instrument works by simple pneumatic action, air from the perforated paper rolls being used to open the valves and pallets under suction inside the wind chest. It is like a very simple American organ with the Melodia stacked above the Flute reeds in channels.


Auto Organ Co. (c.1900)

39 Blenheim Road, Upper Holloway, London.

Peter Black (c.1890-1905)

Peter Black of 10 Chorlton Terrace, Upper Brook Street, Manchester built some roll playing organettes. This would have been close to the Spencer company. It is now referred to as Brunswick M13.

One such, referred to as an English Automatic Seraphone, was in the Saltaire collection. It has 20 reeds and crank powered suction. Sometimes referred to as English Seraphone Co. c.1890. This may have been originally patented by A. Maxfield, see below.

ROS DB entry 416

ROS DB entry 416 is an English Seraphone. This is a 20 note roll playing instrument which is hand cranked.



There is one in the Victorian House Museum, Milton Keynes, see

Several others have passed through auction sites over the last few years.

e-Bay *6961

These are clearly very rare. This is the first I have seen advertised for sale in Nov'2017 with an asking price of £750. There are 23 music rolls plus several hymns on paper loops. Usual selling price at auction is around £250.

Boyd Ltd. (c.1875-1929)

Made self playing pianos, so why not reed organs? See Chapter 24.17.

Cullum and Best (dates unknown)

Cullum and Best of London produced Green's patent Orchestrophone which was a self playing reed organ. See entry for Imperial Organ and Piano Co. Ltd. in Chapter 24. Cullum and Best were later founders of the Imperial Piano and Organ Co., see Chapter 12.

The Bijou Orchestrones were produced by the Muroe Organ Reed Co. in USA. There was another Orchestrone produced by the McTammany Company USA.

John Dewhurst (c.1889)

Dewhurst of Birmingham produced the Orchestrone, a kind of organette.

J.M. Draper (1882-c.1897)

Joseph Mark Draper (b.1855-d.11/12/1897) was born in Wigan in 1855 where he lived with parents and four other children at 73 Darlington Street. Brother James Bartholomew (b.1852-d.1886) was 3 years older and once he left school was apprenticed as a brass finisher and moved to Blackburn when he married. Joseph meanwhile married and moved to Halifax to set up business as a fine art dealer. He also moved later to Blackburn where together they started their business.

The Organette Works was officially founded in 1878. On 1/7/1882 the brothers had a joint patent for Improvements to the Organette. The first factory was located at 35 Clayton Street. They manufactured the music rolls as well as the instruments and had a small shop located with the factory near to the railway station. They bought River Street Mill in 1891, the previous owner having been declared bankrupt. This was known as ``The Largest Organette Factory in the World'' [14]. This, at hit hayday, employed 30 to 40 men. With two engines driving the machines they could turn out up to 1,000 instruments per month. Everything was made on site except the reeds which were imported. They also printed all their own advertising material.

They actually only manufactured their first instrument in 1886 having dealt in imported ones before then. Some were possibly made under license to the McTammany Company of USA. Following the death of J.B., Joseph Mark carried on the business with his son Joseph Ernest.

Various newspaper adverts were seen up to 1897 when J.M. died. The company continued to trade in goods and make other articles under the management of J.E. until at least 1905. The company ceased trading altogether in 1935 when J.E. retired.

Draper of Blackburn, Lancs. produced the Victoria Organette (no stops), English Organette (Expression stop, a kind of sourdine) and the Orchestral Organette (3 stops: Flute, Vox Humana, Expression), the latter with two ranks of reeds (8' and 4' tuned flat). Jubilee, Belgravia or British were alternative names for the Victoria model. They all played 14 note perforated rolls. The Orchestral cost 4 gns in 1894. Their claim of the largest organette works could however have been challenged by several overseas makers and also by Maxfield in London. It seems they sometimes employed a triumph of advertising over substance, and indeed many of their advertising methods are still being used today.

english_organette1.jpg english_organette2.jpg

The above photos are of a single rank English Organette. It measures 13'' x14-1/2'' x6-1/2''h. Draper also produced a plain Organette similar to the slightly more ``polished'' Jubilee model. This was presumably for Queen Victoria's jubilee in 1897.


