J.B. Cramer and Co. Ltd. (1861-1921)

Caveat: we do not know for certain that any of the instruments described in this chapter were actually manufactured by Cramer, but read on...

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The original Johann Baptist Cramer (b.24/2/1771-d.16/4/1858) was born in Mannheim, Germany, died at his home in Kensington and was buried at Brompton cemetery.

Cramer's family were active in the London musical scene, his father Wilhelm Cramer was a well known violinist and his brother Francois Cramer was a violinist and Master of the King's Music from 1837 to 1848. John Cramer was a pianist well liked by Beathoven. He invested in publishing ventures from 1805 becoming Cramer, Beale and Chappell and then J.B. Cramer and Co. from 1824-1968 when they was taken over by Kemble and Co. He had actually left the company as early as 1838 but they kept using his name.

According to Bill Kibby of PianoGen, Cramer of piano making fame was originally Cramer, Addison and Beale (1822-33), when Addison separated they became Cramer, Beale and Co. (1844) then Cramer, Beale and Chappell (1847-61) which became Cramer, Wood and Co. (1864) and finally J.B.  Chappell and Co.

The firm of Cramer and Co. started in 1861 and became Cramer, Beale and Wood in 1862 before reverting to J.B. Cramer and Co. from 1868-78. Cramer, Wood and Co. also traded 1871-1889. They were at 199-201 and 207-9 Regent Street London and 64 West Street Brighton with the main factory at Lyme Street or Castle Road, Camden Town in 1871. They also had premises at 45-35 and 40-46 Moorgate Street and from 1914 they were at 139 New Bond Street.

In 1889 the following notice was published: Messrs Wood and Peach, trading as J.B. Cramer and Co. of Regent Street and Notting Hill, dealers in musical instruments, dissolved partnership 1/1/1889. The debts will be collected and paid by Mr. George Wood, who continues the business.

Fritz Gellerman said they made harmoniums ranging from a single stop 4 octave model up to a 24 stop 2MP model. A Cramer advertisment is shown in Gellerman's Atlas [76] p52.

There is a suggestion that some of the instruments were actually made by Alexandre Père et Fils of Paris. Some are certainly quite similar in style, but I am not sure. Remember that there was an argument going on between Boosey and Chappell about manufacturing and that d'Almaine was known to be an Alexandre agent. At this time, Alexandre was the major producer of harmoniums world wide, and many firms had business connections [39]. It is suggested (see below) that there may also be a connection with the Paris firm of Cottino. It suggests the previous one (in Italy) is also by that maker.

J.B. Cramer of London claimed in 1868 to be the only manufactureres in England of the American Organ. The tone is most agreeable, and although produced from the ordinary vibrator, is nearer to that of the metal pipe than has hitherto been obtained from the Harmonium.

It could therefore be said that the first American organ in England was built around or just before this time. c.1872 they were advertising variously as follows.

                  CRAMER'S PATENT AMERICAN ORGANS
                      PRICES 12 TO 200 GUINEAS
CRAMERS are the sole manufacturers in England, and have greatly
improved the instrument by the addition of a new Reed Valve; a new
Octave Coupler; a new Vox Humana Stop; and the Muted Bourdon.
These improvements impart to Cramer's American Organs that peculiar,
agreeable, and mellow quality of tone which distinguishes them above
all kindred instruments. Besides those always kept ready for sale,
Cramer and Co. manufacture special instruments, powerfully voiced, and
suitable for Churhes, Chapels, or large Halls.

                      CRAMER'S AMERICAN ORGANS
on their THREE YEAR'S SYSTEM of HIRE. Rules, conditions and prices may
be had on application to 199, 201, 207, 209, Regent Street; 43,
Moorgate Sreet, City; 64, West Street, Brighton. 
Cramer and Co. are the originators of this system, and although it has
been partially adopted by other firms, it is carried out on a large
and liberal scale only by themselves.

The range included the following, all with 5 octave keyboard and black wallnut or oak case except the largest which was also available in rose wood.

no stops - £12
2 stops - £15
4 stops - £22
6 stops - £28
8 stops - £34
10 stops - 55 guineas
13 stops - 70 guineas
10 stops and pedals - 85 guineas
12 stops, 2 manuals - £100
16 stops, 2 manuals - £125

A few organs are known and have interesting specifications.

