The founder of the Waldkirch organ industry was Ignaz
Bruder (1780-1845), who apparently became familiar with the building of barrel
organs in Mirecourt in the Vogezen. He was the master teacher for several German organ
builders one of who was later to become the famous Andreas Ruth.
Four of his sons founded the business Gebrüder
Bruder: Andreas (1807-1859), Ignaz II, Xavier and Wilhelm.
Two sons of the aforementioned Wilhelm,
namely Wilhelm II (1841-1893) and Arnold (1842-1918), founded there own organ factory
under the name of Wilhelm Bruder Söhne, and was carried on by their
children and grandchildren.
Two sons of Ignaz II were building organs
under the name Ignaz Bruder Söhne.
A grandson of Andreas, Richard Bruder
(1862-1912) became independent again after having been a business partner for a short
while with Gebruder Bruder.In 1898 Richard became a director of the branch plant of the
French organ factory Gavioli which was established that year in
Waldkirch. Later on this factory ended up in the hands of Limonaire Freres, another famous
French organ manufacturer. After Richards death in 1912, his son Alfred
Bruder (1889-1937) took over the reins at Limonaire Freres Waldkirch. He was
called up for military duty in 1913 and the factory was closed. After 1918, Alfred
established his own independent business. He primarily build organs based on the Ruth
model 33 system and he also developed his own style based along the lines of the other
Carl Frei, Breda-Waldkirch
Carl Frei (1884-1967) occupied a very
special place during the glory period of the barrel organ between both world wars. At the
tender age of nine years old he was already studying harmony and contrapoint at the
Waldkirch academy of music. From age 14 on, well-known factories such as Bruder, Gavioli
employed him in Waldkirch and Paris. Mortier and DeVreese. After the First World War he
established himself in Breda (Holland). After the Second World War he was forced to move
to Waldkirch along with his son, Carl Frei jr. who was fully qualified. Thats where
he carried on with his business of building and redesigning fairground organs. After his
death his son Carl Frei Jr. carried on the business.
Beside his great contributions as an
arranger and composer he also became famous for the introduction of a new sound effect in
Dutch streetorgans. The first item was the bright voiced bourdon Celeste in the melody
section. This evenly floating tuned bourdon was so much loved by organ enthusiasts that it
was copied by other organ builders who incorporated it as a stop in their instruments.
Frei furthermore amplified the violin section by adding a violin-celeste stop, which was
also tuned to this floating sound temperament.
He also introduced the stop unda maris in
the counter melody section while in the large (72 and 90 keys) organs they were
incorporating stops with names like bifoon I (in melody) and bifoon II (in the
The Foucher-Gasparini factory located
in Paris was founded in 1865. Gasparini came originally from Italy. Holland imported a lot
of organs from the Gasparini factory, especially during the time period 1903 to 1910. One
of the trademarks of these organs is the round shape of the front with lots of curls and
other decorations. After 1910 the market leadership direction for the Dutch market was
taken over by the Limonaire Company which was also located in Paris.
Gavioli & Cie, Paris
The Gavioli Company is one of the
oldest organ companies in France and has always demonstrated leadership in this field.
While still living in Modena-Italy, Giacomo
Gavioli (1786-1875), kept himself busy with the development of many automatically playing
musical instruments. The "Panharmonico" was an example of his work, which became
the predecessor of the portable belly organ.
His son Ludovico Gavioli (1807-1875) worked
together with his father on further developments of the barrel organ. The organ shop was
moved in 1845 from Italy to the trade capital of Paris.
The three grandsons Anselme, Henry and
Claude stayed loyal to the business eventhough their individual contributions were
different. The invention of the pneumatic reader by Anselme Gavioli in 1892 was very
important. This invention replaced the wooden cylinder with a system of cardboard books of
limitless lengths. These books have holes punched into them, which are detected by tabs on
a keyframe. The circumference of the wooden cylinder no longer dictated the length of the
pieces of music.
The great grandson Ludivico II, son of
Anselme, had suffered the end of the business through numerous tragic circumstances during
the period 1912 and 1914. The Gavioli family had many branches in many cities such as
Barcelona, Manchester, New York and Waldkirch.
