The Vocalion organ was first introduced in
Worcester, MA 1885 by James-Baille Hamilton
who had invented it in England but found no
interest for it there. Production by the Hamilton
Vocalion Organ Mfg. Co. began in 1886. By 1890
there were changes in business arrangements and
the company was known as Mason and Risch
company located both in Worcester and New
York. These were sold by the New York Church
Organ Company. By 1903 Aeolian acquired the
company and production ceased somewhere
around 1910

I have attempted to locate as many extant
Vocalions as is possible and thus far have
identified 100 of them. The earliest listed is #546
in CA and #6660 in Michigan. The former is 2/9
and the latter a one manual w/ 4 - 5 sets of
reeds. I also located a three manual in Pisa, Italy.
So they are out there!

We have restored 8 or 9 of these instruments. I
have a mint condition 2/10, soon to own a 2/17.
Also on the way to our shop is a one manual and
a 2/9 from Maine that will undergo complete

There are several characteristics that set Vocalions
apart from the typical reed organ with which we
are all familiar. Vocalions operate on pressure
rather than suction. The reeds are large-scaled
and speak into chambers called qualifying tubes.
Just as in the finishing process for pipe organs,
the individual stops on a Vocalion can be
regulated note by note. Slightly enlarging the tone
opening sharpens the pitch thus the reed is flatted
to correct pitch. The individual sounds between
the ranks are astoundingly different from one

The action for the Vocalion is on the tracker
system as in mechanical action pipe organs. There
are backfalls that spread the key scale to chest
scale and trackers run from them to the pull wires
coming out of the chest. The original wind
systems were fitted out with two feeders, parallel
for the earlier organs and diagonal by the time
Aeolian was doing the building. The reservoir was
double rise. A pump handle was furnished plus
capped holes ready to accept a wind line from a

Last but not least is that in appearance and in
playing, these instrument were legitimate organs
both in the playing "feel" and physical appearance
of a miniature pipe organ.