RFG-1065 and RFG-1066 are drawings of flat topped harmoniums said to be from 1871.

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RFG-5947

This is a 1M harmonium serial number 1788 in the David Kershaw collection.

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RFG-2671 and RFG-2672 appear to be duplicates of this.

no.31592, e-Bay *4581

This was a 4-rank harmonium with oak case advertised in Dover, May 2012. It had been restored, plays well and is a nice looking instrument. It carries the serial number 31592 on the top left side. Stops are: Cor Anglais, Bourdon, Clairon, Basson, Sourdine, Forte. Expression, Flute, Clarinette, Fifre, Hautbois, Tremolo, Forte.

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2M in Verbania, Italy, e-Bay *4367

I had never seen a 2M Cramer instrument until this advert appeared on e-Bay in Feb'2012. It was located in Verbania, Italy and described as an instrument carrying the Cramer of Liverpool label and the following specification: Sourdine, Bassoon, Clarion, Bourdon, Diapason Bass, Octave Conpler, Double Diap. Bass, Dulciana Bass, Dulciana Treble, Double Diap. Treble, Coupler to Swell, Diapason Treble, Clarionet, Principal, Oboe, Voix Celeste. It is not known how the stops were distributed between the two manuals.

Dimensions: 124cm wide x78cm deep x104cm high.

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Andrew McCallum's 2M Cramer

Andrew McCallum contacted me in Aug'2012 to say Here are some pictures and stop details of the Cramer harmonium I have. I don't have any pictures of the internals. I have all the stop faces even though one is missing off one of the stops in the photo. Just below the stops is a glass disc over a paper label reading "Cramer London". It needs restoration as it has been sitting in storage for the last 35 years and was probably in poor condition before then.

Stops are listed from left to right. Blue dot stops are for the Great (lower) manual, white dot stops are for the Swell manual.

Copula (blue), Voix Humaine (white 8ft), Forte 0 (white), Sourdine S (blue derived soft stop), Basson 2eme (white 8ft), Clairon 3 (white 4ft), Forte 0 (blue), Basson 4 (blue 8ft), Bourdon 2 (blue 16ft), Percussion ou Cor Anglais 1 (blue 8ft), Expression E, Grand Jeu G, Petite Expression, Percussion ou Flute 1 (blue 8ft), Clarinette 2 (blue 16ft), Oboe 4 (blue 8ft), Forte 0 (blue), Fifre 3 (white 4ft), Hautbois 2eme (white 8ft), Musette M (white 16ft), Tremolo T (blue), Forte 0 (blue), Voix Celeste C (white 8ft), Copula (blue)

It also has levers at each end of great manual for Great Octave Coupler.

The organ is currently around 95% complete. What can't be seen in the photos is that the entire back panel is missing (assuming it had one). Part of the wind chest is also missing and I've made it airtight again by fitting a piece of dressed pine of matching shape to the open area to reseal it. By re-using the original screw holes I've avoided making any changes to the original structure. I'm unsure if originally a more complex part was attached here possibly involving the tremolo. In the meantime, it's airtight and functioning. The bellows require re-building before the organ is playable but with the temporary repairs I've made I have been able to verify that it is otherwise intact.

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Later correspondence in mid-2015 suggested that this instrument is actually by G. Cottino. Andrew had moved it to a more permanent indoor home pending restoration. Because of its weight, it had to be dismantled.

One interesting thing to note is that the percussion action is stamped G. Cottino which suggests a link to the Cottino firm. There is also what appears to be a signature and date that he can't quite de-cypher. His best guess is that the date is 1873 which fits the expected age of the instrument. Overall the action is quite well constructed and in good condition.

Mike Bigelow's 2M Cramer

Shayne Ward from USA contacted me in early 2013 with enquiries about a 2M instrument he was working on which carries the Cramer label. It has no apparent numbers, but a second label which may indicate it was sold by Duck, Son & Pinker.

2x manuals, compass CC-c'''

Left:                  Right:          
Basso Prolongo         (missing)       
Subbass                Vox Humana      
Flute                  Hautboy         
(missing)              Piccolo         
Diapason               Principal Treble
Bourdon Bass           Bourdon Treble
Principal Bass         Dulciana  

2x knee swells with latches
2x treadles

This is a very unusual suction instrument. It is currently being restored by Mike Bigelow of Bigelow & Co., Organ Builders, 130 West 100 South, American Fork, Utah 84003, USA.

