This weeks featured artifact from the museums collection is the rolmonica. The rolmonica, or mouth organ, was a revolutionary musical instrument that combined the technology of a harmonica and a self playing piano. This instrument was invented by Joseph Le Roy Banks and patented in 1925. The mouth organ used dry waxed paper rolls with specific perforations representing different notes that could be heard when air passed through them.
To play, the user would simultaneously blow into the mouthpiece and turn the crank allowing the prepared tune to be heard. The tune could be played on both the inhale and the exhale allowing continuous playing.The user also had a diverse choice in the prepared tune as many different rolls were available; almost any popular song of the time could be found on a rolmonica roll!
At the time, a rolmonica could be purchased with a set of four song rolls for between one and three dollars; every extra song roll cost about 50 cents. The rolmonica became a very popular household item as it was portable, relatively inexpensive, and required no musical talent to operate and enjoy!
This rolmonica was made by the Rolmonica Music Company of Baltimore, MD. The body of the instrument was made in the USA while the harmonica piece was made in Germany. It was donated to the museums collection by Mrs K. E. MacLeod of Dunvegan.