The people involved in studying and documenting the history of the organ, its builders and players, are very well organised. The informational content and level of historical accuracy in their work is exemplary of any field of historical and social science research. As examples I cite excellent on line sources: the Freeman-Edmonds Database of British Organ Builders (DBOB); the National Pipe Organ Register (NPOR); the Union List of Reed Organ Catalogs; and the Reed Organ Society Database; Fritz Gellerman's Pictorial Database. Others include the Saltaire Museum of Phil and Pam Fluke (unfortunately closed in 2011), the Olthof Collection in the Netherlands and the Woodville Organ Museum in NZ. These sources of information are further described below, but we start with a brief introduction to the various types of instrument that will be examined.
For pitch notation used throughout this study, we defer to Percy Scholes' Oxford Companion to Music . This states that ``old English organ pitch notation'' has CC=8', C=4', c=2', c'=1', c''=6'', and so on. This is similar to modern English organ builders' notation, but slightly different to the American notation. We will therefore use the convention that the bottom key of a modern 61 key organ manual of normal 8' pitch is refered to as CC, middle c is c and the top key is c3 or c'''. It could be argued that some departments (in particular the pedals) are not based on 8' but on 16' pitch and so on, but we shall also refer to the bottom pedal as CC as it typically pulls down the lowest CC manual key when couplers are in use.
English reed organ production even precedes the harmonium. A seraphine in this context is a free reed organ using pressure wind and possibly of German origin where a similar instrument was known as the physharmonika. This was similar to a harmonium but smaller and of much simpler construction. It is described in Chapter 3. Free reeds had in fact been used in pipe organs in Europe since c.1780 and the sound producting parts were probably discovered in China by European explorers such as Charles Wheatstone who found examples of the Sheng (or Sho), a mouth organ with bamboo pipes used in religious rituals.
A harmonium is a free reed organ of French origin, invented by Debain and patented by him in 1843 , although his first related patent was actually 9/8/1840. It is powered by pressurised air from treadles and bellows and has a distinctive folding case. It is characterised by the Expression stop, which isolates the air reservoir allowing the treadles to have a very important and direct control over the sound. It generally has a CC-c''' keyboard split into treble and bass registers at middle e-f.
Further history of these instruments, as far as can now be ascertained, was recorded by Arthur Ord-Hume in his book Harmonium  and more recently in a remarkable doctoral thesis by Michael Dieterlen . For an extensive description of some of the earlier and more esoteric mouth blown free reed instruments which were the ancestors of the modern mouth organ and other Western instruments, see Pat Missin's Web site: http://www.patmissin.com.
There are some larger instruments using pressure wind which do not fit the precise description of ``harmonium''. Ian Thompson refers to all such instruments as PROs (Pressure Reed Organs). In France they are referred to as ``Harmonium Monumental''. There are photographs in Dieterlen's thesis and there is a collection including some such large instruments maintained by amateurs in France, see http://www.harmonium.fr. There are also suction instruments which are very similar to harmoniums, even having the so called Double Expression. One such, a large 2M by Leibig, is currently in The Netherlands.
The next picture shows the back of my small 1M harmonium. This is by J. Baynton of Hackney, see Chapter 18. It shows the triangular feeders (bellows) at the bottom, which are worked by the foot treadles. Above them is the sprung reservoir, usually isolated by the Expression stop, and above that the wind chest and reed pan with the stop action pitmans visible at the rear. The pallets, which open holes in the reed pan over resonators under which are the actual reeds, are directly underneath the keys towards the front. All harmoniums follow this basic layout.
The harmonium was strongest in France and Germany with relatively few English and Italian instruments, although a very popular English free reed instrument called the Concertina had been invented by Wheatstone c.1827. Wheatstone, Lachenal and McCann remain the only concertina makers of note to this day and these sought after instruments now command a high price, higher than most reed organs! The Italians later also excelled with the free reed Accordian (most had steel rather than brass reeds). Of course Accordians, Mouth Organs and Bandoneons were also produced in large numbers in Germany - the eastern European Bandoneon became a celebrated instrument in Argentina with the very popular tango orchestras of the 1920s. For more information on concertina history and technical details see http://www.concertina.com or http://www.concertina.net.
The best harmoniums are French (Debain, Alexandre, Mustel and other) and German (Trayser, Schiedmayer, Titz, etc.), but there were quite a few made in England, albeit most with French reeds. There are also outstanding instruments from The Netherlands, Denmark, Northern Europe (Norway and Sweden) and Japan. Many of the brass reeds were made in Paris by Estève, see Chapter 27 but companies such as Alexandre made their own. Schiedmayer, Titz and Mustel made ``Art Harmoniums'' which, in addition to the Expression stop had percussion action on the first rank of reeds, double expression and many other accessories. There were also some by Bauer of London. These are very exciting instruments to play! Unfortunately there is a rather small specialised music literature of any real quality, and I'm not even going to write about reed organ music on this site!
English harmoniums were very well made and sturdy, just as well made as the German ones, but maybe lacking the aethereal quality (and mechanical complexity) of the later Mustel and Alexandre instruments. Here is the internal layout of a Stevens harmonium looking from the back with the top hinged forwards to show the reeds and wind chambers (reeds made by Estève). The reed pan and resonators are above.
Follow the link to see more pictures of this Baynton instrument show the order of assembly of the major components of a harmonium and how easy it is to dismantle for moving or repair.
Harmonium manufacturers standardised their stop arrangements. I don't know who inspired this process, but it was probably Victor Mustel . The Art Harmonium was the final stage of the process. The list below explains the arrangement which is found in harmoniums of every make, be it large or small. Arthur Ord-Hume  has an extensive list of stop names for both harmoniums and American style reed organs in an appendix of his book.
Other stops which might appear include:
The knee levers are found in most harmoniums and also American organs. Sometimes there is only one, put into operation by inward pressure of the right knee and shut off by inward pressure of the left. This is however un-comfortable. In most cases the single knee lever is pressed outwards by the right knee and when the pressure is withdrawn it shuts itself off by means of a spring. Single knee levers generally bring on the full power of the instrument. When there are two knee levers it is not uncommon to find the one on the right used as just described, whilst the one on the left opens the shutters of both Forte stops. By being pressed slowly outwards the left lever is capable of producing a noticeable swell effect - the shutters being made to open gradually, which cannot be done by means of the Forte stops. Both knee levers are in some instruments made to serve this latter purpose of swell, then each lever acts upon its own half of the keyboard. A lever for the heel of the performer is also sometimes employed for the purpose of bringing on the full power of the stops.
Some of this information is taken from Edwin Malkin's useful little book  and some from J.C. Grieve's chapter on the harmonium in the New Musical Educator .
The arrangement of the reeds is also standardised - remember the picture of the Stevens instrument above? Ranks 1 and 2 appear at the front and 3 and 4 at the back as their numbers might imply. The front organ would usually also have the second treble rank for the Voix Celeste. In a single manual instrument there would typically be two sets of pallets, one set for the front and another set for the back organ. This leads to a simple and natural split for 2 manual instruments. The result is that the lower manual (or indeed the only manual in smaller instruments) has Bourdon, Cor Anglais, Flute, Clarionet and the upper manual has Basson, Clairon, Fifre, Hautbois. Larger instruments would have rank 5 and also the Musette and Baryton as solo stops in the back.
The stops of the Stevens harmonium are:
Forte Dolce 8' Dble. Diapason Bass 16' Diapason Bass 8' Grand Organ Expression Diapason Treble 8' Dble. Diapason Treble 16' Voix Celeste 8' Tremolo Octave Coupler There is a single knee lever. pressure gauge showing ``soft - increase - loud''
The stops have been given English names, but follow exactly the same pattern as above, except the Octave Coupler which is very unusual in harmoniums but a feature of American organs (suction powered as described below). In some instruments the felt behind the stop knobs was coloured to distinguish them, but most performers would be expected to know the standard configuration and numbers.
We note the special German name ``Kunst Harmonium'' (meaning Art Harmonium) is given to the best quality larger instruments. This was designated by S. Karg-Elert for a large 24 stop harmonium which he took with him on recital giving tours. Many were made by Mustel in France. His instrument was made by J. Titz in Germany, but the specification (actually that given in the description of stops above) resembles that of the larger Mustel organs and several others.
Pete and I had a large 2M Schiedmayer harmonium from c.1880 in around 1974 which was very similar to the one shown in the next picture. This was a massively made instrument but fantastic to play with light action and expressive bellows. My great respect for the best 19th Century harmonium builders started with this instrument.
Reed organs, for the sake of this study, are usually free reed organs powered by vacuum (suction), often refered to as ``American organs'' because most originated in the USA. They are also often refered to as ``pump organs'' on all continents. Ian Thompson refers to them as SROs (Suction Reed Organs). The story is that an employee of Debain invented this kind of instrument, was not able to produce it in France and therefore emigrated to seek his fortune. We note however that there are some pressure instruments which cannot be classified as harmoniums (such as certain models of Aeolian Orchestrelle and the Vocalion) and there are also combined suction/ pressure instruments which we have listed as reed organs. We thus reserve the name ``harmonium'' for the original French style pressure wind instrument and use the name ``reed organ'' for everything else. Self playing instruments are covered in a chapter of their own, as are the more familiar of all types.