There is a YouTube video of a 2-rank organette here:

And here: Sounds a bit like a concertina with a squeaky handle...

A Belgravia organette by Draper is in the Glenesk Folk Museum. It can be seen on MINIM no.41719

[add photo]

J.H. Ebblewhite (c.1883)


John Henry Ebblewhite was at 24 High Street, Aldgate, London. Fritz Gellerman has the address as 4-5 High Street, Aldgate, but this was Albert Victor Ebblewhite described as a musical instrument importer c.1921 (J.H. earlier).

There are a number of musical instruments known by Ebblewhite, concertinas, flutes, cornopeans, etc. said to have been made between 1854-82.

I've listed him in this section because the only instrument I know of is a ``harmoniflute'' hosted on the Squeezytunes Blog site. These were normally of French manufacture and it is likely that the Ebblewhites did not make their own.

ebblewhite_harmoniflute1.jpg ebblewhite_harmoniflute2.jpg

G. Foucher (c.1881)

George Foucher made mechanical harmoniums and organettes at 29 Piccadilly, London. He showed a ``labour saving appliance'' in the 1881 London Exhibition.

London Piano and Organ Co. (c.1910)

14 Holmes Road, Kentish Town, made self playing pianos and reed organs.

John Malcolm and Co. (c.1891-1924)


Malcolm and Co. of 116-8 Bayham Street, Camden Town, London NW (1893-5) and then of Erskine Road, Regent's Park, London NW produced a 61 note pneumatic action reed organ called the Phoneon c.1898. It plays from 10-5/8'' paper rolls. They also produced manual reed organs. Malcolm took over the rival firm of A. Maxfield in 1918. For more information about the Malcolm firm see Chapter 13.

Some more information is from the Web site which says: The Phoneon was a 61 note player reed organ. It was essentially a regular American organ (i.e. suction operated instrument) to which a very basic player mechanism was fitted. Various models were made, though the one in the featured advert below is the most commonly encountered. The rolls are standard 6 per inch perforated and the spools are standard 65 note spools slightly shortened to the narrower scale width. The rolls were chromatically arranged but due to the non-standard width were non-compatible with other systems. The rolls were essentially the same as those sold for use on the related 61 note "Malcolm" push up piano player also sold through Murdoch and Co. and manufactured by the same company. Whilst the "Malcolm" player quicky vanished, the Phoneon did continue to be made for a good number of years and a 58-65 note example believed to date from the late teens or early 1920s is known to exist in a private collection.



e-Bay *5904

[TBA] Advertised in Chesterfield Apr'2015. This is the same style as the one in the advertisement above.

[dimensions] 5'7''h x4'w x2'd.

61 keys with a CC-c''' range.

Stops: Re-Roll, Bass Coupler, Principal 4', Piano 4', Violina 2', Diapason 8', Echo 8', Bourdon 16', Forte, Vox Humana, Dulciana 8', Melodia 8', Vox Celesta 8', Dulcet 8', Cremona 8', Clarionet 16', Dolce ?, Flute 4', Treble Coupler, Motor

ROS DB entry 381


This is a roll playing organ by John Malcolm and Co. It is said to be from 1898, has a walnut case and 61 keys with a CC-c''' range. The stops are: Re-Roll, Bass Coupler, Principal 4', Echo 8', Diapason 8', Forte, Vox Humana, Melodia 8', Dulciana 8', Dulcet 8', Treble Coupler, Motor.

This last stop controls the speed of the roll being pumped through. As you draw it, it turns the hand of a small clock dial to indicate gradually increasing tempo. The rolls have a clock dial printed on them to indicate correct tempo, and the right hand sliding door of the spool-box has a circular aperture cut in it so that you can see this when the roll has wound on far enough.


