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rfulton

Identification

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This was handed down thru the family. Was my great grandmothers X4. Was given to them as a 50th wedding anniversary in 1833. No markings except for the #70 on the inside. Metal parts are brass & buttons are mother of pearl. Any help would be appreciated.

post-9-1080338688.jpg

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Wow, such an early documented age for a flutina (is that what we have here, you experts?) would be of interest to historians. I'm thinking of the likes of Gerard Dole, who came from France years ago to document the accordion among the Cajuns.

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What you have is a "French accordion", of a type often, but incorrectly, described as a "flutina". (The flutina is a type of French accordion with the levers & pallets enclosed, unlike this example.)

 

However, the accordion was only invented, in Vienna, in 1829, and the French were only just starting to make them by 1833. I'm sorry to say that this one is much too developed to be so old, it looks about 20 years, or so, later than that.

 

In many ways it resembles the instruments of the biggest maker, Busson, of Paris, but the "bascules d'harmonie" (the harmony levers on the treble keyboard) do not look typical for him.

 

You may not have discovered this yet (and I have met people, who owned them, who had taken the bellows off to get inside !) but the secret of opening one is that the treble end-plate (with the key mechanism on it) slides off, like an old-fashioned pencil case.

 

Below is a photograph of a very typical Busson accordion, sold by the Nottingham dealers W. Winrow & Son about 1860.

 

Edited to add photo.

post-9-1083786116.jpg

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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You may not have discovered this yet... but the secret of opening one is that the treble end-plate (with the key mechanism on it) slides off, like an old-fashioned pencil case.

Here's a pic I made up some years ago for accessing the innards of these boxes. Please copy and distribute at will! We've seen far too many wrecked instruments for the want of a little direction like this.

post-9-1080353379.jpg

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I'm thinking of the likes of Gerard Dole, who came from France years ago to document the accordion among the Cajuns.

Ken,

 

We were busy posting at the same time !

 

Gerard Dole is a very dear friend of mine, we exchange emails all the time, and he puts me up when I am in Paris. But when it comes to the history of French accordions, we would both defer to Pierre Monichon, the "Godfather" of accordion research in France, who wrote his first book, the "Petite histoire de l'Accordeon", in 1958 (the first book that I ever read on free reed history, in the Henry Watson Music Library, Manchester, about 1971 or '2).

 

I was delighted to be invited to go and visit Pierre Monichon, last year, at his idyllic home above the Marne valley, where he is now working on his fourth book.

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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Thanks for the fast & informative responses. The date 1833 comes from a piece of paper w/handwritten 1833. This would fit with my ancestors from France, the Du bois from France arrived 1633. thanks for the info.

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The following are features (most of which derive from the early Viennese models) of the very earliest French accordions :

 

!) No "socle" (the frame around the wind key, by which the left hand end is normally held.

 

2) One row of keys, to which semitones were gradually added, until the instrument had two full rows.

 

3) Narrow, bar-shaped, mother of pearl keys, that are neither spade-shaped, nor screwed down.

 

4) No bass key(s) on the left hand end.

 

5) No marquetry inlay, only inlaid "stringing".

 

6) Flat, not moulded, sides.

 

Here is a photograph of a rare one that I got last year, with only two semitones, which probably does date from around 1833, it originally had a single "bascule d'harmonie", but the lever for it is now missing :

post-9-1080358077.jpg

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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And here are two more images, one of which shows how the wind key is exposed, with no protective "socle", and some more of the inlaid stringing :

post-9-1080358751.jpg

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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That's interesting.... I've seen many of the earlier flat-sided ones but all had socles. I would imagine that they would be exceedingly difficult to play without them.

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I got one of these in bits, I am sure that the maker is Steele of Nottingham and it has a date of 1812, but I have not touched it for some years and I might be mistaken, I have not worked out from the post, what is the defining feature of the Flutina as opposed to french accordian? Is it just the socle?

 

Dave

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I have not worked out from the post, what is the defining feature of the Flutina as opposed to french accordian? Is it just the socle?

Dave,

 

No, it is nothing to do with the "socle" (Fr. "plinth" or "pedestal") upon which the instrument sits, like a pedestal, when it is not being played. That is a feature missing from only the very earliest of French accordions, including another example, with only 6 keys, that I have. I tried to explain the difference in my first post on the topic, but I guess I wasn't clear enough :

 

What you have is a "French accordion", of a type often, but incorrectly, described as a "flutina". (The flutina is a type of French accordion with the levers & pallets enclosed, unlike this example.)