[need more history ?]
Reed organs have a completely different internal arrangement to harmoniums, and lack the ``Expression'' stop which does not work with vacuum wind for some reason. The single manual American organs typically have a range from FFF-f'' with a split at B-c. The large and later English instruments were built as practice organs, so have a standard Royal College of Organists (RCO) recommended layout with CC-c''' manuals and radiating CC-f 30-note pedal board.
American organs also have a different arrangement of stops, and are not simply suction variants of harmoniums. There is no reed pan, but a windchest having the pallets inside. Mounted on this is a stack of tubes into which the reeds are inserted from the outside. The tubes then act as the resonators. The whole thing is covered by an arrangement of swells and shades allowing for the stops and tones to be varied. We should also note that partially stopped reeds do not work very well in Harmoniums (e.g. the Sourdine), so this is one reason why the American organ often has as greater richness of available sounds. American instruments equivalent to the later British ones fulfilled the AGO (American Guild of Organists) specification.
Some typical American reed organ stops are listed as follows. There is not really a ``standard'' arrangement, and the names vary quite a lot, but most manufacturers followed a similar practice. There is usually a Vox Humana (or Vox Jubilante) in the centre with Forte stops each side, then the speaking stops (bass on left and treble on right) and finally the couplers at each outer end. For more detailed information see Ian Thompson's treatise on the subject .
The above is taken from the specification of an organ with 5 1/2 ranks of reeds by D.W. Karn and Co. of Woodstock, Canada who also sold their instruments in London. Pete and I had a smaller one in the early 1970s and it was a good instrument, I have many fond memories of Denis Karn's organs. The smaller instruments were derived from a similar specification but had less stops and less reeds. These were very similar to the 1 manual instruments of Estey, Packard, Bell and other well known American makers, but the order of the stops varied. Larger instruments could have up to 6 full ranks or reeds, three in front and three at the back split into 12 treble bass sets plus several derived stops.
There is also no real standard to the way the reeds are divided front to rear. Typically the more ``reedy'' stops are found in the rear and the more ``organ like'' stops in the front, just as in the harmonium. Often in a 1 manual instrument the principal 4' stops and secondary 8' stop (Vox Angelica) will be in the front, whereas the principal 8' and 16' stops in the rear. On 2 manual instruments the lower (Great) operates the front ranks and the upper (Swell) operates the back ones, this could be up to 5 ranks each. In bigger instruments anything is possible!
The next picture is of my 2MP Spencer illustrating the arrangement of keys with the Swell manual partly dismantled to show the pitmans which open the pallets inside the rear of the wind chest. The Great has a similar arrangement acting on the front of the wind chest. Couplers between the two manuals enable multiple pitmans to be depressed at once. This is exactly as in all American organs, although there were some much more elaborate arrangements, e.g. the Aeolian, the Vocalion and Gregorian (Hill, Mason and Risch), the Phonorium (Estey) and the Liszt Organ (Mason and Hamlin). Some organs even had pneumatic action as in pipe organs, such as the Aeolian Orchestrelle.
The second view is at the same stage of dismantling of my 2MP Spencer. The Great to Pedal couplers have had to be removed to access the Swell manual. It is actually quite difficult to maintain these instruments, as, not only do the pedal couplers over arch the manuals, but the keys are locked in place at the rear to prevent tilting. It is therefore completely impossible to remove a single key quickly. 1 The Apollo organ by Rushworth and Dreaper which was developed by Wallis Holt, see Chapter 17, was much more clever as well as having detachable keyboards had the pedal action fan levers made of metal and passing underneath the whole organ. Information was collected on Jason Fisher's excellent Web site which I am temporarily hosting here http://tardis.dl.ac.uk/FreeReed/jfisheresq.
Three manual instruments have a second upper sound board (or more in the bigger complex ones). The third Solo manual of the Spencer models has centre pivoted keys and rear trackers to carry the action to the top. I didn't understand why this soundboard wasn't simply inverted. Actually in the 2 manual Apollo organs, the Swell reedchest was inverted, so this clearly poses no problem. In the Holts it is not inverted, but instead there is a pivot which carries the Swell action to the upper soundboard and it has its own couplers on top.
This photo shows the complexity of the stop mechanism, the upper soundboard and the tremulant box on the RH side.
My drawing shows the arrangement of the large pedal reeds in these instruments which have their own sound chest behind the air reservoir just visible in the previous photos. The photograph is from a dismantled Apollo showing the Open Diapason 16' chest with front panel removed. This is higher up in the case just behind the Great manual. There is also a photo of the bottom octave of reeds. The external pallets are raised by the vertical trackers which also serve for the Great-Pedal coupler action. There is a resonating chamber and swell shutter above the reeds and there is an air valve underneath the chest (not shown).
Note that the pedal pallets are now outside the wind chest rather than inside, but each read has its own resonating channel. The next picture shows some of the 32' pedal reeds from a Holt organ, the longest being 6 1/2 inches. Most reed organs don't have reeds this big!
You will by now guess that I am mainly interested in the larger reed organs as there is little new to say about the smaller ones, being really just copies of the best American organs described by Arthur Ord-Hume, Fritz Gellerman and others [112,67]. Large reed organs usually have some form of tracker action, like the many pipe organs, and are therefore very sensitive to temperature and humidity. They really require a stable environment and do not like being moved.
Arrangement of Soundboards
[list possible arrangements, dimensions and some examples]
Some Large Instruments
The following table, in the style of many pipe organ Web sites, lists the ranking of reed organs in terms of sheer size, i.e. number of reeds. Nothing below 13 ranks is listed (with one exception). As far as I can ascertain these instruments were actually built at one time but many have now vanished as explained elsewhere. You will see that most of them are of UK origin, although there are a few American built Vocalions (the design was developed in the UK) and one French instrument on the list. Please correct me if you know of any that are missing.
|Sawyer||3MP or 4MP||92||85||5,090|
|Sawyer||RFG-1730||1919||3MP or 4MP||79||70||4,444|
|Mason and Risch||Pisa, Italy, 3114||1898||3MP||36||24||1,280|
|Holt||Edinburgh War Hospital||1916||3MP|
|Bauer||Philadelphia Exhibition, USA||1876||3MP||40||22:23||1,365|
|Holt||Otaki College, NZ, 1479||c.1926||3MP||23|
|New York Church Organ Co.||1888||3MP||26?||18||960|
|Vocalion||Manassas, VA, USA, 1960||1893||2MP||17+2|
|Vocalion||Springfield, IL, USA, 1006||1892||2MP||17|
|Vocalion||Wellesville, USA, 1970||1893||2MP||17|
|Vocalion||Radnor, PA, USA||1896||2MP||17|
|Vocalion||Springfield, IL, USA, 2829||1895||2MP||17|
|Vocalion||Springfield, IL, USA, 5753||1905||2MP||17|
|Vocalion||Townshend, VT, USA, 4680||1906||2MP||16|
|Holt||Lind Road Methodist||2MP||15|
|Kelly||London Exhibition, now Saltaire. ROS-406||1862||2MP||34||12:13||764|
What makes these Organs English?
When did the English reed organ diverge from its American counterpart? I think this was quite late. Holts were producing organs from c.1910 onwards to comply with the Royal College of Organists (RCO) recommendations for console layout. Others, like Hill, Sawyer, Stevens and Spencer were doing similiar things and some continued building very large reed organs until the '50s and '60s. There is a fascinating little book by H.F. Milne , written as a practical guide for craftsmen with instructions for making, including chapters on tuning and voicing, etc. This was written in 1930 well after the hay day of reed organ production in England. It contains a suggested specification for a 2MP/9 instrument as follows:
2x 61 note manuals 32 note pedals Great: Pedal: Open Diapason 8' Open Diapason 16' Clarabella 8' Bourdon 16' (derived) Stopped Diapason 8' Bass Flute 8' or Dulciana (derived) Principal 4' Swell: Couplers: Double Diapason 16' Swell to Great Gamba 8' Great to Pedal Oboe 8' Swell to Pedal or Horn Gemshorn 4' or Flute balanced swell pedal
This interesting and modern specification, with English stop names then in vogue, included a 32 note pedalboard with an 8' stop, and had the 16' stop in the Swell department which is more useful than on the Great. It however lacks a Great or Swell Octave coupler which would also have been useful and simple to fit. It is doubtful if a reed organ of this specification was ever built. There are also specifications for a 1M and 1MP instrument along similar lines.
In considering the specifications of the larger instruments shown later on this site it is worth bearing in mind that these are not pipe organs. Relatively more low pitched stops will be found, and not only because the corresponding pipes are expensive, or because it is hard to make very small reeds so only rarely is a 2' pitch reed organ stop found. Marmaduke Conway in his 1935 article  explains this: In actual registration, one or two points are worth noting. First the use of 16' pedal stops uncoupled is not only possible but often desirable. Free reeds are so strong in overtones that in a quiet passage enough 8' tone is generated by the uncoupled 16' reed without adding the manual to pedal coupler. Secondly, for the same reason, 16' stops can be used somewhat more freely on the manuals than on a pipe organ. They are best avoided of course in contrapuntal work, but in chords they often secure a good balance of tone together with the 8' stops. Care must be taken that they are not voiced too heavily - a common failing in reed organs. The use of 16' stops on the manuals opens up many possibilities in playing Bach's Trios etc. in which, provided we have the full 61 note manual compass, we can draw a 16' stop on the manuals, couple it to the pedal (no pedal stops drawn) and then play with the RH part on the 16' stop an octave higher. Bach does not write above c'', so we shall never find the manual compass insufficient. On a pipe organ this effect is seldom good, but on a reed organ it is often excellent.