Saltaire Museum

An identical (perhaps the same) instrument bearing the serial number 1105 and dated from 1900 is in the Saltaire Museum.

e-Bay item *4508

A Phoneon eventually appeared on e-Bay in March 2010. It was advertised by a seller in London. The instrument needs a complete overhaul including repairs to the bellows, but is complete. As can be verified from detailing on the case, this is not the same instrument as above.

e-Bay item *8768

This one was advertised on e-Bay in Cardiff in May 2014.

phoneon_front2.jpg phoneon_rear2.jpg phoneon_roll.jpg phoneon_player.jpg

There are three boxes of rolls, each containing approximately thirty individual rolls. These are a mixture of classical, light classical, parlour songs and dance tunes highly suited to the tone and age of the instrument. These are non standard 65 note 6'' music rolls, they are chromatically arranged but not compatible with other self playing instruments.

The Phoneon does play and you can pump rolls through it, but it would, of course, benefit from a complete sympathetic restoration. The casework is in generally good condition, but the back panel has sustained minor damage journeys. The workmanship is very nice throughout. It is estimated that there are probably between only 15 and 20 of this model still in existence.

from Rosalie and Milton Wainwright

Rosalie and Milton are in New Zealand and proprietors of the Woodville Organ museum. Milton is a regular contributor to the ROS Quarterly. In the 2011 Spring edition, he showed photos of a Phoneon recently acquired and being restored.

Dean Organs

Dean Organs had a push up Phoneon player for sale described as probably made somewhere between 1898 and 1905, designed to play the ``Phoneon'' 61 note rolls and was intended to be used with a harmonium. It bears the serial number 185. In need of a full restoration.

[pictures from Richard Dean's Web site]

e-Bay *9388

[TBA 301549609388]

E. Malkin (c.1929-54)

See section on reed organs, Chapter 24.79.

E.H. Mattika (1887-96)

St. Dunstan's Buildings, St. Dunstan's Hill, London EC.

A. Maxfield (1859-1918)

Alfred Maxfield and Sons Ltd. of 326 Liverpool Road, London N (later 324-6) produced the Celestina, Seraphone and English Automatic Seraphone (but see English Seraphone above). They were well known makers of high quality automatic reed organs which could also be played using the keyboard, so were dubbed ``two instruments in one''. They were commissioned by appointment to the Prince and Princess of Wales (before 1900).

In 1905 they were advertising that instruments were available from 25/- to £25.

Rather little is known about the Maxfield company which was founded in 1859. It seems to have been managed by Alfred Maxfield and J. Maxfield, both held several patents from 1886 onwards. There was also H. Maxfield c.1911. Maxfield invented the Celestina Organette in 1887 which was marketed by John G. Murdoch and Co. Ltd. 91-3 Farringdon Road, London, E.C. The Munroe Organ Reed Co. was partly responsible for the production. Maxfield merged with John Malcolm in 1918 and some instruments carry the Murdoch label.

In addition to the 20 note Celestina and Seraphone which plays the same music rolls as the Seraphone and other makes, Maxfield produced a bigger 31-note instrument which is now very rare [96]. The instrument has treadles similar to an American organ, but it works by standard organette pneumatic action with valves working pallets inside the wind chest under vacuum. They had either one or two ranks of reeds and could possibly also be fitted with a keyboard. Rumour has it that there was once an American organ that could play the Maxfield 31-note rolls in the middle section. John Harrold's article explains his restoration of a surviving instrument and also re-produces the patent details.

We note that a Celestina is registered as DOS DB entry 0623 but there are few details. Here is a photo of one from which appeared at auction.


Photographs of a 20 note Improved Celestina Organette can be seen at This is said to be an instrument from the 1890s. The Improved Celestina played endless music bands so the roll did not need to be re-wound and they could be used for accompanying multiple verses of hymns in chapels and such like.

A number of instruments are referred to as Seraphon II, c.1900. These were roll operated 20 reed organettes measuring 17'' x12-1/4'' x11-3/4''.


Mojon, Manger and Co. (c.1885-6)

Mojons of Bartlett's Buildings, London EC. were musical box manufacturers who also made mechanical harmoniums and other instruments. Formerly Mojon, Montandon & Co. & John Manger & Co., watch and musical box manufacturers, 26-27 Bartlett's Buildings, Holborn Circus, and at Genéve.

