If you are reading this blog you may not be confused, but we find that the difference between a Band Organ and a Calliope escapes many of our visitors.
Calliope was the ninth Greek muse presiding over beauty and elegance. The word means beautiful voice, which may be a stretch for many instruments bearing this name. Basically a Calliope is a bunch of whistles. This instrument grew out of steam operated equipment, which had whistles used for a warning device, Somebody listened to the whistle and figured if there were a bunch of tuned whistles, you could produce music with them. From manually operated whistles, the move to a machine reading music from some source was a logical step.
A Band Organ grew from a different ancestor. The church organs from the Middle Ages were powered by air generated from a pump worked manually. The pipes were mostly wood and with some modifications they could be voiced to give various tones. By the mid 1800s, experiments were under way to add reeds to the wood pipes to mimic trumpets. If you had enough different sounds available, it could sound like a band, thus the Band Organ was born. They went under several names depending on their intended purpose. Thus the large European Dance Organs intended for ballrooms. When used at an amusement park with a kiddie ride or a carousel, they were usually called Band Organs. Placed on the midway, they might be called a Fairground Organ.