Dr. Conway had an important input to the design of the later organs by John Holt, as is explained in Chapter 9.
There is also a plea for an advance on the standard construction methods give in The Organ of January 1949 by Alan Douglas . I am a taking the liberty of re-producing the whole article here because it makes explicit many issues and ideas which are only tacitly described later in my site.
The historical development of the [free] reed instrument has been fully covered by many writers. The form of instrument with which we are all familiar has remained substantially unchanged for forty to fifty years. It is interesting to speculate on the reasons for the extraordinary conservatism of the various manufacturers, even after making every allowance for the rather intractable nature of the free reed, and to consider what improvements could readily be made.
Broadly speaking, all [free] reed instruments - to use a generic term as a means of distinguishing them from the pipe organ - consist of one or more rows of vibrating elements, mechanically controlled from one or more claviers and attached to some form of soundboard. The vibrators are set in motion by wind under pressure or suction, supplied by any convenient means. Sets of reeds not required have their wind supply cut off by mechanical means.
Now the free reed, in which the tongue is able to oscillate through an aperture in the frame, is a device subject to known physical laws. It is perhaps redundant to say that its fundamental mode of oscillation depends on the ratio of its moment of inertia to its restoring couple, or, more simply, the relationship between its mass and its stiffness. The greater the weight the deeper the pitch; the stiffer the tongue, the more prompt the speech.
It is clearly easy to design reeds of any desired pitch, but pitch alone is of no interest; it is the timbre that counts. Here we have a very special problem. What happens when the reed vibrates? The wind is drawn over the tongue of the reed and through the frame. The sudden opening of the pallet valve causes the wind to take hold of the tongue and draw it down through the aperture in the frame. During this process the reed accelerates until the restoring force of the spring balances the pressure of wind. The accelerating force is dissipated, and, since the momentum of the tongue causes it to overshoot the equilibrium point, the spring gains some energy with which to return the reed against the stream of air. The tongue is now carried almost back to where it started from, when once again the spring loses power, the wind pulls the reed down, and the cycle starts over again.
It must be clear that the rate at which a reed vibrates up and down is not precisely the same at all points of its travel. This results in a non-sinusoidal waveform which produces and impure note. But unfortunately this is not all; the reed is much more flexible near the tip than at the base, because if it is regarded as a lever, the further one goes away from its base the less is the power required to move it. So that the tip of the reed moves faster in any one cycle than the rest of the reed, and waits longer at the point of reversal. (This does not apply to weighted reeds.) The non-uniform mode of vibration causes harmonics to be generated as well as the fundamental; many of these are quite high and the ear is particularly sensitive to high notes. For equal audibility at 2,000 cycles per second (for pure tones) only one hundredth of the power of 64 cycles is required. Thus, the upper harmonics appear (to the ear) to be more powerful than the pitch tone. Many harmonics are often simultaneously present, true and tempered, concordant and dissonant. There is no means of selective filtering to remove unwanted ones, all must sound together.
While, however, the tip of the reed is vibrating fairly freely in the aperture, the edges of the reed are building up a considerable pressure along the narrow slits in the sides of the frame. This acts as a brake and tends further to restrict the bulk of the reed from moving, so that even more prominence is given to the tip movement. The sides of the reed are stiffened relative to the centre so they become more rigid; in this condition they will have a very complex mode of vibration, some transverse vibrations being set up across the reed as well. Since the length in this plane is short, such vibrations will have a very high frequency. Where the side pressure is reduced, as by undercutting the frames, the transverse vibrations are less and the tone is smoother. All these factors contribute to the characteristic snarling tone of the free reed.
The voicing of reeds is carried out, within such limits as are possible, by treating the free end of the reed and by altering the ratio of width to length of the vibrating tongue.
Another limiting feature of standard reeds is the power output. This is due to two factors; first, the custom of mounting reeds so that they fall within the key scale; secondly, the use of inefficient soundboards or other means of causing the vibration of the reed to be coupled to the surrounding air. It has long been a source of amazement to the writer that reeds are so small and so poorly mounted. A good reed organ is not cheap, but the technique necessary to produce a cheap instrument is always repreated in the more expensive makes. A small reed cannot move much air, and if this is so, then it cannot transfer much energy to the air. There is no reason at all why the reeds should not be much larger and better spaced out. Even in the meanest pipe organ, a roller or fan movement is provided in the action. The cost of such an organ often does not exceed that of a medium size reed organ, although every part is relatively more expensive.
No vibrating system can impart any energy to the air unless there is some effective means of coupling it thereto. The method of mounting reeds close together entirely negatives the effect of the soundboard at medium and low frequencies. All reeds from middle C downwards should have large sounding boards and a special soundboard is necessary for the lowest octave. This is not difficult to achieve if the reeds are mounted vertically, adequately spaced, and of sufficient scale. For many years reed banks gave been buried in the interior of the instrument; this is quite wrong, and is analagous to having a pipe organ with the swell box always closed. Reed banks should be mounted vertically and above keyboard level. Proper enclosure of these units in a louvred chest with heavy shutters produces a surprisingly good effect, and, of course, the accessibility is much improved.
A far as the tonalities of the reeds are concerned, the complex harmonic development which exists naturally lends itself to the production of true reed tones quite well; there is little difficulty in producing oboes, clarinets, trombones, etc., of quite good character. It is the production of smoother tones which presents difficulty. Since all the generated harmonics must be present, the only way to eliminate unwanted ones is by some sort of filter or dissipative device. Elaborate techniques have been evolved to remove bands of frequencies by acoustic filters, but the design of any form of reed organ makes them difficult to apply. In the case of extremely quiet stops, muffling by thick felt or rock wool can be effective over most of the pitch range. But for the more powerful stops some form of resonator must be applied. By proper design of this, the fundamental resonance may be as much as fifty times the power of the remaining tones, so that the pitch note is greatly augmented.
Many attempts have been made to attach resonating tubes to reeds, generally of an inadequate nature. But if there is vertical mounting of the reeds, and they are a reasonable height, it is quite possible to fit stopped resonators of full length, possibly mitred. A rearrangement of some reeds will permit of horizontal tubes. They should be made from soft wood, which tends to reduce the upper harmonic development owing to its high damping capacity and the reduced rate of transmission in comparison with metal.
It is admittedly difficult to secure good 16' tones, usually only the upper harmonics are heard, whilst the ear obligingly supplies the missing pitch note. But in a fair sized instrument stopped pipes of full length can be accommodated quite well. More than one reed of the same pitch can be attached to each tube to increase the power. It should be noted that if true resonators are fitted the wind pressure must be fixed and quite steady. The open free reed is independent of change in pressure because it has no coupled tuned resonator, which, of course, can only respond to one band of frequencies.
It has long been the custom to make reeds from hard rolled or cast brass. Other materials offer scope for investigation. Brass is most readily attacked by sulphur compounds in the air, which are always present in industrial areas. It is also a material subject to fatigue, which causes embrittlement and consequent cracking in time. Steel can be very effective and produce excellent string tones. Beryllium-copper can be voiced to produce smooth tones and is quite the most resistant material to fatigue. Synthetic resin makes very fine scale reeds of delicate tone. A thin plating of cadmium on reeds makes them corrosion resisting and reduces friction in the air stream.
The customary form of mute employed in exhaust instruments is very primitive. Sliding mutes are most effective, use no springs, and permit pistons to be used. Pallets operating on the ends of the reed cells instead of underneath allow of a much lighter touch and are very suitable for vertically mounted reeds. Metal can be used much more extensively for action work; if silver steel or duralumin rod is run through graphite bushes, a silent, strong and self lubricating action results. This is far more effective than felting and remains in permanent adjustment.
More than one wind pressure is often desireable, and since modern instruments are electrically blown, fan tremulants worked by small synchronous electric clock motors are a great advance on wind motors. To be effective, these should operate in a flat duct conveying the sound to the air so that the fan practically seals the duct in each revolution. A deep tremulant is thus possible. All complication accociated with the unwieldy composition pedals can be overcome by using bowden wire cables.
The nomenclature of stops merits some consideration; for too many years the most absurd titles appear on the controls. The writer has seen ``tuba mirabilis'', ``ophicleide'', and other pipe organ tonalities featured on these reed instruments, quite apart from the strange terms exclusive to the reed organ which mean nothing at all. Surely some more satisfactory names could be given to the speaking ranks. Divided ranks should be abolished except possibly in single manual instruments.
The reed organ can be a pleasant instrument in the home, and has undeniable advantages for the small church or for practice purposes. The pipe organ is almost unobtainable at the present time, and the electronic instrument, on a comparative price basis, is not yet wholly satisfactory. Reed organs with electro pneumatic action and other modern features are made, but the tracker instrument could be made quite satisfactory at a reasonable price if a little attention were paid to the foregoing observations. Stagnation in design can only result in discredit to the industry.