John Manger and Co. were awarded a bronze medal at the 1885 London Exhibition (entry 3,748) for novelties in manufacture of musical boxes.

London Gazette 29/9/1899: Notice is hereby given, that the Partnership heretofore subsisting between us the undersigned, Edward Mojon and John Manger (who retires), carrying on business as Manufacturers, Importers and Dealers in Watches, Clocks, and Musical Boxes, at Nos.26 and 27 Bartlett's buildings in the city of London, under the style or firm of Mojon Manger and Co., has been dissolved by mutual consent as and from the 30th day of June, 1899. All debts due to and owing by the said late firm will be received and paid by the said Edward Mojon. - Dated this twenty-sixth day of September 1899. Edward Mojon. John Manger.

Orchestrelle Co. (1899-1930)

The British arm of the Orchestrelle Co. was formed in September 1899 from the original firm of Geo. Whight and Co. This was a wholly owned subsidiary of the Aeolian Company in the USA, and registered in Garwood, New Jersey, but trading in the UK, Germany, the British Empire and other far off lands. The parent company tended to name its subsidiaries after the main instrument it was building at the time, and the name Orchestrelle was presumably chosen because this development of the Aeolian roll operated reed organ looked like being the company's main activity. Indeed a number were sold to relatively wealthy customers in the UK and around 50 still exist here. For more information see [141].

Aeolian was an American company based in Aeolian, New Jersey, but also had registered premises in London. The Orchestrelle Co., originally at 225 Regent Street moved to Aeolian Hall, 135-7 New Bond Street when they merged. Built in 1876, this grade II listed building has always been associated with culture in the West End of London. It opened on 1/5/1877 as one of the most important private art galleries of the Victorian era. Later were the Orchestrelle Company followed in 1939 by the BBC. It is now occupied by a Belstaff House motor-cylcing inspired fashion studio.

Aeolian also had a factory in Hayes, Middlesex which produced the updated Orchestrelle. The self playing reed organs were built in the UK from parts supplied from the USA as ``completely knocked down'' or CKD kits. The site was purchased from a farmer in 1908 and the factory erected the following year. This is shown in the following photo - it is now a Grade II listed building.


The factory was built using a re-inforced concrete frame by E.P. Wells, and brick exterior by Walter Cave with 4 storeys and 19-bay elevation with clock tower to the rear.

A series of photographs and descriptions of the Aeolian buildings and land can be found on the Web site

There are a number of pictures of the derelict Benlow Works in Silverdale Road, Hayes UB3 3BW here: Also check it out on Google Earth.

Aeolian was a large American company founded by W.B. Tremaine in 1878 and later managed by his son H.B. Tremaine who had absorbed several other producers including the Automated Paper Music Co. and the Munroe Organ Reed Co. They went on to also acquire the A.B. Chase, Farrand and Votey and Vocalion Organ Co. so they no longer had to buy in parts. E.S. Votey had invented the player piano and the Vocalion was considered to be the best reed organ poduced, so the future looked bright for a high quality self playing organ. The early history of the Mechanical Orguinette and Aeolian Company is told by Dave Kopp [127].

Aeolian produced the largest and the best self playing reed organs of their kind, the Orchestrelle and its variants with many unique functions and often pipes too. In fact after merging with the Skinner Organ Co. they continued making pipe organs. They also made Gregorian organs (Vocalions) and were associated with the Mechanical Orguinette Co. They also made the famous Pianola, one of best known self playing pianos.

The Orchestrelle Co. Ltd. of London became a limited company registered in Britain on 1/7/1912 superseding the American firm. Its name changed to the Aeolian Company in the 1920s. Trade declined in the early 1930s and the factory building was bought after the WWII by a property owner named Benny Lowenthal, when he renamed it the ``Benlow Works'' after himself. Over the years Kraft Cheese and Walls Sausages and Meat Pies used the premises.

The mechanism of the Pianola and Orchestrelle is described by Faust [65]. He also notes that The tone in this instrument is produced by free reeds and each reed is provided with a pipe or qualifying tube or an acoustic cell, one of various forms and dimensions, through which the tone passes this tube or pipe and which determines the quality and character of tone and exercises a great influence on the sound produced by the vibrating tongue. It is this addition which gives the reed its fluty quality, as well as the resonance and power of tone.

