Hooghuys Organ Pages
Barrel organs

When Louis Hooghuys started building mechanical organs around 1880, his first instruments were provided with a barrel system (the book system was only patented in 1892 by the French organ manufacturer Gavioli).

The barrel organs were available in various sizes: from the small and portable ones (mostly with 33 keys) to larger instruments with up to 123 keys for use on the fairground and in dance halls. Hooghuys had some standardized models which could be adapted according to the client's wishes. Like most other organ builders, Hooghuys probably had a printed catalogue, but no copies seem to have survived the times.

Old factory pictures indicate that large instruments had façades that were typical of those days; therefore, it isn't surprising that these are often very similar with façades from other (primarily French) manufacturers, like Limonaire and Gavioli. Since Hooghuys did countless repairs to and restorations of organs built by others (also by Gebr.Bruder, Riemer, Frati, Poirot, Anciaume, …), it seems probable that at those moments, he got some of his inspiration for the design of his façades.
Characteristic of Hooghuys organs are the sometimes life-size figures on the façades; as far as we know, at least two such figures have been preserved in a private collection – although this can't be proved with absolute certainty, since other manufacturers (e.g. Limonaire) sometimes also used such figures.

A special mention should be made of the numerous small barrel organs that were delivered to clients in Binche (B); in Binche, these instruments – locally called "violes"– are still quite popular, and Hooghuys must have sold ánd maintained several of these organs. It is interesting, for example, that in Hooghuys' work ledgers there is a tune composed by the "Chef de Binche" (no further indication given), and that Edgard Hooghuys composed a march with the title "Binche en avant". There is also a picture with a group of revellers from Binche on which the 'chief' is pictured with a small Hooghuys barrel organ.

  Small barrel organ Small barrel organ with trumpets   Large barrel organ with life-size figures   Large barrel organ with oriental ornaments  
Two large barrel organs; on the left picture you can see two life-size figures. The one on the right photo has a façade that was quite popular in England; it might have been built for export to England. Notice the two oriental ornaments on the ‘roof' of the organ!
Two smaller types of barrel organs: a closed model and a model with (brass) trumpets; this last type was also very popular with German organ builders.
As far as we know, the only Hooghuys barrel organs that have been preserved, are of the smaller type with 33 keys. One of these is now in possession of the great-grandson of Louis Hooghuys (Marc), an other one can be found in a museum in Cotton (UK). Further, one is owned by the Perlee family in Amsterdam, and there are probably two others, one in Brussels and one in Switzerland.
  33-key barrel organ of Marc Hooghuys 33-key barrel organ in the museum in Cotton, England
33-key barrel organ "Ginette" of Marc Hooghuys. The organ is now being restored.
33-key barrel organ in the Mechanical Music Museum & Bygones in Cotton (Stowmarket, GB). The name plate mentions V(ictor) Hooghuys, but this nephew of Louis only repaired the organ and built a new case for it; the real manufacturer of the organ was without any doubt Louis.

So, unfortunately no large barrel organs have been preserved (at least, that's what we think). However, invoices for such impressive instruments have been preserved.
It is also interesting to know that in 1895 and 1896, Victor Chiappa in London (GB) ordered several barrels organs from Hooghuys; most of these had 79 keys. This leads us to suppose that the sound of these organs was rather similar to that of Gavioli-organs, which were enormously popular then in England. These instruments were shipped in crates and locally assembled by Julius Bartholomeus Vander Beken, an employee of Hooghuys who was sent to London for this job.

Invoice for a large barrel organ Julius Bartholomeus Vander Beken (1868-1948) Invoice for Chiappa in London
Invoice from 1897 for a large dance organ with 95 keys, a “special model for fairground booths”. Underneath the actual order are the details of the payment by instalments. It is striking that it took almost two years before the organ was delivered: perhaps this had something to do with late payments by the customer?
Julius Bartholomeus Vander Beken (1868-1948), employee of Hooghuys, who later on started his own organ building company in Enghien (Edingen, B).
Invoice for a barrel organ orderd by Chiappa & Sons in London (1896). The organ was already deliverd three months after the order, which might be explained by the fact that Chiappa punctual payer.
Fair organs »
Page updated on 25.08.2006