Of course these observations were correct, and partly addressed in the Vocalion and instruments derived from it such as the Aeolian Orchestrelle. See Chapter 7.
Let's now give some information about a modified American style instrument built by enthusiast Michel Jacot who later built some new organs, see Chapter 20.70. Over the years I rebuilt my Mason and Hamlin. It had a fine tone, but lacked brightness. The Great was 16/8/8 and the Swell 8/4, the Solo was OK with 6 sets of reeds and I think that I added a proper valve tremulant. I made a unit organ division for the Great and Pedal with electric action. This gave me 4' and 2' on the Great and 4' on the Pedal which originally had 32/16/8. The Swell was also enlarged into 2', giving in total on the Swell 8/8/4/2' and 16' (treble). All this work resulted in a very jolly noise indeed! Many completely different tone colours and complete choruses in all departments. I really don't know today just how I managed all this, but I suppose that I was younger and full of energy! The organ went with us to Evesham, but was eventually sold to a prep. school near Guildford. I installed the organ for them and they were very pleased with it. I seem to recall that after the installation I heard no more from them. I suppose that somebody was found to look after it as it was large, complex and not easy to keep in trim, especially for somebody who had not built the thing.
In the USA the electro mechanical organ (the Orgatron) had been invented by F.A. Hoschke and B.F. Meissner and the principle used to produce these organs by Everett, WurliTzer, Estey, Gulbransen, Ketterman, RadaReed and others. They had low vacuum or pressure free reeds used only to provide the original source of oscillating current, but had electronic amplification and variation of the wave envelope to provide the sound through loud speakers. I do not know of any British makers who used this principle, although quite a few were experimenting with electronic sounds from thermionic valves and amplifiers, e.g. the John Compton Organ Company who invented the Melotone and used it in their cinema organs.
Organs by Holt and Sawyer were bespoke and therefore mostly built to order. Pneumatic action, as in pipe organs, was used in English and American instruments as also in the Orgatrons and earlier self playing pianos and reed organs. Others by manufacturers like Imperial, Rushworths, Spencer and to a great extent Stevens were built as practice instruments for players of pipe organs.
There do not appear to be any custom built large American organs of the later period, except perhaps the Aeolian, although there were many known models which retained their console configurations of just a few years before, from Estey, Mason and Hamlin, Storey and Clark, Karn, Chase, Dominion, Farrand, Goodman, Seybold, Warren and others. These differed from the accepted British pipe organ layout. Some very large instruments had been built earlier by Vocalion (Mason and Risch) and Mason and Hamlin and others and had very advanced specifications. The English ones later arguably dominated in terms of quality, style and specification - but only a very few found their way to the USA. The imaginative names of some of the English reed organ models are shown in the table below.
|Aeolophon||J. Storer||c.1851||type of seraphine|
|Albaphon||A.J. Spencer||1855-1963||sold by Albert Wagstaff|
|Albany Organ||E. and W. Snell||1864-1907|
|Annexe piano-organ||E.J. Spencer|
|Apollo Organ||Rushworth and Dreaper||1910-39||2MP practice organ|
|Balmoral Organ||Wm. Sames|
|Bristol Organ||J.W. Punter and Co.||1883-1924|
|Bristol Organ||J. Jones and Co.||1884-90|
|Brookley Organ||Green and Savage||1878-1921|
|Burlington Organ||Wm. Sames|
|Carpenter Organ||A.R. McClure||enharmonic organ|
|Castle Organ||Wm. Sames|
|Cecilian Organ||H. and R. Brastead||unknown|
|Chancel Organ||J. Hillier||up to 1903|
|Chordalian Organ||J. Jones and Co.||1884-90|
|Chorister Organ||J. Cooper and Co.||1883-1906|
|Clarabella Organ||F.C. Carter||1871-91||clarabella stop|
|Clarabella Organ||C.E. Hale||c.1903|
|Cleveland Reed Organ||E.J. Spencer|
|Colonial Organ||Wm. Sames|
|Cottage Harmonium||J. Spencer Dane||c.1875|
|Cremona Harmonium||Metzler and Co.|
|Crown Organ||J. Hillier||up to 1903|
|Eclipse Organ||Wm. Sames|
|Endsleigh Organ||James Humphreys||1867-35||2MP, 3MP|
|Empress Organ||Wm. Sames|
|Euterpe Organ||A.R. Downs|
|Gothic Harmonium||T. Liddiatt|
|Handel Organ||J.W. Punter||1M/2 1/2|
|Haydn Organ||J.W. Punter||1M/1 1/2|
|Hepworth Organ||Jenkinson and Co.|
|Ideal Organ||Wm. Sawyer||1MP-4MP|
|Leeds Organ||Wm. Sawyer||2MP|
|Lichfield Organ||Wm. Sames|
|London Organ||J.W. Punter||1M/1 1/2|
|Malcolm Organ||J. Malcolm||1M sold by Murdoch and Murdoch|
|Mechanic's Harmonium||H. Smith||1867|
|Melody Solo||Melody Organ Co.|
|Minster Organ||G. and A.J. Spencer||1855-1963||1M, 2M, 2MP sold by Crane and Sons|
|Mozart Organ||J.W. Punter||1M/2|
|New English Harmonium||W.E. Evans||c.1864||2MP|
|Normal Organ||J. Holt||2MP, 3MP|
|Orgapian||Whomes||combined organ and piano for silent films|
|Phoneon||J. Malcolm||1898||self playing organ|
|Pioneer Organ||J. Holt||2MP-4MP|
|Pioneer Organ||Pioneer Organ Co.||up to 1906|
|Pianorgan||Imperial Piano and Organ Co.||combined piano-organ|
|Premier Organ||J. Malcolm|
|Regent Organ||Wm. Bogg and Sons||1878-96|
|Regent Organ||Wm. Sames|
|Sandringham Organ||Wm. Sames|
|School Harmonium||W.E. Evans||c.1864|
|Stanley Harmonium||T. Liddiatt|
|University Organ||G. and A.J. Spencer||1855-1963||2M, 2MP, 3MP sold by Crane and Sons|
|Vocalion||Wm. Hill and Sons||2MP, Baille-Hamilton and Smith patent|
|Vivatone Organ||H. Smith|
A 3MP University Organ under wraps is shown next (I bought this one from Charles Birkin in 2001). How many more are still waiting for new homes?
I have to admit that I am still intrigued by the very last of the American instruments which bridged the gap between reed organs and electronic organs, Everett, WurliTzer, etc. - they had great potential, being a mix of traditional suction or pressure reed organ, with high pressure player piano pneumatics and electronic amplification and sound forming circuitry. Unfortunately they just missed their niche and very few were produced, and even fewer are now in working order. They were probably too expensive to produce compared with other technology. Pete and I owned an Everett Orgatron c.1972 which unfortunately had been stored for a long time in a damp shed and turned out to be not restorable, at least not by us at that time.
We still have many mysteries to solve and much more history to investigate in order to understand all about the reed organ manufacturers and the instruments they built. As a example of a possible ``lost treasure'' and how difficult it is to do the research is a note sent to me by Geoffrey Morgan I have a set of ``Musical Opinions'' running from about 1928 to the mid 1980s. When browsing through these one day, I came across the description and photograph of a very large (I think 3) manual and pedal reed organ, with handsome, modern drawstop console, and all with pneumatic action. It had many rows of reeds and was in a house. It must have been on suction, and I think it was somewhere in London, but I can remember no other details. Without trailing right through these back numbers again, I cannot locate this article, as M.O. has no index, so this could take days!
I remember alerting Pam Fluke to this organ at the time, but it was new to her too.
Has anyone else seen this article, or can shed more light on such an extraordinary instrument, which must have been a definite one off?
This may have been the Sawyer instrument illustrated on the cover page.
The following table lists some patents which are mentioned elsewhere in this book.
This table takes input from a number of sources, in particular the work of Michel Dieterlen  whose thesis lists the results of his extensive search in the French archives including BNF, the Bibliotèque National de France and INPI, the Institut National de la Propriété Industrielle. This reference list was last updated in 1995 and the French patent number are indicated by ``F''.
Further references were sound using the IPO's Espacenet Patent Search at http://worldwide.espacenet.com. Other input is from source listing American patents which are indicated by ``USA''.