Aeolian built many self playing pipe as well as reed organs. The Aeolian Co. Ltd. of Hayes built good quality instruments. We note that George Audsley was associated with the company at their start. This was the only organ firm in England which specialised in player organs and which had standardised music rolls for them. Some high class instruments had cases made in the factory of Grinling Gibbons, such as the one said to have been originally in Westminster Abbey [201]. Later instruments had electro-pneumatic action. There are a number of videos on YouTube, but is hard to know which ones were built in the UK.

The British Piano Museum, 386 High Street, Brentford, Middx. TW8 0BD has historic instruments including almost every model from the Aeolian company, including their largest Orchestrelles.

A note on the music rolls used from Aeolian Grands and Orchestrelles play the same music rolls and scale. Unlike piano rolls, the organ 58-note rolls are arranged. The bottom 13 channels are generally reserved for single bass notes to simulate an organ pedal manual and the remaining two sections are divided into bass and treble divisions split at G#/A below middle C. There were several thousand titles produced. The majority were made in the USA, though there were several hundred produced by the UK branch of Aeolian. US production of new titles tailed off around 1913 and in the UK around 1918 although 58-note rolls were manufactured until the late 1920's.

Rolls were manufactured primarily by the manufacturer, Aeolian, who offered several thousand titles. The London branch of the company also offered a substantial number of additional titles not offered in the US or elsewhere. The London rolls all have serial numbers preceeded with the letter "L". A quantity of compatible organ rolls were also manufactured by the London based Perforated Paper Music Company under their Imperial brand. In the USA a small handful of companies made compatible music also.

Much more information about the Aeolian Company and the instruments they produced is preserved on the Mechanical Music Digest Web site

Richard Vance's Orchestrelle Model W

The late Richard Vance, in 2003, restored an English built 1912 Model "W" Orchestrelle and documented every stage photographically along the way. He also gave detailed explanations of every step. The information is preserved on the Mechanical Music Digest Web site Whilst internally slightly different to many models these guidance pages could be applied to the majority of earlier 58 note Orchestrelle models without any difficulty.


Contra Bass
Double Bass

Bass:                     Treble:
Muted Strings             Muted Strings
Aeolian Harp	    	  Aeolian Harp	    
Viola		    	  Violin		    
French Horn	    	  French Horn	    
Orchestral Flute    	  Orchestral Flute    
Flute		    	  Piccolo
Oboe		    	  Oboe		    
Trombone            	  Trumpet

Electric Orchestrelle 3MP/17

Jason Fisher told me about the following advertisement from Musical Opinion Feb'1951.

FOR SALE, 3 manual and pedal Aeolian Orchestrelle Reed Organ, considerably enlarged, completely electric action, 33 N.F.I.C. stopkeys; 6 adjustable combination pistons; 17 separate sets reeds. Sacrifice £850 or near offer. Full particulars from Palmer, Yattenden Lodge, Horley, Surrey. I wonder what happened to this one?

Models of Aeolian Organs

Aeolian models were as follows:

Aeolian style 1050 and 1500:
46 note music rolls, 1891 onwards.

Aeolian Grand:
first 58 note instrument. Had both separate internal reed organ and player organ mechanisms. The Aeolian Grand was unusual in that internally it was two organs: one for automatic mode and one for hand playing. Essentially the Aeolian Grand has a keyboardless player organ crammed inside the case of a regular American reed organ. It was stated in their adverts that an owner could play a solo on the keyboard while the automatic part played an accompaniment music roll utilising differently toned stops.

