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Ed Stander

The Oldest Wheatstone In Private Hands

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Hello all -

I recently became the proud owner of a 48 button english tenor bearing the serial number 418. Does anyone out there have an older model? I'm interested in comparing innards... Cheers, Ed

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Not me. I believe the oldest i've even had my hands on was number 1132.

 

Congratulations. Have you considered putting pictures on a web site, so we can all see how it's built? Must be interesting.

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Stephen Chambers published a paper last year about some of the instruments in his own "private hands":

 

Chambers, Stephen. "An Annotated Catalogue of Historic European Free-Reed Instruments from my Private Collection", in Monika Lustig (ed.), Michaelsteiner Konferenzberichte 62: Harmonium und Handharmonika (20 Musikinstrumentenbau-Symposium, Michaelstein 19 bis 21 November 1999), Stifung Kloster, Michaelstein, 2002), pp. 181-194.

 

He includes three early concertinas from his collection:

 

<quote>

 

(10)

Open pallet model, prototype English concertina, engraved, on the circular German silver keyboard plate, "BY HIS MAJESTY'S LETTERS PATENT, C. WHEATSTONE, INVENTOR, 20, Conduit St. Regent St., LONDON.” circa 1833. 24 ivory buttons, hexagonal mahogany veneered ends with ebony trim, 4-fold leather bellows (with "bookbinder corners") , buckled leather thumbstraps, exposed action, saddle mounted German silver levers, individual blued steel reeds on rectangular brass plates, mother of pearl pallets.

 

This venerable instrument was preserved by the firm of Wheatstone & Co. in their own Collection. It is illustrated (dated by them to 1829) in the various editions of their "blue book" catalogues from the 1950's. The same photograph is also used as an illustration in Pierre Monichon's Petite Histoire de L'Accordéon and his L'Accordéon.

 

I have dated it to 1833 on the evidence of an anonymous early concertina tutor book which gives an otherwise accurate account of Wheatstone's early work with free reeds and states that "it was not till the end of the year 1833 that the instrument named the Concertina was invented" . There is no contemporary evidence to suggest it existed before that time.

 

(11)

32-key English concertina, engraved oval German silver label "BY HIS MAJESTY'S LETTERS PATENT, 112, C. WHEATSTONE, INVENTOR, 20,Conduit St. Regent St., LONDON." Concertina no. 112, sold to Mr Woolwright on 5th November 1836. An early example of a concertina with fretwork to protect its intricate, handmade, brass mechanism. Ivory buttons, the naturals stamped with the note names, the accidentals with black inserts, rosewood fretcut ends, 4-fold green leather ("bookbinder") bellows, German silver reeds, original green leather (chamois lined) thumbstraps with German silver topscrews.

 

(12)

48-key English concertina by C. Wheatstone, London, no. 649, sold to Giulio Regondi on 18th April 1843. Coloured ivory buttons, the naturals stamped with the note names, the C's stained red, the accidentals black, amboynawood (a deluxe finish) veneered fretcut ends, 4-fold green leather bellows with rounded corners, German silver reeds, oval paper label (“BY HIS MAJESTY' S LETTERS PATENT...").

This instrument contains a much simpler (to manufacture) action than the last example, but it is still largely hand made. Its 48-button range was becoming more or less standard from this time onwards (it still is) giving the English concertina the same range as a violin.

 

Giulio Regondi (1822–1872) was a Swiss-born child prodigy on the guitar, before taking up the newly invented concertina (by 1834) and becoming its first and greatest virtuoso. He did much to popularise the instrument.

 

<end quote>

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Open pallet model, prototype English concertina, engraved, on the circular German silver keyboard plate, "BY HIS MAJESTY'S LETTERS PATENT, C. WHEATSTONE, INVENTOR, 20, Conduit St. Regent St., LONDON.” circa 1833. 24 ivory buttons, hexagonal mahogany veneered ends with ebony trim, 4-fold leather bellows (with "bookbinder corners") , buckled leather thumbstraps, exposed action, saddle mounted German silver levers, individual blued steel reeds on rectangular brass plates, mother of pearl pallets.

 

This venerable instrument was preserved by the firm of Wheatstone & Co. in their own Collection. It is illustrated (dated by them to 1829) in the various editions of their "blue book" catalogues from the 1950's. The same photograph is also used as an illustration in Pierre Monichon's Petite Histoire de L'Accordéon  and his L'Accordéon.

That sounds like the one briefly depicted in the British Pathe 1961 newsreel about the Wheatstone Factory, where it's described as "the pride of the collection." See the thread "Pathe News Reel" in this forum for the link to the Web site where a preview version of this newsreel can be downloaded at no charge.

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These were the early concertinas formerly in Neil Wayne's collection, so they may be in the Horniman Museum now.