Those not specially indicated are from source of UK patent lists.
|1802||1,530||Hopkinson||organs and harmoniums|
|19/6/1829||5,802||Day and Münch||Aeolophon and Seraphine substitution for pipes|
|19/6/1829||5,803||Wheatstone||construction of wind instruments [the symphonium and concertina]|
|1836||7,154||Green and Wheatstone||Improvememts to Concertinas, Seraphine|
|c.1836||J.F. Myers||possible related to Aeolophon|
|20/7/1839||8,164||J.F. Myers and J. Storer||Grand Double Aeolophon|
|15/1/1840||F 10,118||Abraham Johnson||Orchestron|
|1842||T. Croger||improvements to harmonium|
|8/2/1844||10,041||Wheatstone||Improvements on the Concertina and other musical Instruments|
|9/11/1844||10,385||Daniel Chandler Hewit||Percussion action|
|5/3/1845||F 631||O. Mitchell Coleman||free reeds added to piano-forte|
|16/6/1845||F 1,403||John Rand||free reeds added to piano-forte|
|27/6/1846||J. Storer||percussion action|
|W. Dawes||improvements to pianos and harmoniums|
|14/11/1853||2,634||H. Willis||improvements to construction of organs and free reed instruements|
|17/7/1855||1,607||E. Barry||transposing organ|
|1856 [1850?]||J.-H. Pape||Seraphine|
|30/5/1858||F 36,306||William Bentham||improvements to harmoniums|
|1858||1,872||W.E. Evans||reed starter|
|27/8/1860||2,066||R.A. Brookman on behalf of J.P. Pirsson (USA)||Trylodeon|
|1861||E. Snell||pedal point|
|1861||H.T. Wedlake||lower wind pressure for bass reeds|
|27/4/1861||1,068||H.T. Wedlake||improvements to harmoniums with two wind pressures|
|10/12/1862||1,016||Blackwell||Seraphine double action|
|31/7/1863||B. Johnson||Combination of piano|
|30/9/1863||W. Clarice||Combined piano and organ or harmonium|
|1864||2,493||H.T. Wedlake and F.J. Kitsell||zinc pipes|
|1864||Dawes||Melody attachment for reed organs|
|29/11/1864||1,800||Edmund Lea||combined piano and harmonium|
|W.E. Evans and R. Smythe||``genouillerie'' to control pedal bass|
|12/4/1864||R.A. Icemp||Tuning the piano forte scale by means of twelve harmonium reeds|
|19/7/1864||1,800||E. Lea||Combined piano and harmonium|
|15/6/1864||1,477||Wm. Dawes||Soprano Coupler, air from one end (as in Casson pipe organ); 2nd edn. 8pp|
|1864||J. Gilmour||harmonium improvements|
|12/5/1865||F 66,502||Ralph Smythe||knee action for lowest octave|
|24/5/1865||F 66,601||Dawes and Ramsden||expression and octave coupler|
|20/9/1865||F 68,384||Francis Peabody||improvement to harmoniums|
|26/10/1865||F 68,746||John Hopkinson and John Whitelock||improvement to harmoniums|
|11/5/1866||1,144||H.T. Wedlake||improvements to harmoniums|
|27/2/1866||US 52,940||Wm. Dawes||improvements in organs, harmoniums (soprano coupler)|
|1867||41||C. Kelly and C. Laurent||swell action|
|9/11/1867||3,165||J.E. Castex||combined harmonium and piano|
|10/12/1868||3,765||Wm. Dawes and E.A. Ramsden||Double Bass Coupler; 5pp|
|26/6/1868||1,887||P. Fraye||improvements to harmonium manufacturing|
|11/11/1869||3,251||J. Guesne||combined pianoforte and harmonium|
|14/9/1870||2,479||S. Rolfe||improvement to the construction of harmoniums|
|21/7/1871||1,750||J. Gilmour||improvements to harmoniums and connected apparatus|
|18/8/1871||C. Wheatstone and J.M.A. Stroh||A new musical Instrument|
|25/10/1871||2,857 (void)||Geo. Camp||improvements to the construction of harmoniums|
|12/12/1871||2,905||William Scantlebury||improvement to harmonium mechanism|
|28/3/1872||F 93,878||Charles Wheatstone and John Mathias Stroh||Improvements Instruments with vibrating Tongues|
|1872||J. Farmer and J.B. Hamilton||free reeds connected to strings|
|15/10/1873||3,337||Wm. Dawes||Practice organ; 10pp|
|13/1/1873||F 96,988||William George Kindred Breavington and Thomas Isaac Isaacs (USA?)||improvement to reed organ|
|11/2/1873||402||J. Thorneloe||improvements to organs and harmoniums|
|12/8/1873||F 99,185||J. Farmer and J.B. Hamilton||free reeds connected to strings|
|6/2/1875||452 and 453||H.C. Gouverneur||improvements in reeds for harmoniums and other similar free reed instruments|
|1/12/1875||4,156||P.A. Claude||improvements to construction of harmoniums|
|24/12/1875||F 110,109||J.B. Hamilton, George Edward Wade and Richard William Okes Voisey||free reeds connected to strings|
|4/5/1876||F 111,905, UK 611||Maria Procopé||mechanism for tuning reeds|
|22/7/1876||F 112,883||Evans||improvement to expression|
|9/8/1876||F 113,198||J. Farmer and J.B. Hamilton||resonating wires on free reeds|
|7/11/1876||2,449||J. Robinson||Combined piano and harmonium|
|6/2/1877||F 118,286||John Thom Wright (Glasgow)||Combined piano and, harmonium or organ|
|1879||4,075||Green and Savage||combined piano and American organ|
|3/9/1879||F 131,013||Hermann Smith||shaped reeds|
|3/10/1879||F 131,849||James Backouse Bindloss, William Thomas Cheetham and William Lees||blowing engine|
|21/4/1880||F 137,108||George Walter Turner and Charles Hanson Spaulding||improvement to self playing instruments|
|13/10/1880||S. Crkaert||Improvements in combination of harmonium, and similar reed instruments with pianoforte|
|10/3/1881||G. Green and C. Savage||Improvements in combining harmonium and other similar reed instruments with pianoforte|
|1881||W.E. Evans||expression for suction organs|
|30/5/1882||F 148,056||George Walter Turner||mechanical harmonium|
|1/6/1882||03119||Joseph Mark Draper and James Bartholomew Draper||Orchestral Organette|
|30/8/1883||F 155,392||J.B. Hamilton||improvement to resonating chambres and percussion|
|17/5/1884||7,865||L. Pritchard||Combined piano and harmonium|
|29/12/1883||F 155,649||J.B. Hamilton||improvement to reed organs|
|1884||7,777||H. Smith and W.H. Riddell||harmonium mechanism|
|14/1/1884||US 107,956||J.B. Hamilton and E.A. Ramsden||reed organ|
|25/3/1884||US 295,868||J.B. Hamilton and E.A. Ramsden||reed organ|
|20/8/1884||F 161,686||J.B. Hamilton||improvement to free reeds, multiple tongues|
|7/7/1884||9,860||John Jones||combined harmonium and American organ|
|16/12/1884||F 163,591||John Jones||combined organ and harmonium|
|1885||2,625||H.T. Wedlake||``Eclipse'' pneumatic action|
|1885||2,666||H.T. Wedlake||pneumatic pedal attachment|
|7/4/1885||4,304||John Jones||combined harmonium and American organ|
|23/4/1885||5,043||C.F. Cullum||piano combined with American organ|
|1885||13,069||J. Holt||stop actions|
|1886||5,521||O. Böhmer and F. Thurmer (Germany)||combined pianoforte and harmonium or American organ.|
|12/10/1886||US 350,623||J.B. Hamilton||reed organ|
|12/10/1886||US 350,624||J.B. Hamilton||reed organ|
|12/10/1886||US 350,739||J.B. Hamilton||reed organ|
|24/5/1887||US 363,386||J.B. Hamilton||reed organ|
|24/5/1887||US 363,388||J.B. Hamilton||reed organ|
|19/9/1887||12670||Joseph Mark Draper||improvements to Orchestral Organette|
|18/10/1887||F 183,769||J.B. Hamilton||improvement to resonating chambres|
|6/3/1891||F 209,713||J.B. Hamilton||improvement to organs|
|2/7/1891||F 212,147||Annie Dixon neé Hull||transposing keyboard|
|13/10/1891||US 461,242||J.B. Hamilton||organ, pipe or reed organs|
|21/3/1892||F 218,211||J.B. Hamilton||improvement to reed organs|
|12/4/1892||US 472,789||J.B. Hamilton||improvements to reed organ|
|9/5/1893||F 227,834||Thomas Dawkins||combined piano and harmonium|
|3/5/1895||8,827||J. Wallis, communicated by M. Kasriel||improvements in portable harmoniums|
|27/7/1896||16579||Alfred Maxfield||improvements in mechanical musical instruments|
|1/10/1897||21,730||John Butterworth||improvements tin English Concertinas|
|27/7/1896||16579||Alfred Maxfield||improvements in mechanical musical instruments|
|27/5/1897||13021||Alfred Maxfield||improvements in motors used in mechanical musical instruments|
|19/2/1898||GB 1897 23,692||James Hillier||An Improved Organ or Harmonium Attachment for Pianofortes|
|4/5/1901||GB 1900 9,824||J. Holt||coupler action|
|12/9/1903||F 333,120||James Randolphe Courtenay Gale||easy tuning free reed|
|21/2/1907||GB 1906 18,262||George Taylor||Improvements in connection with Reed Organ Attachments for Pianofortes|
|21/3/1907||GB 1906 7,047||J.B. Hamilton||Improvements in Reed Organs|
|1/7/1909||GB 1908 17,136||J.B. Hamilton||Improvements in Reed Organs|
|9/5/1912||GB 1911 15,548||Kenry Keatley Moore||Indian Harmonium|
|18/2/1909||GB 1908 8,989||S. Jenkinson||Dawes coupler applied to suction RO|
|3/4/1915||GB 1914 13,532||J.B. Hamilton||Improvements to reed organs combined with pianofortes|
|17/1/1918||GB 112,527||J.B. Hamilton||Improvements in Reed Organs|
|27/11/1920||F 515,637||J.B. Hamilton||special reed vibrators|
|22,378/14||Whomes and Sons|
|215,206/24||Whomes and Sons|
|unknown||13,611||label on rear of Malcolm Phoneon|
There are now quite a few sources of information, although details of any specific maker or instrument are still very hard to come by.
