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Fairground Organs

A one-of-a-kind Ruth Model 36-X with moving figures

The Fairground Organ is the European equivalent of a band organ. These are both similar in operation but different enough to have each earned their own category. The first notable difference is that most fairground organs play folded one-tune cardboard book music rather than music rolls. Some later instruments have a roll system, and many European organs imported into the United States were converted to Wurlitzer rolls, but book music by far was the most common form of music for these.


Also unlike American band organs, there wasn't just 'one' hold on the market like Wurlitzer had. Many manufacturers such as Gavioli, Ruth, and Limonaire sold organs and music up until the first World War, and then again until around WWII on a smaller scale. After that, there were still a handful of organ builders such as Carl Frei, and to this day, Verbeeck still manufactures new fairground organs. 

Fairground organs, for the most part are actually quite a bit bigger than the bulk of band organs made by Wurlitzer, Artizan, and North Tonawanda. This is not necessarily reflected in how many ranks of pipes there are, but more on how chromatic each section is. Granted, there are small Fair Organs with as little as 3 bass notes, but organs with 8, 10, and even fully chromatic bass sections are not uncommon.


Music for the many fairground organ scales were produced by many, and some original factory music, such as most of the music masters from Ruth still miraculously survive to this day. Gustav Bruder and Carl Frei arranged and even composed many tunes for these, and book music was cut in the United States as well by the B.A.B organ company at least until the 1930's.

An impressive 89 Key Gavioli Fairground Organ

Fairground Organs are still immensely popular at fairs and carnivals in Europe today and there are dozens of museums still prominently displaying these. In the United States, more are found in private collections but can still be seen at rallies, as well as at museums and amusement parks.