Aeolian Orchestrelle:
58 note 1898-1906. Pre-1906 models are generally charactized by having a wooden tracker bar, wooden take up spool, stop pulled by linkage wires, a single valve system and no internal rubber tubing. This time there was only one organ inside the case and it was operated by either the keyboard or the roll. The "advantage" of being able to accompany yourself was not possible due to the way the system worked and this earlier selling point was dropped from adverts for the new instrument. The other main improvement was the superior grade of the organ itself. This was built by the Vocalion Organ Company and was based on Vocalion's own superlative and succesful "Wright system" reed organ; the pinnacle of American reed organ manufacturing. This was patented in 1893 and used individual resonators over each reed, see Chapter 7. These resonators modified the tones, having slightly different shapes for each rank. There were larger reeds and these were operated by pressure as opposed to those in the usual suction reed organs. The player mechanism operated by a pneumatic pouch and valve system. The combined width of the reeds, resonators and pneumatic system were wider than the the 58 note keyboard and this is why the instruments were substantially larger than normal American organs. Whilst Orchestrelles get mostly played via a music roll only, they are excellent organs to play manually due the quality and characteristics of Wright's pneumatic system. There were a few different Orchestrelle size configurations, i.e. the V, W and Y. A new range of exquisite case styles such as "Grecian", "Colonial", "Francis 1st", "Mazarin" were available in different types of mahogany, walnut or oak. Additionally, custom made cases were available.

Aeolian Orchestrelle:
58 note post 1906 models. Post 1906 models are generally charactised by having a metal tracker bar, metal take up spool, stops operated by pneumatic motor operation, double valve system and internal rubber tubing to connect everything. In 1906 production of Orchestrelles was also commenced in the UK at Aeolian's Hayes factory. All English made instruments are generally of this type and were fitted with a different grade of reeds to American instruments.

Aeolian Orchestrelle model A:
price £110

Aeolian Orchestrelle model S:
58 note same as Aeolian Grand sold for £175

Aeolian Orchestrelle model V:
price £350

Aeolian Orchestrelle model W:
price £400

Aeolian Orchestrelle model Francis the 1st:
price £400

Aeolian Orchestrelle model Y:
price £600

Aeolian Orchestrelle model XY:

Aeolian Orchestrelle model F:

Aeolian Orchestrelle model M:

Aeolian Orchestrelle Solo:
116 note music rolls. Although there was a very rare 2MP Model F made the vast majority of instruments have a single keyboard. The roll plays two keyboard music by playing the solo note tracks on one set of organ tones and the accompaniment tracks on different sets. Which ranks operate in which division is indicated on the stop knobs. Solo style F and 2MP models sold for £1,000

Aeolian Duo-art Orchestrelle:
176 note music rolls from 1915 onwards. This was essentially the earlier 116 note roll with 60 extra channels controlling stops and dynamics so as to reproduce a live performance. The 176 note format was almost exclusively for pipe organs although a couple of one off giant Orchestrelles are known to have been built.

Here are some corresponding specifications.

Aeolian Model Y

Contra Bass 16', Double Bass 16', Salicional 8', Dolce, Muted Strings 8', French Horn 8', Flute d'Amour 4', Melodia 8', Piccolo, Stopped Diapason 8', Clarionet 8', Bassoon 8', Cornopean 8', Tempo, Re-Roll, Vox Humana, Pneumatic to Manual, Trumpet 8', Oboe 8', Clarionet 8', Doppel Flute 8', Piccolo, Clarabella 8', Flute d'Amour 4', Gemshorn 8', Muted Strings 8', Dulcissimo, Saliciona 8'

Two treadles and two knee swells. Size: 8'4''h x6'4''w x3'3''d. Cost: £600. Case supplied in walnut, mahogany or oak.

Aeolian Model W

Contra Bass 16', Double Bass 16', Muted Strings 8', Aeolian Harp, Viola, French Horn 8', Orchestral Flute 4', Flute, Oboe, Trombone, Tempo, Re-Roll, Vox Humana, Pneumatic to Manual, Trumpet 8', Oboe 8', Piccolo, Orchestral Flute 4', French Horn, Violin, Aeolian Harp, Muted Strings 8'

Two treadles and two knee swells. Size: 5'9''h x6'5-1/4''w x2'5-1/2''d. Cost: £400. Case supplied in walnut, mahogany or oak.