Reed Organ Society Database (ROS DB)
This is an extensive database with over 4,000 entries of individual instruments which can be searched by maker's name or instrument type. See http://www.reedsoc.org. Everyone who owns a reed organ should register its existence for historical purposes; no private details will be disclosed. Do it now! There are currently 4,263 entries in the DB.
Michael Dieterlen's Thesis
L'Harmonium et ca Voix Céleste is a doctoral thesis in four volumes published by Presses Universitaires du Septentrion in 1996 . It focuses critically on the fact that the harmonium, once widespread and used in religious and other settings, is rapidly disappearing and the best examples must be conserved. Especially some of the ``monumental'' French instruments are extremely rare.
Dieterlen aimed to make clear the sophistication, diversity and complexity of these instruments and their industrial, financial and social context. He included comments on musicality, performing technique and repertoire. Whilst his scope included principally the French manufacturers (and in some sense is the French equivalent of this Web site) some others were mentioned. It is a pity that copies of this thesis (now out of print) are very hard to find and consequently very expensive. There is no on line version (yet). In his words:
Michel Dieterlen died at the age of 84 on 4/6/2011.
Gellerman's International Reed Organ Atlas
This amazing book by Robert 'Fritz' Gellerman is packed with historical information and attempts to provide a complete list of all companies associated with reed organ production throughout the world . This book may be available at your local library, or can be purchased from the author. See description and ordering information elsewhere on his Web site http://www.reedorgan.info.
Gellerman's Pictorial Database
This pictorial database is intended as an aid in doing research on reed organs. The information can be searched by the maker's name, model, or by the type of case, by doing a text search for a keyword or simply browsing through the database. References to dates are intended only to indicate that a specific model was in production in that year. Some models were produced for many years, so the dates are not definitive. Additional details will be found in Gellerman's International Reed Organ Atlas.
The pictorial and textual information in this database is provided on a non-profit, volunteer basis for general reference and educational use. Every effort has been made to obtain permission for use of copyrighted material and to give credit where required. If you find duplications or errors or have additional information or pictures to contribute, please contact Joop Rodenburg.
The main difference between this and the ROS Database is that the pictures may be historical and show instruments which no longer exist. Other pictures show personalities involed in the manufacture of reed organs and the factories in which they were made.
Fritz Gellerman died on 24/6/2011.
Database of the Netherlands Harmonium Vereniging
Web site http://www.harmoniumvereniging.nl/RODatabase currently has 425 entries.
Frans van der Grijn's Web site
Like myself, Frans is a member of the Reed Organ Society, and has been researching the history of manufacturers and some extra-ordinary instruments, mainly in Germany and The Ntherlands. His extensive Web site is at URL http://www.harmoniumnet.nl/ and he can be contacted at frans.vandergrijn_at_online.nl (replace''_at_'' with ``@'').
Major pieces of research have so far un-covered information on the following manufacturers.
J.P. Schiedmayer -
Teofil Kotykiewicz -
Alfred Rinkowski - 1920-32
Frans has in 2015 published a comprehensive treatise on the history and instruments of the firm Schiedmayer . This is available via ``print on demand'', contact Frans as above.
Reed Organ Internet Mailing List
This list is maintained by Brian Styles in Cambridge. It is not directly associated with ROS, but many members use it. Since anyone can use it, subject to a few necessary ``house rules'', it is a good place to exchange information. To enrol, go to: http://cdmnet.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/reedorgans.
Brian has also set up a mail list for people intested in the larger reed organs with pedals - primarily for those of us living in the UK. To enrol, go to: http://cdmnet.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/apollo.
Union List of Reed Organ Catalogs
This Web based list, also maintained by Robert `Fritz' Gellerman, originated from a discussion on a mailing list for RO enthusiasts of the possibility of making scanned images of manufacturer's catalogues available to the public. As a first step in that ambitious project the present list, when completed, will be a compilation of all known reed organ catalogue collections throughout the world. Many of the large collections are already included. Since this list is compiled from many different sources, the individual entries appear in varying styles and even different languages. It is also possible that there are duplicate entries for a single item.
The list can be found at Web site: http://www.reedorgan.info.
Anyone owning or knowing the location of one or more catalogues, price lists or similar publications is invited to add them to this list. If you do not want the owner's name or location to be published, please request that they be kept confidential.
A snapshot of the rather limited number of entries (as of early 2004, updated 2013-4) for English manufacturers is:
MMD Technical Library
An on line library of technical information for mechanical music and reed organ enthusiasts.
British Institute of Organ Studies (BIOS)
BIOS have produced a magazine called BIOS Reporter since 1977. Editions of this magazine, many of which are available on line at http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/Reporter contain useful information about the archive work of BIOS and also useful snapshots of historical information. The actual BIOS archive, (the British Organ Archive, or BOA) containing the National Pipe Organ Register (NPOR) and the Directory of British Organ Builders (DBOB), is housed on level 7 of the Birmingham Central Library and is available for research purposes by appointment subject to certain conditions. A great deal of work has gone into analysing the BOA as part of the creation of the on line NPOR and DBOB registries. Some of this material is also available and updated quarterly on CD.
National Pipe Organ Register (NOPR)
Many builders are featured on the NPOR list with historical information and descriptions of the instruments they constructed or modified. It is a very extensive list, but focusses strongly on pipe organ information collected by contributors in a number of major surveys. A huge amount of additional information is also available from primary and secondary sources, many are collections of original workbooks and records from the builders and their agents. Other contributions and corrections are welcomed. See http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk.
Database of British Organ Builders (DBOB)
Information about the builders is on DBOB, the Database of British Organ Builders. Much information in our study was taken from this Freeman-Edmonds database originally containing data up to 1950. See http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk under link ``DBOB''. This is an extensive on line archive with references to many original sources including an analysis of available census information. It is a definitive reference for anyone researching British organ builders.
The information is heavily based on census information published for 1851-1901. The database contains a short description of each person or family involved in organ building and, if they had their own firm, details of the location over its period of activity. Sources are the various census and additional business registries (e.g. Kelly's), plus other information from the archives of contributors such as Phil and Pam Fluke.
Julian Rhodes' Dream Organs
A lot of interesting information was contained on this Web site http://www.cdmnet.org/Julian which included extinct, existing and proposed stop lists along with ``dream organs'' which were never built. Julian Rhodes died c.2001 and the site was for a while maintained in his memory. Julian was clearly sympathetic towards free reeds and I was told by Geoffrey Morgan that he owned an Apollo organ which is currently in a church in Oxfordshire. See the chapter on pipe organs with free reeds, Chapter 25.
Note Julian's original Web site is no longer on line, but has been archived by Brian Styles at the above URL.
Squeezytunes Blog Site
Blog site of Ivan Armsby, accordian player with Suffolk band, ``The Doons''. Web: http://squeezyboy.blogs.com/squeezytunes/harmoniums_reed_organs/index.html takes a while to load!
UK National Archives
The National Archives of England, Wales and the United Kingdom has one of the largest archival collections in the world, spanning 1000 years of British history, from the Domesday Book of 1086 to government papers recently released to the public. In addition to its document collection at Kew the Archives acts as an on line clearing house to many sources of information throughout the UK, see http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk. Importantly this includes links to the 1871, 1881, 1891 and now 1901 census records.
West Sussex Organists' Association Millenium Survey
In the year 2000, the WSOA published a comprehensive survey of organs of all types in West Sussex . Data was gathered by means of a questionnaire and every questionnaire returned (whatever the instrument) will be stored in the county's archive from the end of 2000. Some of these instruments turned out to be reed organs at the following locations: St. Mary's, Barlavington; St. Mary's, Binstead; St. Mary the Virgin, Burpham; Burton Church; St. Mary's, Chithurst; Coombes Church; Baptist Church, Tilgate, Crawley; private residence in Fishbourne; St. Andrew's, Ford; private residence in Graffham; Greatham Church; St. Botolph's, Hardham; St. Peter's Racton; Chapel of Ease, Sennicotts; St. Leonard's, South Stoke; Wigginholt Church; Wiston House, Wiston.
The Rev. Tony Newnham, who was brought up in West Sussex, has read this publication and told me that it covers some 95% of the churches in that region. Unfortunately there do not seem to be any UK built reed organs listed.
Encyclopaedia of Organ Stops
Starting in March 1999, Edward L. Stauff has produced what is certainly the most compete listing of organ stop names which have been used through the ages as noted in the many historical works on pipe organ building, see http://www.organstops.org. This is now under the sponsorship of IPORE, the American Institute for Pipe Organ Research and Education, Inc. http://www.ipore.org. It is a thorough piece of reasearch which is still ongoing as new material comes to light from the literature or is contributed by readers and is fascinating to browse.
