The Musical Casket Organette

This page is dedicated to research into the musical casket organette.
We hope that the page helps others who are interested in these organettes to
answer their questions and help preserve and enjoy these remarkable small
machines. If you wish to ask a question, make corrections or add in information
Please e.mail me by clicking here.

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The Main Menu

A tour of my Musical Casket #2 Organette

Facts and History

History of the Period



Spare Parts and Rolls

Restoration Knowledge

Useful Links

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A tour of my Musical Casket Organette


Top Lid


Top view looking down on lid


Lid open showing roll


Roll out showing reeds


Detail of reeds


Detail of Crank


Right Side


Bottom Showing Bellows

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History of the Period 1890s


* Early commercial production of automobiles

An automobile, usually called a car (an old word for carriage) or a truck, is a wheeled vehicle that carries its own engine. Older terms include horseless carriage and motor car, with "motor" referring to what is now usually called the engine. It has seats for the driver and, almost without exception, for at least one passenger.


Automobiles are designed to travel on roads, although some, notably sport utility vehicles, allow off-road driving. Roads and highways are shared with other traffic such as motorcycles, tractor trailers, and farm implements.


* Henri Becquerel

Antoine Henri Becquerel (December 15, 1852 – August 25, 1908) was a French physicist, Nobel laureate, and one of the discoverers of radioactivity.

Becquerel was born in Paris into a scientific family which, including him and his son, produced four generations of scientists. He studied science at the École Polytechnique and engineering the École des Ponts et Chaussées. In 1892 he became the third in his family to occupy the physics chair at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle. In 1894 he became chief engineer in the Department of Bridges and Highways.
discovers radioactivity

Radioactivity is the process by which unstable atomic nuclei decay. This process normally produces ionizing radiation with a relatively large amount of energy. This energy can be harnessed in the form of nuclear power, or it can be very dangerous if released by radioactive contamination in the environment.

Atomic nuclei are bound together by the strong nuclear force,
* Discovery of x-rays
In the NATO phonetic alphabet, X-ray represents the letter X.
An X-ray (German: Röntgenstrahlen) is a form of electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength approximately in the range of 5 pm to 10 nanometers (corresponding to frequencies in the range 30 PHz to 60 EHz). X-rays are primarily used for diagnostic medical imaging and crystallography. X-rays are a form of ionizing radiation and as such can be dangerous.
by Wilhelm Röntgen

Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (* March 27 1845; † February 10 1923) was a German physicist, of the University of Würzburg, who, on November 8, 1895, produced wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation that are now known as x-rays. The machine which Röntgen built to emit these rays, was the x-ray machine.

While experimenting with electricity on November 8, 1895 Röntgen discovered x-rays. Two months later on January 5, 1896, an Austrian newspaper reported Röntgen's discovery of a new type of radiation. Röntgen was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Medicine from University of Würzburg after his discovery of Röntgen rays (in English more commonly known as "x-rays").
* Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius Svante August Arrhenius (February 19, 1859 – October 2, 1927) was a Swedish chemist and one of the founders of the science of physical chemistry.

Arrhenius was born at Vik (also spelled Wik or Wijk), near Uppsala, Sweden, the son of Svante Gustav and Carolina Thunberg Arrhenius. His father had been a land surveyor at the University of Uppsala, moving up to a supervisory position. At the age of three, Arrhenius taught himself to read, despite his parents' wishes, and by watching his father's addition of numbers in his account books, became an arithmetical prodigy.
and US geologist Thomas Crowder Chamberlain independently come to the conclusion that burning fossil fuels

Fossil fuels are hydrocarbon fuels or hydrocarbon containing fuels such as petroleum (including natural gas) and coal. The utilization of fossil fuels has fueled industrial development and largely supplanted water driven mills and wood or peat burning for heat.

With nuclear power, it makes up the category of nuclear-fossil energy.

When generating electricity, energy from the combustion of fossil fuels is often used to power a turbine. Older generators used steam generated by the burning of the fuel to turn the turbine, but in newer power plants the gases produced by burning of the fuel turn a gas turbine directly.
might cause global warming Global warming is an increase over time of the average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans. The global warming theory states that the temperature has risen since the late 19th century due to human causes, principally emissions of CO2 increasing the "greenhouse effect". The theory further predicts that temperatures will continue to increase in the future, if human emissions of greenhouse gases continue.due to CO2 emissions

War, peace and politics

* Second Boer War

There were two Boer wars, one in 1880-81 and the second from October 11, 1899-1902 both between the British and the settlers of Dutch origin (called Boere, Afrikaners or Voortrekkers) in South Africa that put an end to the two independent republics that they had founded.

First Boer War

The first clash was precipitated by Sir Theophilus Shepstone who annexed the Transvaal
* Spanish-American War
* Split in Irish nationalism over Irish leader Charles Stewart Parnell's affair with a fellow MP's wife, Kitty O'Shea
* The New Imperialism

Culture, religion

* Motion pictures
* Ragtime music
* Accession of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia in the world's first ever filmed coronation


World Leaders

* Emperor Franz Josef (Austria-Hungary)
* Kaiser Wilhelm II (Germany)
* Chancellor Leo von Caprivi (Germany)
* King Umberto I (Italy)
* Pope Leo XIII
* Czar Alexander III (Russia)
* Czar Nicholas II (Russia)
* Queen Victoria (United Kingdom)
* Prime Minister Lord Salisbury (United Kingdom)
* Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone (United Kingdom)
* Prime Minister Lord Rosebery (United Kingdom)
* President Benjamin Harrison (United States)
* President Grover Cleveland (United States)
* President William McKinley (United States)

Important People

* Thomas A. Edison


* Adelina Patti
* George W. Johnson
* Justin Smith
* Jonathan Booth

Books about the 1890s

* The Mauve Decade, by Thomas Beer (1926)








Facts and History

How does it work? A paper roll is drawn over a set of metal reeds. These are like the reeds in a harmonica. If there is no paper in front of the reed it sounds. The paper roll is cut by hand to allow the reeds to sound and play a tune. As the crank is turned the roll advances and bellows pump air through the reeds.

