At the end of the 19th century, Theophile Mortier ran a pub in the Bredastraat in Antwerp, where he installed dance organs manufactured by the Parisian firm of Gavioli. Like most people born in West-Flanders, Theophile was a good businessman – hence it didn't take long before he established his own organ factory where dance organs and later also orchestrions were built. Until 1952 hundreds of small and large dance organs and orchestrions were manufactured in that factory, which made Mortier one of the major players in the Belgian organ industry, just like Decap, Verbeeck, …
Many of the instruments built by Mortier were later modernised or rebuilt; still later – when the interest in dance organs had faded – the organs were just dismantled or – at best – sold abroad where collectors treasured the instruments.
In the past, several attempts have been undetaken to write a book about the history of the Mortier firm and its instruments, but without success. In 2018 Ruud Brienen, of the Dutch society Kring van Draaiorgelvrienden (KDV), took the initiative to finally compile the book, also to celebrate the 65th anniversay of the KDV. Time is pressing, as experts aren't getting any younger, which would lead to the loss of important data. Moreover, a lot of new data have come to light in the past few years thanks to the internet.
The past year, Tom Meijer has been working hard with a team (consisting of Jan Kees de Ruijter, Björn Isebaert, Jack Jacobs and Maarten Van der Vlugt) to finish the long-awaited book about the Mortier firm. Alongside the Dutch text is an English translation, which will undoubtedly contribute to an international spread of the information in the book. The translations were provided by Andrew Pilmer, Russell Wattam, Tom Meijer and Björn Isebaert.
In the book you will find information on (amongst other things):
- the Mortier family history
- the history of the Mortier firm
- the factory itself and its staff
- music and arrangers
- a general overview of dance organs from the various periods (until 1914; 1918-1929; 1930-1944; 1945-1952)
- the history of most known dance organs
- the orchestrions
- organ renter Gustaaf Schollaert in Gent
- René Van Den Bosch.
The book also has an appendix with i.a. a list of serial numbers of dance organs and orchestrions and photos of original façade design drawings.
Het book is 440 pages long and is illustrated with ca. 900 photographs, many of which haven't been published before. There is also a colour supplement at the end of the book.
Below you can take a look at some sample pages of the book:
"The Mortier Story" is dedicated to Roger Duerinck (1922–1998). During his whole life, Roger was an avid collector of information about dance organs. He carefully wrote down this information on index cards. He also had a large photo collection.
Without his work, the book would never have been published - hence the dedication is more than justified.
Photo: Gilbert Duerinck archives
The goal of this website
The goal of this website is obviously not to present all the contents of the book. In the future, we will use this website to publish photos of Mortier organs that weren't included in te book, as well as additional information and corrections on the information given in the book.
If you still have old photos of Mortier organs, we're interested! Contact us on