The Hurdy Gurdy girls you see here in the posters were dancing girls in 19th century American saloons. The posters are genuine pin-ups of the day, known in Germany as the Biedermeier period. Despite looking harmless to us today, the images were regarded as lewd at the time. But what they have to do with our museum of musical instruments?
Let's take a trip back to the early 19th century, when unemployment in Hesse was so widespread that people were emigrating to the United States – and taking their hurdy-gurdies along with them. They played at markets to advertise their wares, or in saloons after work. The young, unmarried women danced and sang to the music. Before long, men were able to pay to dance with the women, and later, they’d pay for sex. Where red lanterns show the way to the brothel these days, it was the hurdy-gurdy back then – to the point where it became known as a harlot’s instrument.
But don’t let our little excursion into the history of music’s red light milieu be the final impression you take away from our museum. Instead, take a look at our collection of musical miniatures from all eras. You’ll see porcelain instruments, flutes, bird whistles, and figurines of musicians – from the Rococo period to modern times. The display even traces the development of musical instruments for a second time -- from Michael Praetorius to today's Scottish Smurf with bagpipes – all in miniature.
That brings us to the end of our tour. Here’s a musical farewell to the sound of the Turlututu Waltz, played on two hurdy-gurdies. We hope you’ve enjoyed your musical outing to our little museum.
Have a safe journey home – and do visit us again soon.
All depictions: © Dagmar Trüpschuch