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banjojohn

Keith Prowse 48 Button English S/n 1155

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I have recently become the custodian of this instrument, the seller believes it to be a Wheatstone, only labelled and sold by Prowse... At this web page http://www.concertinamuseum.com/CM00254.htm there is a similar instrument with an slightly earlier serial number, with the detail that the maker is Keith, Prowse & Co.

 

Does anyone have any knowledge as to the activities of Keith, Prowse & Co, did they actually make any instruments? The label at least says 'Manufacturers'. Was posing as being a maker, when you were really a distributer/retailer a known practice of these times? If Keith and Prowse were not makers, then who might have made this concertina (S/n 1155) and how old is it likely to be?

 

(Edited on 25/11/15, to insert the comma between 'Keith' and 'Prowse', to change 'he' to 'they' etc, as I had mistakenly read the label as being Keith Prowse & Co (assuming Keith to be a first name).

 

post-11975-0-46861700-1448361558_thumb.jpgpost-11975-0-11233000-1448361589_thumb.jpg

Edited by banjojohn

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I have a similar model, mine is earlier Number 21 the fretwork on mine is more ornate but otherwise identical I read somewhere that he did make a few himself, lets hope we can get some answers.

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Have just copied this info from the 'Concertina History Resource' web site: http://www.concertinas.org.uk/others.htm#KeithProwse, the Horiman referred to, is a museum which has a large collection of old musical instruments, including concertinas. I am interested to note that they have S/n 1156 the next number up from mine! From my reading/understanding of the information below, I would conclude that concertinas were being made by Keith, Prowse and Vickers until 1888. Note the comma between the names Keith and the name Prowse, this comma is also present on the original labels... (I had wrongly assumed that Keith was a First Name). However is seems that these are two individuals, a Mr Keith and a Mr Prowse, who together with a Mr Vickers were making concertinas......

 

 

William Dove - 20 Poland Street, Oxford Street.

Dove, another Wheatstone worker, started manufacturing around 1850. He did not remain in business for long according to Jones, and the company was taken over by Keith, Prowse & Co.. Directory listings for Dove disappear after 1852. The two Horniman Dove instruments are Nos.217 and 234, and the lowest Prowse No 1156 (Keith, Prowse and Vicker).

Keith,Prowse & Co.
As noted above the lowest 'Prowse' in the Horniman is No 1156, and the highest No.4842. It is interesting to note that 'Mr. W Prowse',who ran the company from 1846 to 1865, purchased 16 concertinas from Wheatstone during 1851 (but none in 1852). The Keith, Prowse and Vicker instrument above probably dates to before 1865, and the Keith, Prowse and Co instruments (Nos. 1360 and 4842) after that. By 1888 they were selling rebadged Lachenals from 48 Cheapside.

Edited by banjojohn

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I have a similar model, mine is earlier Number 21 the fretwork on mine is more ornate but otherwise identical I read somewhere that he did make a few himself, lets hope we can get some answers.

Hi Bazza, Wow! . . . No. 21 sounds like it could have been made in the first week!....would you please be able to post some photographs on this thread?

Edited by banjojohn

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Keith, Prowse & Co. ... S/n 1155

 

Lot 406 from the Gardiner Houlgate auction in June then - I bought Lot 403.

 

... the seller believes it to be a Wheatstone, only labelled and sold by Prowse ...

 

That would be very understandable if they'd seen certain cheaper models that Wheatstone's were selling in the 1850s, which have similar fretwork and were probably built for them by at least some of the same specialist craftsmen ("the usual suspects" so-to-speak!) who were involved in making this one for Keith, Prowse.

 

Does anyone have any knowledge as to the activities of Keith, Prowse & Co, did they actually make any instruments?

 

Keith, Prowse & Co. started off as a partnership between Robert William Keith (1767–1846) and William Prowse (1801–1886, brother of the flute maker Thomas Prowse) in 1829. They were originally music publishers, musical instrument dealers and ticket agents until (in the late 20th century) the business became exclusively a ticket agency and "hospitality partner", and they were pioneering sellers of accordions from the beginning of the 1830s onwards, and later also of concertinas bearing their name.

 

The label at least says 'Manufacturers'. Was posing as being a maker, when you were really a distributer/retailer a known practice of these times?

 

Yes, it was extremely common at the time.

 

If Keith and Prowse were not makers, then who might have made this concertina (S/n 1155) and how old is it likely to be?

 

Prior to making the likes of the one in your possession, they sold Wheatstone concertinas (which, from 1848 to 1858, would mostly have been made under contract for them by Louis Lachenal) and, after making their own for some years, they later started selling instruments made directly for them by Lachenal & Co.