Louis Hooghuys started building barrel
organs in Geraardsbergen (Grammont), Belgium in 1880. His specialty was building
fairground organs. His son Charles carried on the business and much later it ended up in
the hands of his grandson R Charles. The company carried on business until a few years
Hooghuys was unique among the Belgian organ
builders in the sense that besides building dance organs he also built instruments with a
louder volume intended for fairs. He used techniques from the German barrel organ and
church organ builders. The French organs set the example for the Qua sound, thats
how an unique organ came into existence. They were not looking to increase the number of
pipes but maximized all the possible uses for the available pipes and still meet the
requirements for a more powerful sounding instrument.
The Limonaire family came originally
from the Baskenland. Antoine Limonaire started in the 19th century in Paris by building
and repairing pianos. His sons, brothers Camille and Eugene Limonaire became very active
by the name Limonaire Freres. The company manufactured mainly fair ground attractions one
of which was the bicycle windmill where the occupants themselves had to bring the windmill
in motion. The business started to build organs for fairs and dance halls around 1900,
after they had hired organ builder Anciaume. The most sold model was the 35 key version.
In Holland the most well known instruments were the 48 and 56 key models. Hundreds of
these models were exported to Holland prior to world war I. They were well known to
listeners for their lovely sound and the Voix Humaine (human voice) stop sounded much
better in the streets than the Gavioli and Gasparini organs which were better suited for
fairs. Yet many of these "Orchestrophones" have served as fairground
Around 1912, Limonaire took over the firm
of Gavioli, which had at that time many financial difficulties. This is how the Gavioli
branch in Waldkirch came into the hands of Limonaire until it was sold in 1918. The
manufacture of organs in Paris appears to have ceased in 1930.
Almost all the Limonaire organs in Holland
were rebuild during the years of 1920 to 1930. Especially Carl Frei in Breda performed
many of these rearrangements whereby most of the solo registers were removed from the
organ and were replaced with the unique sound of the bourdon Celeste register.
The 48 and 56 key gamma from Limonaire is
still the standard for smaller street organs in Holland.
Charles Marenghi was until 1903 the
shop foreman with Gavioli & Cie. When the company became incorporated into a limited
business in 1903, he left them. He subsequently bought out all the partners and carried on
with the old business in the old factory on Place de la Nation. He kept most of the old
personnel from Gavioli.
Marenghi kept on building fairground organs
in the style of the old Gavioli factory, but later on expanded them and applied many
improvements. Most of Marenghis customers were from England and thats why most
of the Marenghi organs can be found in England.
The business was kept going for a few more
years after 1920 by Charles Gaudin.
Ferdinand Molzer Sr. was born on
October 10 1855 and died September 5, 1929. He tried very hard from 1880 on to improve the
image of the barrel organ with the Austrian public. While doing research on the subject
board member Van Dinteren discovered that Molzer had taken over a branch from Josef Riemer
Sohne from Chrastava (Kratzau) in Czechoslovakia.
Thanks to his expertise he was able to
produce streetorgans which became the darling instrument of the public. Beside
streetorgans Molzer also delivered concert organs with up to 96 keys and church organs. In
1911 Molzer Jr. built a Kinophon for the U.S.A, which can be compared to the theater or
movie house organ.
Through a lot of effort, some of the
remaining pieces of these theatre organs have come under the protection of our sister
organization the Netherlands Organ Federation, post office box 189 Amsterdam. The Kinophon
had two manuals and a pedal and had 40 stops. Only a few experts could therefore play the
instrument. Molzer even build a 112 key dance organ in 1923 for a jubilee exhibition in
The manufacture of Mortier organs began
around 1900, in a period when the French and German organ industry was in full bloom.
Theodor Mortier was originally the manager of a dance hall, in which there was always a
Gavioli organ playing. He made it a habit to sell the installed organ after a short while.
He was fortunate enough most of the time to make a profit on selling these used organs. As
time went by he became more and more an organ dealer and a very good customer of Gavioli.
He set up a repair shop in order to provide maintenance and repair for the organs, which
he had sold. The organ builder Guillaume Bax managed this shop.
Due to internal operations difficulties,
Gavioli could after a while not deliver their orders and Mortier began to manufacture the
dance organs himself. The company expanded after the First World War to a size where they
employed 80 personnel and had a capacity to build about 20 large dance organs per year. No
other manufacturer has matched the cubic meter volume of organs produced by Mortier. The
company stayed active until 1948.
Johann Richter started around 1840 in
Gersfeld-Rhon, in the region of Fulda with the repair and building of church organs and
after a long slow time switched over to building belly organs, which are small portable
barrel organs. The size of these organs grew over time. After his death, his three sons
carried on with the business under the name of Gebruder Richter in Dusseldorf-Derendorf.
