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55th annual - AMICA CONVENTION
BLACK HILLS - South Dakota
June 3 - 8, 2018

          Encyclopedia of Disc Music Boxes 1881 - 1920
       A History,
          Catalog Raisonné,
                and Appreciation.
                    By Q. David Bowers
       An AMICA-International Publication

Click on any image to see a larger version

A monkey organ

A monkey organ

Why do they call this a monkey organ? Where's the monkey? A monkey organ is a small organ operated by turning a hand crank. The small size of these instruments made them suitable for use by street performers, known as organ grinders. At one time (a long time ago) organ grinders were often accompanied by live monkeys, who not only attracted attention, but worked the crowd of spectators by carrying a cup to collect coins.

Photo and Instrument: Courtesy of Debence Antique Music World

Turning the crank

John Smith Busker Organ

The organ plays when the crank is turned. No batteries or electricity are required, so monkey organs are very portable. They are well suited for outdoor performance.

Music on punched paper

Monkey organ book music

Music for monkey organs is often punched rolls of paper like this one. Since monkey organs are generally used as a form of public entertainment, they often play crowd-pleasing popular music.

Photo and Instrument: Courtesy of Debence Antique Music World


These days, organ grinders are often accompanied by toy monkeys, not live ones.



©2018 AMICA International
Automatic Musical Instrument Collectors' Association,
a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.

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