 

But George Jones mentioned in his memoir that "Keith Prowse ... purchased the tools etc. [of William Dove, around 1852] and ... produced good instruments by the employment of Bankham, Card, Potter, and Parrish," and I believe the instrument you are asking about to be one of those. I have a rosewood example of one in my collection, and that is very similar to a very rare (possibly unique?) one labelled Thomas Parrish that I also have.

 

Edited for clarification

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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Stephen, thank you for your insights here! So to conclude; you believe that these early concertinas labeled Keith, Prowse & Co were manufactured by Bankham, Card, Potter, and Parrish, who were I presume either directly employed by K, P & Co, or were independent craftsmen who were contracted to make and assemble the parts. By independent, I mean not exclusively contracted to any particular maker name, eg Wheatstone? So these instruments could not be attributed to Wheatstone.... Ie; the serial number 1155, is not a Wheatsone S/n?

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... So to conclude; you believe that these early concertinas labeled Keith, Prowse & Co were manufactured by Bankham, Card, Potter, and Parrish, who were I presume either directly employed by K, P & Co, or were independent craftsmen who were contracted to make and assemble the parts. By independent, I mean not exclusively contracted to any particular maker name, eg Wheatstone?

 

I wouldn't consider these to be the "early" Keith, Prowse ones - those they generally got from Wheatstone's! I'd think of these more as "mid" period, whilst we'll probably never know exactly on what terms Bankham, Card, Potter, and Parrish were employed - but it may well have been mainly on the "outwork" system and they were paid "piecework" for what they produced for the firm, rather than being formally employed "in-house" and getting a wage.

 

 

So these instruments could not be attributed to Wheatstone.... Ie; the serial number 1155, is not a Wheatsone S/n?

 

It's hard to know what, if anything, serial numbers do relate to sometimes - especially if the instruments are bought-in, or may be supplied by outside contractors.

 

Unfortunately Wheatstone #1155 is missing from the ledgers (which is not unusual), but entries either side of it suggest it was probably a 44-key instrument that would have been made in 1846-7, possibly a "Plain" model without fretwork if it was the same as 1156. Whilst the Keith, Prowse in question has 48 keys, has fretwok and is in the style of less-expensive 1850's models.

 

It'd be interesting to closely compare #1155 to one of those latter (relatively uncommon) ones that Wheatstones sometimes sold in the 1850s, but I'm sure those were not made in-house (though the reeds appear to have been supplied by Louis Lachenal) and I'd suspect that at least some of the same people may have been involved in making them as made this Keith, Prowse...

 

Have you opened up #1155 and, if so, what are the reedframes like?

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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It'd be interesting to closely compare #1155 to one of those latter (relatively uncommon) ones that Wheatstones sometimes sold in the 1850s, but I'm sure those were not made in-house (though the reeds appear to have been supplied by Louis Lachenal) and I'd suspect that at least some of the same people may have been involved in making them as made this Keith, Prowse...

 

Have you opened up #1155 and, if so, what are the reedframes like?

 

Compare the fretwork design on Keith, Prowse #1155 with this Wheatstone, #3188, (a very cheap 32-Key single-action instrument sold on 17th January 1851), which is an early example of one of the Wheatstone concertinas that I'm talking about (though I wouldn't agree with most of the description of it! :huh: )

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Last night I opened up the left hand end of 1155 and photographed the internals.. Of obvious note is the shape and fit of the spruce baffle plate, slightly less obvious are the two sections of felt gasket which have been apparently intentionally left short up at the top end, see enlargement for this...

 

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Edited by banjojohn

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I have a similar model, mine is earlier Number 21 the fretwork on mine is more ornate but otherwise identical I read somewhere that he did make a few himself, lets hope we can get some answers.

Bazza has very kindly sent me some photos of his very early Keith, Prowse & Co, and has given his permission to post them here:

post-11975-0-87962300-1448621887_thumb.jpgpost-11975-0-15194800-1448621907_thumb.jpgpost-11975-0-49692900-1448621942_thumb.jpgpost-11975-0-18837200-1448621993_thumb.jpgpost-11975-0-12945300-1448621962_thumb.jpg

 

Apart from the more ornate fretwork, the obvious difference between this and 1155, is the square ended reed shoes

Edited by banjojohn

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... the two sections of felt gasket which have been apparently intentionally left short up at the top end....

 

 

 

Quite a normal feature on some of the higher note reed chambers, though I believe the gaskets to be chamois/leather rather than felt.

 

IMHO, there are more differences than similarities between these two instruments; I would be surprised if they came originally from the same maker.

