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George Case Serial #695?


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#1 mazebo

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Posted 05 July 2016 - 09:39 AM

Hi all!
My name is Mats Hillborg, from Sweden, I'm a musician turned software programmer.

Me and my siblings discovered an old concertina in a cupboard after our mother died this spring. It appears it belonged to our grandfather, who bought it in London, sometime at the beginning of the 20th century.

After studying concertina info on this site and around the web, I've come to the conclusion that it's probably an instrument made by George Case.
The name plate is missing and the box it resides in is actually labelled C. Wheatstone & Co, but after finding an almost identical concertina here,
it seems Case would have been the manufacturer.

The author of the webpage argues that according to that instruments' serial number (1713), it's most probably made around 1857.
As you can see from the provided pictures, our concertina has the lower number 695 printed in the reed pan, right where it should be.
Is there any way of knowing the approximate date of manufacture, given this serial number?

Despite its 150 years+ age I would say it's in a terrific condition: The bellows looks almost new (Could they have been replaced?), the mother-of-pearl inlays are all intact, and apart from 4 notes that only sound in one direction of the bellows, it's perfectly playable.
The tone is full and warm - As a guitarist I can't help but thinking what I hear is the sound of beautifully aged wood.

However, there is one important flaw: Two faceplate bolts on the right hand side are broken, and the tips are stuck in their holes. I'm starting another thread in the repairs section to get your advice on this.  

BR,

Mats

concertina_1.JPG concertina_3.JPG concertina_4.JPG concertina_5.JPG concertina_6.JPG concertina_8.JPG concertina_9.jpg

 

 



#2 Patrick McMahon

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Posted 05 July 2016 - 05:21 PM

It certainly seems to be a George Case, judging by the example that you turned up.

 

One important difference between yours and the one in the article, is that the reeds in yours appear to be steel, rather than brass.

 

That means it's probably a later one. The good news is that steel reeds are better, if they're not too rusty. 

They make it a more desirable instrument to own.



#3 JimLucas

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Posted 05 July 2016 - 06:52 PM

My name is Mats Hillborg, from Sweden, I'm a musician turned software programmer.

Me and my siblings discovered an old concertina in a cupboard after our mother died this spring. It appears it belonged to our grandfather, who bought it in London, sometime at the beginning of the 20th century.

 

Hi Mats.  Where in Sweden do you live?  (Eniro lists three with your name, two in Stockholm and one in Grycksbo.)  I'm in Stockholm occasionally, and I know three other concertina players there.  Would you like to meet sometime?  (Tomorrow Thursday I'll be changing trains in Stockholm Central on my way home to Denmark from the Bingsjö Spelmansstämma, but that's too short notice and too little time.  ;))

 

I'd love to see your concertina, and I might be able to help you get the problems fixed.  I might even have spare end bolts of the right size.  It sounds like you're planning to learn to play it, yes?



#4 mazebo

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Posted 06 July 2016 - 06:51 AM

Patrick: Steel reeds - Yeah, maybe thats part of why it sounds so good. According to Chris Flint's "Case Notes", a serial number of 695 would place the manufacture date to somewhere between 1849 and 1854, so perhaps the original reeds have been replaced? Or could a concertina in the 1850:ies have been made with steel reeds? 
 
Jim: I live in Stockholm, so I'd be delighted if we could meet when you're in town sometime! Please let me know when you're coming by the next time. 
Coming from the "serial world" of piano and guitar, I was quite perplexed when I realized I'd have to alternate between left and right hand to play a scale on the 'tina... Will take a long time to adjust, I think.
And though it's real easy to get spellbound by the tone of this instrument, and I wouldn't mind sit practising, we are many heirs to it, so we'll have to see who gets to keep it, if any of us. There are some interesting ideas floating around, on how we can put it to use, anyway.
Considering that it's been stuck in its box since at least 1967, when Grandfather died, it's definitely time for it to be played on, that's for sure!
 
BR,
 
Mats


#5 Myrtle's cook

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Posted 06 July 2016 - 08:11 AM

'According to Chris Flint's "Case Notes", a serial number of 695 would place the manufacture date to somewhere between 1849 and 1854, so perhaps the original reeds have been replaced? Or could a concertina in the 1850:ies have been made with steel reeds?'