These three brothers were Felix (1870- 1945), Eduard (1872- 1944), and Emil (1884- 1964).
The brightly and snappy sounding Richter
organs were sent to over a dozen countries. The cylinder organs came in sizes from 20 to
80 keys, while the succeeding book organs went from 56 keys (air holes in the key frame),
to 96 keys according to their catalog. According to Emil Richter they also built organs
with 108 keys. Only the youngest of the three Richter brothers had an heir, a son Felix
born in 1922 who would continue with the business.
Fate however has decided differently, while
serving in the airforce his plane was hit and exploded in mid air just one month before
the end of World War II. Eduard Richter died in 1944 in his workshop during an allied
bombing raid. The Richter Company had suffered heavy blows and ended tragically.
The firm of A Ruth u. Sohn has built
from 1841 to 1938 in Waldkirch im Breisgau in the south of the Black-Forest organs, which
today are still considered the best of German fairground and concert organs.
Andreas Ruth (1817-1888) learned the organ
builder trade from Ignaz Bruder, whose wife was related to him. He settled in Waldkirch in
1841 where he kept busy with the building of clocks with playing mechanisms; crank
operated pianos, which were known to insiders as "Hackbretter" and later barrel
His son Adolf I (1845- 1907) took over the
management of the business in 1875. Adolf Ruth was not only a good technical and smart
businessman but was also musically gifted. Under his guidance they started building larger
cylinder organs and the business flourished. They started to build book organs around
His son Adolf II (1887- 1938) took over the
management of the business after his fathers death in 1907. His depth of music
knowledge exceeded by far as that of his fathers and along with his master craftsman
Rudolf Weisser they increased the repertoire of especially classical and semi-classical
music pieces to an unprecedented level not seen in the German organ industry with regards
to quantity and quality. In the beginning of the thirties the slump began with the
appearance of radio and gramophone. The business was closed in 1938 after the death of
Adolf Ruth II. The largest part of the factory contends was purchased by H Voigt from
Frankfurt a Main-Hoechst, this business is still active.
The customers in those days as well as
todays aficionados regarded the Ruth Company organs as the "Rolls-Royce"
of fairground organs. They were famous for being well built instruments that needed little
maintenance, rarely had to be tuned up and played under all types of weather conditions.
On top of that, Ruth delivered outstanding music arrangements, which even today are viewed
as good reflection of the music as it was played in the first thirty years of the
The firm Gebruder Wellershaus had its
origin in Remscheid, where Wilhelm Wellershaus (1764-1821) manufactured standing
This was followed by settling in 1832 in
the then independent Saarn a.d. Ruhr by son Friedrich Wilhelm (1796- 1856), where they
made church organs and table klaviers. Grandson Julius Wellershaus (1828- 1911) switched
over to building small barrel organs, the so called belly organs which were carried with a
belt around the stomach by wandering musicians and were later put on a leg (peg organs).
Great grandsons August (1861- 1927) and
Wilhelm (1867-1910) established the firm Gebruder Wellershaus.
Finally the great-great grandsons August
Jr. born in 1897 and Emil born in 1900 and who both have died in the middle of the sixties
have carried on the organ factory by the same name. After 1918 the firm also manufactured
beside fairground organs, pianos and gramophones.
Fritz Wrede was born on July7 in 1868
at Hannover-Kleefeld. In 1880 his Uncle Georg Bayer who was an organ repairman acquainted
him with building of barrel organs. In 1885 Fritz Wrede set up his own business. He
started at first by building small portable cylinder belly organs. These little organs had
no pipes and used reeds and they were called "Melotons". By 1890 the barrel
organs were somewhat larger and equipped with pipes.
After 1900 when Germany followed France
with the introduction of the book system, they started to build book organs. The key frame
operated according to the wind pressure system. The smallest book organ had 45 keys (air
holes in the keyframe) and the largest had 80 keys. Wrede exported to more than 10
countries even overseas.
The organ industry was closed in 1914 and
to be reactivated after the First World War. The business suffered great losses in 1933
due to inflation. By 1937 the introduction of radio and record players were being felt and
the demand for new organs was no longer there and the business was limited to repairs
only. On march 28 1944, Fritz Wrede was killed in his workshop by an allied forces air
attack, this meant the end of the Wrede firm.