So the correct, and original, name for all these instruments is "French accordion", and the "flutina" was only a variant of the style, with its levers and pallets (pads) enclosed, out of sight, under the end board. This produced a more muted tone, that was supposed to be more flute-like, hence the name.

 

However, "flutina" has become the accepted name for all these accordions in England, just as "melodeon" is now generally used to describe button accordions that are not melodeons. The term "anglo concertina" seems to be going the same way, with people starting to use it for German concertinas. (There's even a man selling, German-style, "Angolas" on eBay !)

 

You will find a lot of French accordions, similar to the one that started this topic, labelled by Nottingham dealers, who typically put a large black and gold transfer (claiming to be "Makers") over the stamp of the actual French maker, Busson (otherwise they put a paper label on the bellows, and/or rubber-stamped them on the reed pan). The usual names are Winrow, Jabez Gregory and Howson. It seems that there was a considerable trade in Nottingham lace to Paris, the carriers bringing back accordions on the return journey.

 

I'm afraid that a date of 1812 is impossible, it is about 20 years too early for any French accordion, and 17 years before Demian patented the instrument.

 

Edited to add the photograph of a "flutina" (which would once have had mother of pearl facings on the keys), and to add text.

 

Cheers,

post-9-1083787475.jpg

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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I'm afraid that a date of 1812 is impossible.

Could 1812 be the founding date of the firm whose label is on the instrument?

Dave E. didn't say where the date was located on the instrument and what makes him think that's the date it was built.

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Could 1812 be the founding date of the firm whose label is on the instrument?

I have looked for a musical firm of that name (Steele), but cannot find one, though my search could not be exhaustive, as I have only been able to look at Directories that are available online and what I have here. (I just hope that there isn't some confusion about a label, which is sometimes seen on these instruments, reading "STEEL REEDS" in large letters.)

 

The first Nottingham "Manufacturer" seems to have been William Winrow, for whom I have found an 1848 entry, followed by Jabez Gregory (by 1855), then Mathew Howson. All three were still in operation in the mid-1880's, but by 1904 there was only Edgar Horne at Jabez Gregory's old address, and William H. Selby. The latter is the only one listed in 1913-14.

 

(Edgar Horne had a chain of music shops in the Midlands, one of them in my hometown, Burton-on-Trent.)

 

As far as I can ascertain, Busson founded his business in 1835. He was probably the largest manufacturer, and exporter, in France, and all the "Nottingham" accordions I have seen appear to be from his atelier.

 

Below is a photograph of the paper label, on the bellows of a Busson French accordeon sold by W. Winrow & Son, about 1860.

 

Edited to add photo.

post-9-1083786905.jpg

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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I have a flutina almost identical to the one Stephen Chambers shows, with the green "Winrow" label as shown. However you suggest that these were only imported by Winrows, but mine has Winrow's name imprinted in the felt seal around the reeds and the words "top" and "bottom" written in pencil on the reed board - does this imply that Winrow my have actually made the instrument?

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What an amazing forum this is!

 

I bought a Flutina at a jumble this weekend. A five minute search came up with this thread. Thanks to Stephen Chambers and Richard Morse for the "getting in" instructions. The sliding bit was quite tight, so I would never have found it without help.

 

The reed plate has a stamp declaring J Clark. 195 Gibraltar Street, Sheffield as the maker.

 

Hopefully after a good cleaning, it might be playable. Then I have to decide what to do with it.

 

Thanks for you help.

 

 

Peter

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I bought a Flutina at a jumble this weekend. ... The reed plate has a stamp declaring J Clark. 195 Gibraltar Street, Sheffield as the maker.

Peter,

John Clare (not Clark) of Sheffield modified French accordions to produce an instrument that he called the English accordion. I'd come across a couple of references before I even saw a picture of one; like Wheatstone's selling an example on 30th November 1866 according to their ledgers. Or "Howard & Co.'s New and Popular Dances for the Melodion [sic]" [1880] in the British Library having had a slip of paper with the printed word "Melodion" pasted over the original "English Accordion" on the title page. So when Chris Algar first sent me photos of an instrument that was labelled as an English accordion, and Pierre Monichon showed me another later, I was not too surprised.

I think these photos (of the one that I bought off eBay) may look very familiar to you? wink.gif :

EnglishAccordion.jpg
Englishaccordion-interior.jpg

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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