This is an interesting Web site selling reprints of American patent specifications and copies of original drawings intended to be used as artwork, see http://www.vintage-reprints.com. Try the easy to use category invention index and free full-text search tool that helps antique collectors, history enthusiasts, and genealogy searchers find their patent on any topic or inventor worldwide. The site lists many reprints of US patents for reed organs, harmoniums and melodeons showing details of the action, bellows, cases and sound chests.
US Patents Office
If you go to the US Patent Office Web site (http://www.uspto.gov/) you can view, download and print any patent you wish, free of charge. There are literally hundreds of organ, reed organ and free reed patents to wade through.
You can now access this archive via Web: http://www.google.co.uk/patents.
You either need to know the number of the patent you want, or search through all the US patents for a particular subclass of invention. The current US classification for reed organs is 84/351, but there are a string of related subclasses you might also want to search. Documents can be downloaded in PDF format with JPEG images.
If you wish to search for patents from other countries, we highly recommend the German patent office's Web site: http://depatisnet.dpma.de.
The European patent classes are less specific than the American ones, G10B covering organs and reed organs, with numerous subclasses. This site displays all the documents (including US patents) in PDF format.
Some notes have been taken from harmonica player Pat Missin's informative Web site: http://www.patmissin.com. This contains a very complete history and descriptions of the mouth blown free reed instruments from Asia leading up to the Western mouth organ (harmonica) and concertina.
Reed Organ Preservation Society of Australia
A number of British instruments including a Hill Vocalion were exported to Australia and also New Zealand, so this is probably relevant.
The ROPSA was formed in Melbourne in late 1979. In 1985 the society had about 20 active members and another 30 or so "interested parties". It held occasional meetings, and produced an excellent quarterly journal of about 20-30 A5 pages. The group's activities were suspended due to lack of volunteers some time in 1986.
The largest collection of reed organs in Australia can now be found at Albert Fox's Musical Village in Darnum, about an hour to the east of Melbourne. Albert's piano and organ business has taken him all over the countryside, and over the last 50 years or so he has brought home not only pianos, organs, and all manner of musical curiosities, but also old churches, halls, and cottages in which to display them. The Musical Village is well worth a trip if anyone is visiting Melbourne.
Further information on activites in Australia can be provided by John Wolff. Melbourne, Australia. Web: http://www.vicnet.net.au/~wolff.
We note that there was also a Reed Organ Society of South Australia: ROSSA.
Phil and Pam Fluke
Phil and Pam Fluke - Harmonium Museum, The Victoria Hall, Saltaire, near Shipley, Yorks. Web: Web site; E-mail: phil_at_harmoniumservice.demon.co.uk. Unfortunately for a variety of reasons the museum closed to the public in 2011, but Phil is still restoring and hiring out instruments.
Founded in 1985, there were a lage number of instruments in the collection, including quite a lot of English ones. We have not shown any photographs of them in these notes for copyright reasons, unless they have appeared elsewhere. Phil has an intimate knowledge of the history and workings of all the instruments in his collection. A short description of the museum was given by David Baker in The Organ number 326.
Phil Fluke is a serious collector and has a number of unique or very rare instruments. Some have changed hands since I started this Web site and no doubt more will do so now. Saltaire is still worth visiting for many other reasons if you are interested in industrial history. Note that the Saltaire museum is currently closed.
The Flukes made contact with R.F. Stevens, the last remaining UK reed organ builder in 1974. They met Charles Foster, then Director, many times. He was their guide and mentor in the early years as they developed their collection. When he finally closed up the factory, he gave them many things from the company, including a large amount of paper work, catalogues, advertising sheets and photos for the archive.
We are sad to report that the Saltaire collection was closed to the public as of 1/12/2011 and most of the larger instruments have since been sold. Restoration and hiring work has continued, see http://harmoniumhire.co.uk.
Charles Birkin - Ruthin, North Wales. Web: http://www.reedorgans.co.uk. Charles had restored and maintained reed organs in his spare time for many years. Despite selling most of his collection and spares, he still had an active Web site for sales of Harmoniums and American reed organs in 2005. This site was later sold to Paul and Chris Hampson and is now for sale again.
Paul and Chris Hampson
They now own and maintain the Web site at http://www.reedorgans.co.uk. Information about any reed organs or harmoniums for sale or wanted should be forwarded to admin_at_reedorgans.co.uk. Please help continue this venture.
David is a pipe organ voicer with an interest in reed organs.
Mr. David Frostick,
8 Fairview Avenue, Stanford le Hope, Essex SS17 0DW
Brian Styles noted: David has voiced most of Birmingham Town Hall and St Paul's Cathedral, for instance. But he's latterly got quite keen on reed organs. I sold him a couple of Mustels as well as the Bauer. One was number 357 - a superlative black sloping top and the other another black sloping top but 2-man in a poor way. He's almost through doing a glorious restoration on that. His talents and his craft standards are wonderful with about 30 years in the trade as an organ builder.
A keen reed organ enthusiast and collector based in Lincolnshire. Mark is UK area representative for the Reed Organ Society and can be contacted by e-mail: mark_at_nle.demon.co.uk. Many thanks to Mark for his numerous contributions to this work.
John Sinclair Willis
John Sinclair Willis - formerly The Reed Organ and Harmonium Workshop, Smithy Steads, Cragg Vale, Hebden Bridge HX7 5SQ, W. Yorks. Tel: 01422 885846 Web: http://www.musiclink.co.uk/reedorgans E-Mail: reedorgans_at_conacher.co.uk. John was Managing Director of Conacher and Co., organ builders established in 1854, Web: http://www.musiclink.co.uk/conacher. They were famous for the Conacher theatre organs build in the 1930s. The firm were in their 30th year of harmonium and reed organ restoration and work on all makes of reed organ and harmonium. Clients included The National Trust, Museums, Private Collectors, Churches and Chapels and a University in central England.
John Sinclair Willis is a direct descendent of the famous Willis firm of Organ Builders which began with ``Father'' Henry Willis (b.1821-d.1901). The full story is told by Laurence Elvin in his fine book describing the history of organ building in England Pipes and Actions .
JSW sold his property which is now being re-designed for flats in early 2006. He has moved with his wife Ruth to Bokkapuram in India.
Dr. Bruce Dracott
Bruce Dracott - Cambridge Reed Organs, 18 Hill Close, Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 0NR. Tel: 01638 669531 Web: http://www.harmonium.co.uk; E-Mail: info_at_harmonium.co.uk.
Cambridge Reed Organs is an active and growing business specialising in restoration of any type of free reed instrument. They have recently taken on some large and challenging projects for private customers, including full restoration of the ex. Marmaduke Conway 3MP Holt number 1554. This was previously in Phil Fluke's Saltaire collection. Bruce is saving some important instruments and bringing them back into use.
Rushworth and Dreaper
Rushworth and Dreaper - St. Anne Street, Liverpool L3 3DY. Tel: 0151 207 5252; Web: http://www.rushworths.co.uk; E-Mail: ho_at_rushworths.co.uk. Sadly Rushworths ceased trading in early 2003.
What remains of Rushworths' business (and Willis, another famous pipe organ maker) was taken over by David Wyld. He can now be contacted at:
Henry Willis and Sons Ltd.,
Rotunda Organ Works, 72, St. Anne Street, Liverpool L3 3DY
Tel: +44 151 298 1845; Fax: + 44 151 207 5252; e-Mail: dw_at_willis-organs.com
John M. Page
John Page - has been working with pipe organs since 1976. Church organs were his first passion, but he soon got interested in mechanical organs and is happy working with either. John is Membership Secretay of the Fair Organ Preservation Society. Using traditional tools and materials, he equally at home cone tuning metal pipes in a dusty organ loft, threading phosphor bronze wire for intricate pneumatic actions, or making pipes and actions for new organs. He can be contacted at: 43 Woolmans, Fullers Slade, Milton Keynes MK11 2BA. Tel: 01908 263717; E-Mail: organs_at_johnpage.co.uk; Web: http://www.johnpage.co.uk/organs/harmonium.htm
Louis - is not in England, but an expert on many historical and technical aspects of pipe and reed organs, especially Dutch but also English ones:
Industrielaan 16a, 6951 KG Dieren, Netherlands
Member Federation TMV
Certified and Registered Valuer-Appraiser for Harmoniums and Reedorgans in Europe
Harmonium and reed Organ restorer, Pipe organ builder and restorer
Tel/ Fax: +31 313 412133;
Mobile: +31 653 117 697;
Web: http://www.harmonium.com e-Mail: info_at_harmoniums.com
Dominik is an architect living in Stuttgart. He has a collection of musical instruments, now including several large English reed organs.
Siegloch und Partner,
Architekten und Ingenieure,
Schmidener Strasse 192,
70374 Stuttgart, Germany
W.N. Blakey and Sons
This firm of Neville Blakey in Brierfield near Burnley was mentioned to me by Francis Dunstan and also Brian Styles. They were involved in house clearances and had an interest in musical instruments. They had 5 or six Apollo's in stock some years ago and a large pipe organ across the end wall of their showroom. Blakey also took over a lot of stock from R.F. Stevens when they went out of business, including thousands of suction reeds. I learned that Neville Blakey died in 2009 and the remaining reed organs and stock have been sold to new owners.