Aeolian Model Francis the 1st

Contra Bass 16', Double Bass 16', Muted Strings 8', Aeolian Harp, Viola, French Horn 8', Orchestral Flute 4', Flute, Oboe, Trombone, Tempo Indicator, Re-Roll, Tremulant, Trumpet 8', Oboe 8', Piccolo, Orchestral Flute 4', French Horn, Violin, Aeolian Harp, Muted Strings 8'

Two treadles and two knee swells. Manuals CC-c'''. Size: 5'9''h x6'7-1/2''w x2'6''d. Cost: £400. Case supplied in walnut, mahogany or oak.

Aeolian Model V

Contra Bass 16', Double Bass 16', Muted Strings 8', Aeolian Harp, Viola, French Horn 8', Flute 4', Oboe, Trombone, Tempo, Re-Roll, Vox Humana, Pneumatic to Manual, Trumpet 8', Oboe 8', Piccolo, French Horn, Violin, Aeolian Harp, Muted Strings 8'

Two treadles and two knee swells. Size: 5'5-1/2''h x6'3''w x2'5-1/2''d. Cost: £350. Case supplied in walnut, mahogany or oak.

Aeolian Model A

Contra Bass 16', Double Bass 16', Muted Strings 8', Viola, Orchestral Flute, Flute 4', Bass Clarinet, Trombone, Tempo, Re-Roll, Tremulant, Pneumatic to Manual, Trumpet 8', Clarionet 8', Piccolo, Orchestral Flute, Violin, Muted Strings 8'

Two treadles and two knee swells. Size: 4'11''h x5'6''w x2'6''d. Cost: £110.

Aeolian Model S

Contra Bass 16', Muted Strings 8', Viola, Flute 4', Melodia 8', Trombone, Re-Roll, Tremulant, Pneumatic to Manual, Trumpet 8', Melodia 8', Piccolo, Violin, Aeolian Harp, Muted Strings 8'

Two treadles and two knee swells. Manual 58 notes CC-a'' Size: 5'4-1/2''h x6'1/2''w x2'6''d. Cost: £175.

Aeolian Style D

Bass Coupler, Sub Bass, Violone, Corno Inglese, Dulciana, Tempo, Re-Roll Clarion, Haautboy, Flautino, Voix Celeste, Treble Coupler

Two treadles and two knee swells. Manual 58 notes CC-a''. Dimensions: 143cm wide, 143cm tall, 67cm deep

J. Thibouville-Lamy (c.1882-1910)

Jérôme Thibouville-Lamy & Cie. was an old established Parisien maker of musical instruments. In addition to string and woodwind instruments they made large numbers of mechanical organs and Organina organettes between 1880 and 1910. Some of these models were made under license of the Gavioli company.

The early music boxes sold by John Murdoch were made or at least supplied by Thibouville-Lamy.

They were listed at 10 Charterhouse Street, London E.C. as ``the only maker of the Organista, and franco-american harmoniums equal to American organs''.

The Organista Harmonium was said to be an apparatus in the shape of the harmonium with a mechanism similar to the Pianista, placed inside, permitting to play in the ordinary manner, or mechanically like the Pianista. It was played from perforated cardboard. Measures 47cm H x31cm W x30cm W and weighs 5.5kg.

P. Trueman (c.1993)

A number of small organettes or keyless reed organs have been built by Peter Trueman of Derby in recent years.

20 keyless organ 48/HT34

The first instrument shown, number 48/HT43 plays the standard 20 key English Book playing scale (as in fairground organs). It is unusual as Peter is the only builder in the world to produce book playing reed organs, most other reed organs use the 20 key roll playing scale. There are 9 double reeds on the melody, 8 single reeds on the accompaniment and 3 single bass reeds. Wind is produced by hand from a single double acting bellows


The following is a similar 26 note instrument instrument which plays Alderman 26 note music rolls as well as Raffin scale 20 note rolls.


This next one, serial number 90/HT75 was built in 1998. It is a 20 note instrument.


Wallis Ltd. (c.1898-1900)

Information on Wallis can be found in Chapter 31.37.

Wallis were the London agents for the Auto Organ Co. who (not surprisingly) made the Auto Organ c.1900. It is thought that some were actually made in London.



