Barrel Organ (Václav Hrubeš, Praha)

These images offer a look at this wonderful vintage musical instrument and offer a description of several of the organ's features. This Václav Hrubeš, 28/32 barrel organ is truly graced, having its intricate inlayed marqurtry and "show" bamboo piccolo pipes, each one with their onion shaped finial. It was made in Prague, Czechoslovakia, ca.1888 and is a wonderful museum quality example of the organ builders art. The above numbers indicate that this instrument was built having 28 keys, that play on 32 different pipe. It also has two stops, the piccolo, as mentioned, and a tremolo stop.

How Old is My Organ?
On the front of the organ, there are two, 2" brass medallions. These offers the best indication of the organ's age. It would have had to be been built after the presentation of the medallions in 1888. One of them depicts two angels. The larger angel, on the medal, has a long trumpet in the left hand and a branch in the right. The smaller angel is

holding what seems to be a torch in the right and a feather in the left. Both have a bright star above them and everything seems to be floating over what looks to be a bridge. The other medallion shows two ladies, likely Royalty of Spain, as one of them is wearing crown. The words "Exposition Universal De Barcelona -1888-"circles this medallion.

The sides and back of the organ are veneered with a figured walnut and these side panels are adorned with a boarder of precious wood inlayed banding. The Crank is on the back of the organ in the upper right corner. The right side is the location of the key frame "lift lever" and the lock for use when changing songs. The top of the instrument is made of one piece of wood cut into three pieces the center is held to the organ with screws the other two pieces are hinged to make doors these allow for barrel and pipe access. Lastly, the lower skirt corners are protected by brass castings.
The Music Barrel

When the round door (seen above in the right image) the side of the instrument is removed, a large hole opens up.This hole is necessary to gain access to the inside of the instrument and to change the music barrel. The music barrel and its holder can be removed through it. The organ is shown here with the door, the barrel, the barrel holder and barrel slide all removed.


When it comes to the organ's music, this instrument is better than most in that it came to me with 14 different songs supplied on two 7 tune vintage wooden barrels. The first barrel seems to the older of the two and it has had at least one tune change, (it is assumed to have been produced with the instrument in 1888.) Among the several known songs on the barrel are: "The Czechoslovakian National Anthem," "The Polish National Anthem," along with the song "Too Fat Polka." The second barrel carries the makers mark of "Václav Hrubeš" in a red circle crest stamp) this barrel was dated 1904. The first song is a Strauss Waltz.

This duplicate organ barrel blank, drive gear and axle hardware were all studio built. Their construction was documented in two different articles written for the Musical Box Society International in 1994 and 1995.
Spring 1994, Volume 15 / Number 1 / Pg.10 (*)
Spring 1995, Volume 16 / Number 1 / Pg.36
*This gear article was later translated into Dutch and republished in Het-Pierement (The Journal of the Dutch Street Organ Society) January 1995, Volume 42 / Number 1 / Pg. 16
Organ Transportation
Schubert, Bach, Chopin
The Cart used to transport the Václav Hrubeš barrel organ was studio built, but several pieces used to build it were purchased in an antique store. These included the wooden spoked wheels, axles, wooden handle and handle rails. These items were apparently from an antique buggy of some type. The box was made of 3/4", 7 layer birch plywood. It was covered with Walnut veneer to match the instrument and the entire box was trimmed in maple to match the organ's top boards. To finish the vintage look of the cart, the front and back carry oval images of classical composers, some of which are known to have written music for various barrel instruments.
Wagner, Beethoven, Haydn


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