Mechanical Music Through the Ages

A collection of Mechanical Music and Arcade Machines – highlighting examples of the development in mechanical entertainment over time.

Hicks Barrel Piano 1812- (UK – Bristol)

By circa 1805 the famous cabinet making family of Hicks had turned their attention to the building of musical instruments and are credited as inventing and building the very first street barrel piano in Bristol around this date. So by 1816 the firm of Joseph Hicks was well established as a leading supplier of barrel street pianos and organs. These instruments were often used by street vendors who had large leather neck straps attached to the case, enabling the vendor to move from area to area to play and raise money. These instruments are not light to tote around in this fashion. The Hicks pattern of street piano was so popular that other firms copied the design, including the German builders in the Black Forest area.

Following the success of the Hicks street piano, Hicks style pianos continued to be built in Bristol by his ex apprentices. At this point the firms of Henry Distin and Taylors were established and continued the tradition, although Henry Distin emigrated to America, leaving Taylors the English market. The barrel in my instrument plays 8 different tunes, mostly jigs.