Mechanical Music Through the Ages

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


The Organette is a reed instrument first manufactured in the late 1870s by several companies in America, London and Germany of table-top form. The various guises of these little organs ranged generally from 14 to 39 notes depending upon the complexity and musical arrangements. The music was formed from rolls or discs (the latter both round and square) from perforated paper, cardboard and in some cases metal. Air pressure or vacuum was produced by either hand-cranked or foot operated bellows. These little wonders were a very important development of entertainment in the home and thousands were produced world-wide until their decline was influenced by the popularity and affordability of phonographs and subsequently gramophones. The Organette produced remarkably enjoyable music from clever arrangements for the instruments with limited notes and almost concert like performances for the instruments with the most notes. Many fine examples have survived in collections around the world, with a number of good people still cutting music for many of the instruments today.