A couple of observations in terms of reed material and date:
- Case concertinas also come with nickel/silver nickel reeds, which can look quite steel-like. There's one in the Concertina Museum http://www.concertin...om/CM00180h.htm
-At the time Scates/Case et al were operating, steel, 'brass', silver nickel and even gold reeds were being used by the various manufacturers. Each material imparts a particular tone, so there may have been a degree of accommodating user preference - somewhat like the myriad of front/side/back choices of wood for the guitars offered today. Steel reeds were however far, at this time, from the norm.

Concertinas from this period have a particular tone, often described as 'mellow' or 'sweet' - as you observe. It's a tone I love, I am lucky enough to have an earlier Scates EC with silver/nickel reeds. Your instrument would probably have once had wooden or leather baffles fitted to dampen any harsher overtones. For modern requirements the loss of baffles probably helps increase volume for use with voice etc. A super instrument to start a concertina journey on.

There's some useful further information on Case here: http://www.concertin...com/SiteS4c.htm

Chris Flint has also researched Joseph Scates and his very informative site includes references to Case: http://www.scatescon...troduction.html

#6 Patrick McMahon

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Posted 06 July 2016 - 09:38 AM

I wondered about nickle silver too, but I suspect they are steel, because it looks like they have a few small spots of corrosion visible in the pictures. I have a Wheatstone English with nickle silver reeds, (all but one which is brass) and even though it's a similar age, the reeds are completely clean and bright. ( they also have just one screw instead of two, you don't see that very often ). 

When you play the one brass-reeded note, it's impossible for me to detect any change in tone from the other nickle-silver ones.

 

It would be easy to check if the reeds are indeed steel, with a magnet.



#7 mazebo

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Posted 06 July 2016 - 10:38 AM

 Myrtle's cook:

Thanks for the valuable info! Judging by your image example of nickel/silver nickel reeds, I think our instrumet is more likely to be steel reeded, since the look is shinier than the s/n s ones.

 

Patrick: A magnet test on the reeds is a great idea! I'll try it when next it's time to unscrew the instrument.

 

BR,

Mats



#8 Theo

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Posted 07 July 2016 - 01:08 AM

The J J Vickers stamp is pertinent to the questions about reed material. Vickers were dealers in London and as well as buying and selling concertinas they advertised a service to convert brass reeds to steel. Geoff Crabb told me that Vickers had the new steel reed tongues made and fitted in the Crabb workshop. So it is quite likely that your reeds were originally brass or nickel that were replaced with steel.

#9 Patrick McMahon

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Posted 07 July 2016 - 05:46 AM

From what I read somewhere, it would seem that brass or nickle reeds went out of tune quicker, with heavy use.

So it might make economic sense to have them all changed to steel, when the concertina needed tuning.

 

Especially if you were a performer.



#10 mazebo

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Posted 07 July 2016 - 09:53 AM

Theo: Thanks for the J.J. Vickers info! I did a web search to possibly find out when the "& Sons" was added to the name and came up with this interesting document.

It's a pdf file showing the Certificate of Incorporation for J.J. Vickers & Sons, dated 1:st of August 1925. Apparently the company was active until 2014 (but by then only as a "Wholesaler"). Worth to note is also that J.J. Vickers & Sons wasn't incorporated for dealing in concertinas only, but also as Hairdressers(!).

 

Patrick: Yes, definitely a good investment. The price list of J.J. Vickers (pre the "& Sons" incorporation, which means it must be before 1925) puts it at 2p15s, plus 9d per key - and they're still in tune, despite the fact that my grandfather, who was a Salvation Army officer, would have put them to heavy use all through the beginning of the century. It's a fascinating thought that #15 in the list of second hand treble english concertinas, might actually be the instrument my grandfather bought!



#11 Patrick McMahon

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Posted 07 July 2016 - 04:20 PM

That's interesting. 

When you say they're still in tune, is that against modern concert pitch, or in tune with itself? Because I thought that the Sally Army used a non-standard tuning pitch, and ex-SA concertinas generally needed re-tuning to use with today's concert pitch standard of A=440 hz.

So if it's in tune now, against concert pitch, it's probably been re-tuned at some point.

 

It could be the same concertina as the one on the list, but doubt it, only because the description doesn't mention the inlaid ends, it just says ebony ends.

