Hooghuys Organ Pages
Part 2: from church to barrel organ
On 14 May 1856, the most famous member of the Hooghuys family was born: Louis François Hooghuys. Although he was a good craftsman concerning church organs (he learned a good deal from his father and he also worked for some time in the Anneessens firm at Geraardsbergen), he decided to switch to the building of mechanical barrel organs. So, in 1880, the Manufacture d'orgues mécaniques Louis Hooghuys was established: it was one of the oldest firms in this field in Belgium! At first, Louis François hired a workplace in the Mill Street in Geraardsbergen but eventually, in 1882, he moved to the Place de la Station in the same city.
Louis François Hooghuys (1865-1924)   Naamkaartje Louis Hooghuys   Naamkaartje Louis Hooghuys Stamp of Louis Hooghuys   Invoice of Louis Hooghuys
Louis François Hooghuys
Name card of Louis Hooghuys from when the firm was still located in the Mill Street.
Name card and stamp of Louis Hooghuys with the new address at the Place de la Station. The card mentions sales ánd rental: Hooghuys indeed did rent organs, with a possibility of hire purchase.
Invoice of Louis Hooghuys dated on 17 January 1906. There is mention of the restoration of a Harmoniflûte-organ and also of the rent of several organs of different size and origin.
The workmen were treated in a – for that time – very human way, as you can judge from the work regulations (.pdf, 134kb): for example, the working hours were very flexible.
During it's most active period, the firm counted about 15 working people. Unfortunately, a lot of valuable factory documents have been lost, due to the fact that German soldiers were billeted in the building during the first World War (this loss makes it hard to say how many instruments Louis François Hooghuys built exactly). Remarkable in any way is that a lot of people who started building music instruments in the region of Geraardsbergen, made their first steps in the Hooghuys factory, such as Theodorus Bruylandt, who – afterwards – sold barrel piano's. Furthermore, several family members worked in the factory: Edgard Georges (Louis' brother), who pinned barrels and arranged organ books; also two other brothers of Louis: François Louis (1858-?) was responsible for the pipework while Edouard Joseph (1862-1925) was involved with the pneumatic parts of the organs. Victor Valère (1904-1978) – son of Edgard Georges – also worked in the firm for some time as a book puncher.
Personeelsfoto van de firma Hooghuys   Comments of Theodorus Bruylandt
The workmen of the Hooghuys firm at the Place de la Station.
From left to right: Edouard Joseph Hooghuys, Charles François Hooghuys, ?, René Van Hoorde, ?, ?, Julius Bartholomeus Vander Beken, ?, ?, Ivo De Pelsemaecker, Charles Merckaert, Theophile Van Snick, Edgard Georges Hooghuys, Victor Gaublomme, Franciscus Louis Hooghuys
Comments of Theodorus Bruylandt in the windchest of the xylophone of a Hooghuys organ (LH620) (in translation):
18 Auguste 1914 - War of Europe
Th.Bruylandt Grammont
Belgium France England | against Prussia
The German Barbarians | will be defeated
Long live Belgium

Th.Bruylandt was married to a sister (Jeanne) of Louis François Hooghuys.
Initially, the company only built barrel organs; however, large examples haven't been preserved save on pictures. The first book organ was delivered in about 1900, and it was quite special, because it was rebuilt from barrel to book mechanism, while it retained the possibility to play barrels (by means of a double mechanism). From that moment, the Hooghuys firm built several types of organs: small and ‘normal' fair organs as well as dance organs. Not only did Hooghuys make new instruments, he also repaired and restored organs from other builders (Bruder, Gavioli, …); judging from factory ledgers, these activitities seem to have been a bigger source of income than new organs.

Compared to other organ builders, like Mortier, Hooghuys built relatively few instruments. The construction of a new instrument was only started after careful consultation of the client and his wishes; moreover, also Louis Hooghuys' benevolence played a role: he didn't want to build just anything! Clients always had to pay a small advance. This whole ‘procedure' helps to explain the small number of new instruments. On the other hand, Hooghuys quickly gained a good reputation in Belgium and abroad, which is proved by e.g. the fact that he delivered a new organ to the Dutch carousel owner L.Vincken; furthermore, organ builder Chiappa in London ordered several instruments from Hooghuys. The man who was responsible for the assembly of these instruments (which were usually delivered without a façade) in England was Julius Bartholomeus Vander Beken; later on, he would start a (small) organ building firm himself in Edingen (Enghien, B). He probably built only a few instruments (anyhow, only a handful of them have survived …)

There was never any mass production in the Hooghuys firm: almost every part was made by hand, and not two organs were ever the same. Some parts – like drums, carvinds and metal pipes – were ordered from external suppliers, like Laukhuff from Germany (for lead tubings), Devos (for carvings) and Moeremans (for drums) in Gent, … It is striking that for the same parts, Hooghuys sometimes chose another supplier: this indicates that Louis François not only always wanted the best products but also the most profitable ones. In the same way, he was always looking for a better combination and disposition of the pipework, which resulted in the fact that each organ was a masterpiece in its own right. It is also certain that Hooghuys had contacts with foreign (esp. German) firms, particularly orchestrion builders like Imhof & Mukle and Hupfeld.

  Invoice from A.Devos - Gent   Invoice from August Laukhuff - Germany   Envelope from Louis Hooghuys to Ludwig Hupfeld  
Invoice of 24 March 1900 from the famous carver Alexandre Devos in Gent for the painting and gilding of 5 figures.
Invoice of 24 August 1906 from August Laukhuff for the delivery of lead tubes. In Europe, Laukhuff is still thé supplier of all kinds of organ parts.
(Empty) envelope addressed to the German piano and orchestrion builder Ludwig Hupfeld in Leipzig.
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Part 3: nothing lasts forever … »
Page updated on 25.08.2006