 

In fact, Bazza's concertina looks very much like some I've seen with a George Case label. That said, I am not aware of any connection between Case and Keith, Prowse & Co

Edited by malcolm clapp

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IMHO, there are more differences than similarities between these two instruments; I would be surprised if they came originally from the same maker.

 

In fact, Bazza's concertina looks very much like some I've seen with a George Case label. That said, I am not aware of any connection between Case and Keith, Prowse & Co

 

Couldn't agree more Malcolm! In fact (just from the serial number) I wasn't expecting Bazza's one to be from the same actual maker.

 

Keith, Prowse probably bought them from anybody and everybody!

 

banjojohn's one will need a more detailed answer, as soon as I have the time.

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Quote from Malcolm Clapp: IMHO, there are more differences than similarities between these two instruments; I would be surprised if they came originally from the same maker.

 

Malcolm, excuse my igorance, but could you please explain these differences?

And what does IMHO stand for??

Edited by banjojohn

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Compare the fretwork design on Keith, Prowse #1155 with this Wheatstone, #3188, (a very cheap 32-Key single-action instrument sold on 17th January 1851), which is an early example of one of the Wheatstone concertinas that I'm talking about (though I wouldn't agree with most of the description of it! :huh: )

 

Ok so here is the comparison, the Wheatstone 3188 on the left and the Keith, Prowse & Co on the right

post-11975-0-50273100-1448654990_thumb.jpgpost-11975-0-40170200-1448655038_thumb.jpg

 

I must say that the fret work looks very similar, but does this prove that 1155 was made by Wheatstone?

Edited by banjojohn

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It has occurred to me that I have already read in Wes Williams's article at http://www.concertinas.org.uk/others.htm#KeithProwse that "It is interesting to note that 'Mr. W Prowse', who ran the company from 1846 to 1865, purchased 16 concertinas from Wheatstone during 1851 (but none in 1852)."

 

As the Keith, Prowse & Co instrument S/n 1155 appears to have 'Wheatstone pattern' fretwork, is it not possible that it is indeed one of those 16 concertinas purchased from Wheatstone in the year 1851 and re-labelled as a K,P & Co ?

 

In looking up Wheatstone' ledgers at: http://www.horniman.info/WNCMARC/C104A/PAGES/C1P0590S.HTM, there are listed numbers 1141 to 1160 for the year 1846 and though number 1155 is included, there is no entry against that number... But there are also other S/ns with no entries recorded... is it not possible that these unrecorded (unsold?) concertinas were the ones which were later bought by Keith, Prowse & Co in 1851?

Edited by banjojohn

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Quote from Malcolm Clapp: IMHO, there are more differences than similarities between these two instruments; I would be surprised if they came originally from the same maker.

 

Malcolm, excuse my igorance, but could you please explain these differences?

And what does IMHO stand for??

 

John, IMHO is a generally understood (?) text abbreviation for "in my humble opinion". Perhaps inappropriate to use in this forum. Soz. (Whoops, did it again: I mean "sorry") :unsure:

 

Perhaps my earlier comment wasn't too clear; I was refering to the differences between your concertina and Bazza's, which are pretty obvious from the photos, though I would love to see a photo of the action in the latter.

 

I think that there is every chance that your concertina was made by or for Wheatstone, or at least by craftsmen who also made for Wheatstone, whether in the factory or elsewhere.

 

It is worth remembering that Charles Wheatstone was not a "hands on" concertina maker himself, but employed/contracted others to actually make different parts of the Wheatstone products which bear his name. So there is an outside chance that only the fretted ends of both your concertina and the Wheatstone #3188 were made by the same person.

 

Concertina making during this period was a pretty tangled web; I just wish the b things could talk....

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Malcolm, thanks for your explanation of 'IMHO', but what I was really wanting to know was exactly what these "pretty obvious" differences are between 1155 and Bazza's 21... Because they are certainly not obvious to me! I do admit that I am a novice in the world of concertinas, that was a big reason for me to start posting on this forum... So please now spill the beans!

 

P.S Bazza didn't send me any photo of the action of 21, but I'm mystified about the small 'dots' that are apparent in his photo of the underside of it... Got any idea what these are?

Edited by banjojohn

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John, you already mentioned the obvious ones yourself, i.e. the shape of the reed shoes and the different end fretting. Added to this is the shape of the cartouche (very George Case in style on Bazza's), the difference in the type or grade of wood used on the reed pans and the shorter reed scale (I think) on Bazza's.

 

As for the "dots" on the underside of the action board, these are the ends of the brass action pivot posts. If your concertina does not show these, then it is likely that the action posts are different types on the two concertinas, or, less likely but possible, that the thickness of the wood in yours is greater than on Bazza's concertina, which would be yet another difference between them.

 

Hope this helps....

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