Another concertina above does have the inlay mentioned in it's ends. It was a sign of class that would probably get a mention.



#12 Mike Franch

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Posted 07 July 2016 - 06:41 PM

Interesting. One of the incorporators was John Baden-Powell Vickers, b. 1900, and no doubt named after the hero of the siege of Mafeking (1899-1900).

#13 mazebo

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Posted 08 July 2016 - 04:24 AM

Patrick: I meant it was in tune with itself. The overall pitch i a bit lower than A=440. Do you mean that there was an "Official" SA pitch definable in Hertz? In that case, if this instrument adheres to it, that would make it probable it was fitted with new steel reeds when my grandfather bought it.

And you're quite right about the inlaid sides: Of course they would have been mentioned. That's an astute observation!

 

Mike: Aha, I was wondering about the Baden-Powell part of the name! Bet you he was the Hairdresser... ; )



#14 Paul_Hardy

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Posted 09 July 2016 - 03:06 AM

... I've come to the conclusion that it's probably an instrument made by George Case.

I'm sure that it is a George Case. The bellows papers, green leather, and the inlay designs are identical to my brass-reeded George Case 2760 (http://www.pghardy.n.../case_2760.html).

I also have a steel-reeded George Case 3087 (http://www.pghardy.n.../case_3087.html) which has different and simpler inlay and bellows papers.



#15 Patrick McMahon

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Posted 09 July 2016 - 09:37 AM

The S A pitch thing isn't something I know much about, just something I've noticed from time to time.

But I just did a search, and it's likely that they used old "high pitch" of A = 452 because that's what the brass instrument makers used to use. So they would need concertinas to match the brass :

 

"It's true the SA had their own instrument-making factory -- for many years in St Albans. Their instruments were manufactured in "high" pitch (A = circa 452), just as those were made for most of brass band movement by Boosey & Hawkes -- the same pitch as used by British military bands well into the 20th century. When the band movement (or was it the instrument manufacturers?)decided to change to "low" pitch (A = 440) both manufacturers produced only low pitch instruments."

http://www.themouthp...rs.19394/page-2  



#16 JimLucas

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Posted 10 July 2016 - 07:00 AM

Patrick: I meant it was in tune with itself. The overall pitch i a bit lower than A=440. Do you mean that there was an "Official" SA pitch definable in Hertz

The S A pitch thing isn't something I know much about, just something I've noticed from time to time.
But I just did a search, and it's likely that they used old "high pitch" of A = 452 because that's what the brass instrument makers used to use.

 

Interesting.  I've seen A=452 quoted before, yet my junior high band/orchestra director told us that (back then: 1958-9) while orchestras tuned to A=440, brass bands tuned to C=256, which I calculate is about A=430.5.  Different standards in the US and UK?  Mats, you say your instrument is pitched lower than A=440.  Can you be more precise?
 

:"It's true the SA had their own instrument-making factory -- for many years in St Albans."

 

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure that factory made standard brass wind instruments, but not concertinas.



#17 Geoffrey Crabb

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Posted 10 July 2016 - 10:23 AM

Concertinas are not known to have been made or repaired 'in house' by the SA.

 

Two major reasons why 'old'/high' pitch was retained in SA concertinas were:

 

1. The overall cost involved in converting the many hundreds of SA instruments in use worldwide,   

and 

2. The overall length of time required to complete such an exercise when considering that at the time of introduction of modern pitch (A440) and for many years after, only two firms, Wheatstone and Crabb were still engaged in concertina making and repair in the UK and therefore able to carry out the work..

 

 

Some may find the following interesting:

 

http://sahpa.blogspo...king-short.html

 

 

Geoffrey

 

 

 

 

 

 



#18 Patrick McMahon

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Posted 10 July 2016 - 10:50 AM

I'm only speculating, but you would think that, if the manufacturers and brass bands collectively decided to change the tuning that they were using from the old "high pitch", they would standardise on A=440 as used by the orchestras and everyone else, rather than go to another non-standard tuning.

It wouldn't make a lot of sense to go to the huge expense of re-tooling and buying new instruments, for anything other than what was becoming the world standard concert pitch. But that's just guesswork on my part.

 

Even though the Sally Army factory didn't make concertinas, they would want the concertinas to be in tune with their brass instruments, and would buy them to match, or get them re-tuned to match, I would have thought.






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