There are very few images of early anglo players in the US, and even less documentation. There is the 1913 photo of the New Bedford Massachusetts concertina band (from the concertinaFAQ; http://www.concertin...ages/newbed.htm ) and an image I purchased off Ebay of a young Kentucky girl holding an anglo in front of a log cabin, ca 1922 (http://www.concertin...90&hl=palestine ). We know that thousands of german and anglo-german concertinas were imported to North America and sold by mail order catalogs in the late nineteenth century (by Sears Roebuck, for one), but know very little about how and where they were played. Clearly it was never a very common instrument, and players may have been (as today) isolated. Its heyday in the US, perhaps excepting today's revival, appears to have been around the time of the US civil war (?). There was a clear market for these instruments, and Randy Merris has documented many german and anglo-german concertina tutors published in the US from the 1860's on (see his article on concertina.com). Anecdotal evidence shows that many were also brought in by English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh immigrants in the late 1800s-early 1900s. British Mormons brought some on the treks to Utah (the John Jarvie home in NE Utah, now a park, records the story of this Scottish-born concertina-playing frontiersman, and there are several historical accounts of Welsh and English Mormon players); Irishmen such as William Mullaly brought anglos with them to the east coast; English immigrants in Massachusetts had a concertina band mostly staffed by anglo players.
In contrast, Chemnitzer concertinas in the US are relatively thoroughly documented, as it was at least regionally widespread and fairly common in the Midwest (there is a thorough and recent review of "German" (Chemnitzer) concertina history in the midwestern US by Thomas Leary (2002; see reference below). The Germans appear to have ditched the Uhlig two row german "proto-anglo" as a serious instrument fairly early on, preferring its bigger multi-row descendants, which seem to have been available in Germany by the 1850's. Significant Chemnitzer playing in the midwest appears to root with Otto Georgi and his contemporaries in the Chicago area in the 1880's and proabably not much earlier, acoording to Leary; their instruments of choice from the beginning were imported multi-row, multi voice Chemnitzers imported from Germany. There seems to have been no significant early two row precursor in the US central European community to the arrival of the Chemnitzer, from what I can see from Leary's work.
The strange thing is that, scant as its actual playing history seems to be, the anglois very firmly rooted in American popular imagination; Hollywood seemed to trot it out in past decades whenever a quaint or nautical or folky prop was required (ie, Bing Crosby 'playing' anglo-german concertina while crooning 'True Love' to Grace Kelly on a yacht, Pat Boone playing a concertina whilst on a Journey to the Center of the Earth; that sort of thing). Why would Debbie Reynolds want a publicity photo of herself holding an anglo, when there seems to be little substantial history of its use in the US? (That photo was shamelessly grabbed from Jim Besser's website). There may be an interesting story there.
I'm interested in hearing from anyone with photos and/or information on early playing of anglos, anglo-german, and german concertinas in North America pre-WWII. Anybody have any information? Maybe a photo in the attic of great-grandfather with a concertina? Seen any good historical references?
Source and documentation for photo:
James Leary, 2002, The German concertina in the upper Midwest: in Bohlman and Holzapfel, eds., Land Without Nightingales: Music in the Making of German-America. University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Edited by Dan Worrall, 23 March 2006 - 11:24 PM.