Ivan works as a composer and organist in Italy and is interested in the history of the harmonium. I discovered Ivan's Web site in Oct'2013. It has some information about British built instruments. See https://sites.google.com/site/ivanfurlanis/home/harmonium. I have since corresponded with Ivan who lives in Italy. In addition to collecting information, he gives recitals and composes for the organ (some compositions on the Web site).
He told me: I thought to write something about Italian harmoniums and reed organs, exactly because I was inspired by your web site, but two problems stopped me to start with this work. First, I don't have informations or catalogues about Italian builders. Second, the quality of those instruments is usually quite low: cheap wood, reeds just tuned without any kind of voicing process, small sizes (I think 90% of Italian instruments have just 1-1/2 rank). Hopefully one day...
A YouTube video with Ivan showing the Vocalion in the Chiesa Valdesa, Pisa, Italy is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_ptZ-KH3Vo.
Dr. Brian Styles
Brian is very active in the RO world, and maintains an international mailing list. Web: http://cdmnet.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/roes expertly aided by his cat, Oscar (see later).
Dr. Rob Allan
Myself - Web: http://tardis.dl.ac.uk/FreeReed/organ_book; E-mail: spares_at_theimpclub.co.uk or robert.allan_at_stfc.ac.uk (both disguised to avoid spam). I have a few reed organs and have been interested in playing and repairing them since 1971. I can do simple repairs to reed organs, harmoniums and pipe organs plus other free reed instruments, but have never carried out a full restoration. I am a member of the Reed Organ Society and am currently collecting information for this Web site. Information is shared with the other ROS historians.
This is me at the 3MP/6 Wurlitzer in Burton on Trent Town Hall, aged 17, c.1974. Think another 30 years...
P.S. if you can't work out how to use the ``disguised'' e-mail addresses given, please phone me on +44 (0) 1925 267084 (early evenings).
Founded by Paul Carey in 2005. Web site: http://www.sgeinc.com/~franktau
Reed Organs in Ireland
Fr. Darragh Connolly, a Catholic priest from Kilmore in Ireland, has a strong interst in reed organs and has created a Web site to document ones he has seen, owned or restored. See http://www.reedorgansireland.com.
Other Sources of Information
Recommended Research Websites for Archives
The Piano History Centre
The Piano History Centre is run by Bill Kibby, an acknowledged expert and historian on the subject. We often exchange information. Contact details are as follows (replace ``_at_'' with ``@'':
Web site: http://pianogen.org
Tel: 01493 658732
Text: 07969 778428
The Centre can be visited by appointment and is located at 271 Southtown Road, Great Yarmouth NR31 0JB.
Unique to the Horniman Museum is the collection of over 600 concertinas and related European free reed instruments. This was purchased from Neil Wayne, who's concertina museum I had first visited in Duffield in the 1972. He has remained an inspiration ever since. The museum received generous support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the MGC/ Science Museum PRISM Fund to preserve this large and important collection. Web: http://www.horniman.ac.uk
The core of the collection consists of 127 instruments created by Sir Charles Wheatstone (1802-1875), the inventor of the concertina. Wheatstone's prototype concertinas which he was producing by the 1830s, and his patent models, are featured in the collection. The work of other British and continental makers of free reed instruments is also represented here. The collection includes an extensive archive, with the Wheatstone factory day books and diary, souvenir postcards of performers, and 78 rpm vinyl recordings of celebrated concertina players.
There are also a large number of Asian free reed instruments housed in the Horniman Museum. A lacquered sho or mouth organ, made for the court orchestra of a named 18th century Japanese nobleman is one of the most elaborately decorated free reed instruments in the collection.
For the history of concertinas and documentation on many instruments in the collection, see http://www.concertina.com.
Anne Page - a solo organist, is also one of the world's few professional harmonium players. Anne is well known to audiences in the UK and abroad as an organist of great virtuosity, integrity and musicianship. Born and educated in Perth, Western Australia, she subsequently studied in Europe with Marie-Claire Alain and Peter Hurford, giving her London debut at the Royal Festival Hall in 1988. Now based in Cambridge, she directed the Cambridge Summer Recitals for eight years, presenting many world and UK first performances and bringing major artists from the organ world to Britain for the first time.
Her commitment to music by living composers has led to commissions and premieres of new works as well as invitations to make recordings, most recently of organ music by Swiss composer Carl Rutti. Also an enthusiast for early music, she has studied performance practice with Jacques van Oortmerssen in Amsterdam and has performed many times on historic instruments in Holland and Belgium. She appears regularly in recitals for trumpet and organ with Crispian Steele-Perkins, virtuoso of the Baroque trumpet.
Acknowledged as one of the UK's leading exponents of the Art Harmonium, Anne has appeared as soloist at the Edinburgh Festival, the Three Choirs Festival and the Southern Cathedrals Festival. The foundation of Pandemonium, a duo for piano and harmonium with pianist Margaret Copestake is bringing this delightful and typically 19th century chamber ensemble to present day audiences. Some information about Anne's work was published in The Organ number 310. In this article she is noted as saying: people don't seem to realise how important the Art Harmonium was as a solo instrument and how many composers wrote for it. It is such a pity that the image of the harmonium as a dusty instrument stuck in the corner of an abandoned church still seems to hold sway. For many composers it was an essential part of their orchestration. Rossini used it in the `Petite Messe'. It was and still is a highly developed instrument with a specific repertoire. In ensembles it bridges the timbres and textures between the string and wind sections. It is a really sophisticated instrument which has no equivalent.
Anne has helped to win converts to the harmonium through her recordings and performances, including at the Three Choirs and Edinburgh Festivals. She performs works by composers such as Franck, Guilmant, Widor, Karg-Elert and others. Her Web site is http://www.robinbt2.plus.com/annepage/main.htm.
See also Royal Academy of Music Web site: http://www.ram.ac.uk/find-people?pid=325.
The Karg-Elert Society was founded in West London in 1987. They publish information about recitals as well as maintaining an archive of his music and recordings. There is also the Karg-Elert Gemeinschaft bv. The works of Sigfried Karg-Elert have featured a number of times in The Organ.
Also not in England, but since it is mentioned later in the notes, here are the coordinates of the Liestal Harmonium Museum: Harmonium-Museum Liestal, c/o Dieter Stalder, Widmannstrasse 9a, CH-4410 Liestal, Switzerland, Tel: 061/921 64 10 (19.00-20.00 hours local time only please). Web: http://www.harmoniummuseum.ch.
Brentford Musical Museum, London
This museum specialises in automatic self playing instruments and has a collection of Orchestrelles among other interesting exhibits. The museum was re-opened in its new location: 399 High Street, Brentford, Middx. TW8 0DU in November 2007 thanks to National Lottery heritage funding. Web: http://www.musicalmuseum.co.uk.
This is the private collection of Wim Olthof of The Netherlands exhibited at the St. Nicolaas Bovenkerk in Kampen. He has a large number of rare instruments including the Isaac Mott piano-organ. He also has historical information. Wim can be contacted via the Harmonium Vereniging Nederland Web site: http://www.harmoniumvereniging.nl.
Harmonium Museum Nederland
A large collection featuring a number of English built instruments is housed in a modern building in Barger-Compascuum, Drenthe, The Netherlands. There is a regular series of events with recitals. Web: Web site.
Woodville Organ Museum
This one is in New Zealand. The full address is Woodville Organ Museum, 50 Tay Street, Woodville, Wairarapa, New Zealand 4920. Rosalie Wainwright is the proprietor, and they house two large Holt organs listed in the separate chapter among other English made ones. The museum is basically a private collection which is open for visits from members of the public. Web: http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~milrose/.
Short MP3 recordings of harmonium music are available on a Web site of Paul D.: http://users.skynetr.be/PaulD.
Jason Fisher posted a few short MP3 recordings of music he plays on his Apollo organ on his excellent Web site: http://www.members.aol.com/jfisheresq. These were good recordings and illustrated the subtlety of the timbres and combinations possible on this late model English reed organ. Unfortunately, owing to AOL changing its hosting policy, they are no longer available, but the rest of the information is being temporarily hosted here: http://tardis.dl.ac.uk/FreeReed/jfisheresq.
There are a great many commercially available recordings featuring harmoniums and reed organs, either solo or with other instruments and voices. These are listed on the Reed Organ Society Web site.
This Blog http://repertoire-harmonium.blogspot.com and a discussion group at repertoire.harmonium_at_yahoo.com is maintained by Phillippe, a French enthusiast of the harmonium. His Blog contains information about on-line sources of literature, including scores of original compositions for the instruments. We hope that this will expand over time.
A number of people post photos on Flickr. I've picked Dean's set because they are exceptional in showing how to build a modern harmonium (using old reeds). Dean is in Canada. See http://www.flickr.com/photos/ofacteur/sets/72157603862871654.
16 Hearthcote Road, Swadlincote, Derbyshire DE11 9DR
Telephone: 01283 522872; Mobile: 07840 197149; Web: http://horizonorgans.com E-Mail: philip.hextall_at_virgin.net