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Barrel Organ


Charles was especially fond of this barrel organ and often played it on special occasions. Barrel organs are French in origin (though this one bears a German inscription across its front). They contain a series of bellows and pipes that are played mechanically by hand-cranking a wheel. The instrument is known by many different names in English alone, including roller organ, crank organ, hand organ, and street organ. The latter name refers to their common use by street performers and they were commonly mounted on wheels for easy transport. The Eameses took advantage of their barrel organ’s portability by moving it back and forth between their home/studio and office as desired. They also affectionately referred to it as a “hurdy gurdy,” a name that in fact describes another instrument, one which is also played by cranking a wheel but contains strings, not pipes. In any case, the Eameses delighted in the combination of music and machine that this piece represented.

  • Medium:Metal, wood
  • Dimensions:46 x 46 x 19 in. (116.8 x 116.8 x 48.3 cm)Cart: 35 x 47 x 22 in. (88.9 x 119.4 x 55.9 cm)Organ: 25 1/2 x 26 x 15 1/2 in. (64.8 x 66 x 39.4 cm)
  • Item:2019.2.81