It is possible that this instrument is actually by Mason and Hamlin. Louis Huivenaar knows of a number of the ``cabinet'' or ``style 10'' models that were sold by UK retailers such as Dale Forty and Mickelborough although the case style and specification changed over the years.

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Discussion with Ian Thompson and inspection of a couple of reeds from the instrument suggest that the reeds and action may be from Estey. Ian noted that the reed base width of 0.4195'' and thickness of 0.0952'' are the same as used by Estey and there is a distinguishing diamond shaped hole to take the reed tongue rivet.

Newstead Abbey

Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire was the ancestral home of Lord Byron the 6th who became the well known poet. [more about Newstead?] When I visited in 1971 it also had a 1M reed organ by J.B. Cramer with the following stops: Sub Bass, Melodia, Viola, Bourdon, Grennatino [sic], I Forte, Vox Humana, II Forte, Wald Flute, Clarinet, Flute, Diapason, Harmonique. It had the usual two knee swells and treadles and also had candle stands to the left and right hand ends of the keyboard.

Cambridge Reed Organs

A 1 manual organ with the Cramer label appeared for sale on the Web site of Cambridge Reed Organs in Jan'2004. It has C compass, 3 1/5 ranks bass, 3 ranks treble and the following stops: Bourdon Bass 16', Melodia 8', Principal Bass 4', Basso Prolongt., Subbass 16', (Flute Principal) ? later addition, Coupler, Vox Humana, Bourdon Treble 16', Flute 8', Principal Treble 4'.

A similar, or quite possibly the same instrument, appeared for sale on e-Bay *0714 in Feb'2015. The label reads ``Cramer's American Organ''. Louis Huivenaar noted the similarity to instruments of Mason and Hamlin who are likely to be the makers. The keyboard split is at e-f. Another one was e-Bay *8026 which also carries the Dale Forty and Co. shop label.

ROS database ROS-4121

This suction instrument is noted as CRAMER, J.B., & CO. Liverpool. Registration nr. ROS-4121 with a piano style case and built after 1888.

Stop list: Viola 2' (?), Dolce 4' (?), Diapason, Harp Eolienne, Forte, Sub Bass, Coupler, Celestina (?), Vox Humana, Vox Jubilante, Cello, Forte, Dolce, Flute, Violina 2' (?), Dulciana 4' (?)

It has a walnut case, knee swells, 61 note FFF-f'' manual.

Remarks: (?) behind stop name indicates replacement stops and may not be accurate. Pitch is A=445Hz, reeds stamped with a patent date of 1888. Bass-treble break at keys 28-29 G#/A.

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ROS DB 4545

This 2M suction instrument is in the ROS Database. It has F-f compass, 2 manuals and knee swells. It is currently located in Italy.

The stop list is as follows: Coupler Swell to Great, Sub Bass, Bourdon, Diapason, Diapason, Gamba, Diapason, Violetta, Viol d'Amore, Harpe Eolienne, Voix Celeste, Musette, Flute, Diapason, Vox Jubilante, Principal, Viol d'Amore, Cello, Vox Humana, Swell Forte, Great Forte

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1M Harmonium e-Bay *7437

This one was advertised on Chris Hampson's Web site during 2018. It was also on e-Bay.

Quite a lot of the stop faces are missing, but the known list is: (S) Sourdine, ??, (2) Bourdon, ??, Petite Expression, (G) Grand Jeu, (E) Expression, ??, (2) Clarinette ??, ??, ??,

``Petite Expression'' features on more than one instrument with the Cramer label. According to John Page it functions as follows. The Expression stop acts on the centre of a ventil which closes off the reservoir from the bellows, pulling it open when the stop is in and allowing it to close when the stop is drawn. its lever action is reversed compared to all the others, putting pressure on the ventil lever when in the off position. The Petite Expression stop acts on one end of the ventil, pulling that end open when the stop is drawn. It only works if the Expression stop has been drawn, or it has no effect. It allows a small amount of wind transfer to the reservoir for a small degree of expression.

Rob Allan
2020-01-13