P.K. Watts (c.1980)

Peter K. Watts of 14 Rock Hill, Chipping Norton, Oxford OX7 5BA was building organettes in the 1980s called the Cotswold Organette.

ROS DB entry 115

A roll playing organette is listed as entry 115 in the ROS DB. It is hand cranked and of modern construction.


M. Welte and Sons (1832-1936)

Michael Welte and Sons of Freiburg, Germany, made among others the Welte Philharmonic self playing pipe organ. Several were installed in London, e.g. at Steinway and Sons (the agents), Harrods and Maples. A very important one which has recently been restored was installed in Sir David Salomon's residence in Kent around 1912. They were built for playing concert music from 150 note paper rolls. The specification of Salomon's organ, the largest 3MP model 10 built, is given in NPOR, but does not appear to contain any free reed stops.

Another specification which was said to be the largest 2MP model of these instruments is given by Webb [201]. His following description however is probably based on observations of a different instrument.

He says The Bassoon [not listed] is quite worthy of attention: in the two lowest octaves it is a free reed with wooden boots and short cylindrical cardboard tubes, the tone being very quaint and pastoral like, and of a quality the writer has not heard before in any organ. Unfortunately the stop is continued upwards in metal flue pipes and the peculiar quality is lost in the treble.

The Clarinette [possibly 16' on the Swell], which extends to fiddle G, merits description. It is a free reed with wooden boots and large scale cylindrical cardboard tubes open at the top, the tuning wires being brought through the body. The tone is not at all like the orchestral prototype, it is more brazen, and would be more correctly described as a schalmei or broad toned corno di bassetto; it is quite characteristic and forms a good solo stop a little on the brassy side.

Geo. Whight and Co. (1878-1899)

whight_name.jpg whight_name2.jpg

George Whight and Aldridge Mann made and sold Excelsior and other sewing machines in Ipswich and at 143 Holborn Bars, corner of Brooke Street, London. They were listed as manufacturers of sewing machines from 1859-76. They became Geo. Whight and Co. 1878-92, when machines were imported. Previous to that the Holborn premises were used by John Camp Pin, a boot and shoe manufacturer. Geo. Whight is listed as having a factory at Circus Road, St. Pancras from 1879-92 when the shop moved to Regent Street.

George Whight imported and marketed the Victolian, Aeolian and other self playing instruments from the USA. He was therefore not a British manufacturer (?), but was influential in the reed organ trade and is given as an example of such importers. He had at first dealt in Wilcox and White imports. Around 1888 he was advertising the self playing Victolian organ from 225 Regent Street, London. It turns out that the Victolian was in fact the Aeolian ``Princess'' model. This was shortly before Wilcox and White began to make their own self playing Symphony organ, so clearly George Whight understood the market for these instruments.

Whight lived at 13 Wood Lane in Highgate, N. London. His business prospered as he concentrated on Aeolian organs and dropped the Wilcox and White franchise. His business was bought by the Orchestrelle Co. which manufactured the Aeolian in 1899, and they traded from the same address from 1899 onwards before moving to 135-7 New Bond Street, see Chapter 29.16. This must have been a lucrative opportunity for Whight who died in 1906 leaving the substantial fortune of £40,000.


There are photographs of a roll playing instrument with this name, but we have yet to find more details. It shows a rather large standing hand cranked instrument with a cupboard for the music rolls below.

[The Tournapnohe Music Co. was associated with G.A. Bates.]

Cabinetto (1879-)


The Cabinetto (or Musical Cabinetto) was a 25 note organette, played by large paper rolls 14'' wide, made by Geo. Whight and Co. London, patent 1879. It is quite a large instrument and is said to have an excellent loud tone, good examples therefore command a high price.

This advert is for a Musical Cabinetto - it also mentions sewing machines.


e-Bay *6345

This one was advertised in Jan'2012.

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e-Bay *1210

This one, advertised in USA in Nov'2014 with a walnut case, carries the serial number 1058. Measurements are given as 17-1/2'' x13-1/2'' x12''h.


Celestina (c.1885)

Advertised ad £6-6/- or £3-15/- for a smaller instrument.

These could be the ones by Maxfield, the label suggests they were made under license.

Rob Allan