While working for the Mortier organ manufacturers in Antwerp alongside his father, Belgian Joseph Bursens discovered he had a knack for creating his own musical machines. He opened his own factory in 1908 in the town of Hoboken and his craftsmanship was well-regarded in the industry. In 1928, Joseph’s son, Arthur took over the family business and with the addition of a later partner, Gustav Roels, re-named the firm ARBURO taking the first two letters of his first, and both his and Gustav’s last names.

One of the first firms to use paper rolls in their machines, Arburo carried on the tradition of exquisite wood work and catering to changing tastes.

The late 1920s saw a shift in musical styles from Jazz to Latin music, such as the mambo, which emerged in popularity after World War II. Fairground organs gave way to smaller models that could be used in an indoor setting in place of a live orchestra, simultaneously cutting production costs for many a nightclub owner. This shift in design fueled the dance crazes that swept Continental Europe.

The Arburo firm livened up the casings of their organs to reflect the tastes of the period, such as Art Deco with its clean lines and rounded shapes, offering a glimpse into the glamorous world of entertainment during the early 20th century. One such model is proudly on offer at Great Gatsby’s Auction Gallery in their October 14, 15 and 16, 2016 auction, a stationary beer hall dance organ dating from around 1935 by the Belgian Arburo firm.

With its delightfully vibrant case of red, pink, turquoise and cream, this organ features an exposed accordion, snare drum and cymbal which come to life beside a central drumhead painted with a fashionable dancing couple who seem to glance coolly at the viewer. This particular organ comes from the private collection of Martin Horowitz of Florida, with an additional 65 cylinder tunes. It’s a fantastic example of the way mechanical music produces a lively guaranteed to delight and amuse the most sophisticated collectors.

player pianoAnother charming piece of dance hall nostalgia on offer is an upright oak Nickelodeon with a leaded stained glass panel dating from the 1920s. Self-playing pianos saw their peak in the early 1920s. Perforated rolls of music catering to every popular genre were available to the public for private or social enjoyment. Eventually the phonograph rendered self-playing pianos obsolete except to devoted collectors. Consider this your chance to own a piece of living history and a testament to the wonders of popular music from the early 20th century!