The Inventor Elias P. Needham

 Elias Parkman Needham. 

R. ELIAS PARKMAN NEEDHAM died of heart failure on November 28 at his residence, 218 East Nineteenth-st., New York city. The funeral services took place at the house on Monday, December 2, and the interment was in Greenwood Cemetery. There survives him his wife and two sons, Dr. Geo. G. Needham and Mr. Chas. A. Needham, an artist. Mr. E. 1’. Needham retired from active participation in the organ business some 10 years ago, and since that time had devoted himself to the perfection of various inventions in many lines in which he was interested. He was born on September 29, 1812, and early developed a taste for mechanics. Commencing as a carpenter in Buffalo, N. Y.. be there became acquainted with Jeremiah Carhart, an inventive genius, and the two entered into a partnership in 1846 for the manufacture of melodeons, which were evolved from the accordion. Carhait was the originator of the suction bellows and other minor devices then employed in the melodeons, and the concern was quite successful, finally selling out to George A. Prince in 1848, when they came to New York and opened a factory in Forsyth St. under the firm name of Carhart & Needham. Later they moved to Thirteenth St., and finally erected the factory at I43. 145 and 147 East Twenty-third-st. In all of their relations up to this time Mr. Carhart was the inventor, while Mr. Needham was the business man and financier. Mr. Needham, however, being exceedingly ambitious of pushing forward the industry in which he was engaged, began mechanically to develop their product on his own account, and to him belongs the credit of bringing forth the present "reed organ," from the ancient melodeon. He invented the “upright action" now used in reed organs and made possible the perfection now obtained in these instruments. At the time of the death of Mr. Carhart, in 1868, the firm having been in the meantime changed to Carhart, Needham & Co., through the admission of Mr. S. C. Swartz, Mr. Needham took into partnership with him one of his surviving sons, Mr. Chas. A. Needham, and the name then was E. P. Needham & Son, and so remained until 1879. When the reed organ business became an important factor in the music trade Mr. Needham found that he could not compete with the new houses that had sprung up and still continue to make organs according to his own ideas, and so he gradually withdrew until the culmination in 1879, when he devoted his entire attention to the development of his patents for a pneumatic railroad, a system in large use in the present day in many stores and in the service of the Western Union Telegraph Company in this city, and which he was convinced was destined to revolutionize the means of transmission of all bodies from a small package to a passenger car.Mr. Needham may well be termed the father of the mechanical instruments of today, since he originated the idea of a perforated sheet of paper passing over a reed chamber which should allow the escapement of the sounds as the perforations passed their respective reed openings. He held some fifteen parents of this nature, which he sold to the Mechanical Orguinette Company, now the Eolian Company, and which, or the principles of which, they still use. Various minor inventions must be placed to his credit, and while he was always of a modest and retiring disposition he made and kept a host of friends who will  deeply mourn his loss.-Musical Courier, Volumes 18-19, 1889

Company Advert showing model 1


The  information below was found on a page documenting an auction. It looks very much like my machine.

Photo Description

MUSICAL CASKET NO.2: 14 note, reed, 7 3/4" roll. Case is 10"h, 12 1/2"l.


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This instrument can take the place of several musicians. What effect do you think that would have had on the social scene?

Why would people elect to play a machine rather than to gather in groups to make music themselves?

To play music this machine had to be cranked by hand. Try turning a crank for the length of time required to play a CD.

How are the rolls of music like computer programs?


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McElhone, Kevin, The Organette Book. Musical Box Society of Great Britain, 440 pages

Whiting, Robert B., Estey Reed organs on parade, A pictorial review of the many parlour, cabinet, boudoir, philharmonic, and other types of reed organs made over a 100-year period by the famous Estey Organ Company, together with a brief corporate history. Vestal Press Ltd., 1981, ASIN: 091157221X


Gellerman, Robert F., The American Reed Organ and the Harmonium : A Treatise on Its History, Restoration and Tuning, With Descriptions of Some Outstanding Collections. Vestal Press Ltd, 1997, ISBN 1-879511-07-x or 1-879511-12-6 (softcover), 303 pages

Presley, Horton, Restoring and Collecting Antique Reed Organs, Reprint edition. Vestal Press Ltd, 1996, ISBN: 0-911572-56-2

Gellerman's International Reed Organ Atlas
Second Edition
by Robert F. Gellerman

The American Reed Organ and the Harmonium
by Robert F. Gellerman




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Spare Parts and Rolls

Pipes of Pan

Schmidts Music Rolls and Parts

700 Port St, Unit 540
Easton, MD 21601




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Restoration Knowledge

Roller Organ Restoration


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Helpful Links

The Mechanical Music Digest

The Dead Media Project

Music Box Society of Great Britain

About an Early tabletop organette

A roller organ page

Australian Collectors of Mechanical Musical Instruments

The Reed Organ Society


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