Schmidt's Music Rolls

700 Port St, Unit 540
Easton, MD 21601
eschmidt@goeaston.net
(410)770-4830

History of Organettes

PatentJohn McTammany held many patents issued in the 1880s and 1890s. But an ealy organette-type instrument called the Cartonium, was built by J.A. Teste in 1861 in Nantes, France.

The first commercial organettes sold in America were produced by The Munroe Organ Reed Company, organized in 1869. Located in Massachusettes, they grew to become one of premier firms with an output in 1887 of over 50,000 instruments annually.

The first popular organette in America was the Trumpetto. This small mouth-operated reed organ played a roll with only eight notes. This was the only popular organette until the late 1870s.

In the 1880s, organettes were mainly sold by mail order. Prices ranged from $1.65 to $10. Today, these antiques can sell for hundreds of dollars.

The machines came in many shapes and sizes. They ranged from eight to twenty-five notes. Some were played by blowing through them, but most were played with a crank that was turned to create a vacuum. A paper roll would travel over a track bar -- just like on a player piano -- with holes for each note.

Although these types of machines were sold up into the 1930s, they began to lose their popularity by 1900 while the home phonograph rose in popularity. The Rollmonica -- or "player harmonica" -- sold during the late 1920s and the 1930s was the last organette produced. Interestingly, the Rollmonica was very similar to the first organette, the Trumpetto, in design since both were mouth operated.