 

Item : Number(s) : Key & Type : Date of sale, where available

C1517 : 32 : 24 English : Probably as early as 1833

C1518 : 58 : 57 Prototype : A “double concertina”

C153 : 72 : 36 English

C1515 : 103 : 33 English

C1 : 123 : 32 English : 1 June 1840, Miss. Ricketts

C1516 : 165 : 33 English : 20 Nov 1837, Hon. Mrs C Goulbourne

C3 : 224 : 32 English : 22 3une 1838, Miss Binfield

C154 : 244 : 48 English : 4th Oct 1839, A J Ellis (also No 1320)

C2 : 254 : 32 English

C5 : 546 : 50 English : 25th Oct 1842 J M Cripps Esq Jnr

C7 : 563 : 44 English : 20th Dec 1843 Mrs W Shelton

C11 : 578 : 48 English

C155 : 581/580 : 32 English : 28th Sept 1843 Wood & Co

C208 : 584 : 33 English : Miss M Fitzhugh

C10 : 586 : 38 English : 9th Oct 1846 John Goldie Esq

C78 : 677 : 48 English : 13th Oct 1843 Mr J A Novello (Mr Fentom)

C156 : 773/698 : 44 English : (No entry, either number)

C250 : 878 : 32 English : 26th June 1845 Mrs Pickering

C9 : 940/995 : 48 English : 22 Dec 1846 Lady Clinton

C4 : 967 : 48 English : 28th July 1845 Mr Chas Hale

C8 : 993 : 48 English : 17th June 1845 Trevelyan Esq

C200 : 1012 : 48 English : 11th Sept 1845 Hon’ble E Woollester.

C76 : 1016 : 48 English : 22nd Sept 1845 Cramer & Co

C158 : 1056 : 48 English : 10th Jan 1846 Hamburgh Esq (Fullerton)

C159 : 1161/1131 : 48 English : 12th Sept 1846 Capt. Chas Stanley

C16 : 1313 : 32 Bass

C157 : 1320 : 48 English : 10th Sept 1847 A J Ellis (also 244)

C152 : 1389 : 43 Tenor : 9th Sept 1847 C Taylor Esq

 

Unfortunately its not easy to show a table on this forum - hope you can read this.

 

Photos of one of the last of the 'hand built' types (#1701) can be seen in the article on baffles at www.maccann-duet.com.

Edited by wes williams

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These were the early concertinas formerly in Neil Wayne's collection, so they may be in the Horniman Museum now.

 

Neil has recently acquired a number of instruments with serial numbers under 1000. They vary from "are you sure this is a concertina" to "I don't think this has been out of its case".

 

Neil lives a few miles away from me and we sometimes meet for a pint. Next time I'm there I can ask for more details or maybe borrow some instruments to take photographs. Or send him a mail on neil_wayne@free-reed.co.uk

 

Regards

Howard Mitchell

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I have an English concertina: nicely carved light wood ends (not mahogany or rosewood), slightly damaged; rough fourfold bellows; brass reeds; coloured bone/ivory buttons; levered (saddle?) action. This has the number 385 inside. No maker's name or information about this. I think it's a very early Lachenal, but could this also be a Wheatstone?

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I have an English concertina: nicely carved light wood ends (not mahogany or rosewood), slightly damaged; rough fourfold bellows; brass reeds; coloured bone/ivory buttons; levered (saddle?) action. This has the number 385 inside. No maker's name or information about this. I think it's a very early Lachenal, but could this also be a Wheatstone?

 

Frank,

 

'Saddle' action was used by Wheatstone too, see the #1701 pictures mentioned earlier to check we mean the same thing. You need to look at the reed shoes - if they are square ended on the inside tip (#1701 is), its not a Lachenal. Wheatstone

went to round end reed shoes from about #1800 upwards.

 

How many buttons? I'm interested in anything with a number this low....

 

Howard ..

Anything would be very interesting....

 

best wishes ..wes

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FOLKS: as long as we're talking about old instruments: one of the two concertinas recently purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of those very early "open pallet" types. . . .unfortunately, it was displayed in such a manner that the serial number was not visible. . . . .i am waiting for information about it. . . . .with a bit of luck, Mr. J. Kenneth Moore, Curator of the Music

Division at the museum, will be writing up a little note about them for volume 1 of PAPERS OF THE INTERNATIONAL CONCERTINA ASSOCIATION.................

 

the other instrument is one of Wheatstone's early "duetts". . . . .rectangular, with 24 buttons altogether. . . . . .and by all means, see Bob Gaskins's VERY INFORMATIVE contributions about this type of instrument -- and the tricky terminology concerning duett/double -- on his maccann website..............Allan

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I looked after number 98 for a while:

 

http://www.rowlhouse.co.uk/concertina/index.html

 

for a friend. It turned up in an auction in Bath (UK) and was bought for 25 pounds (approx). It was sold to Neil Wayne (who had previously supplied the Horniman museum with most/all of its concertinas a while back) for a profit that Neil would himself have been proud of :D

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Nice pictures, and an excellent use of a Ph.D. thesis. I still don't know what to do with mine (sigh).

One thing that interested me was the fact that the reeds are screwed in place. Mine has steel reeds that are actually rivited to the pan. Has anyone else ever seen this? Best - Ed Stander

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That sounds like the one briefly depicted in the British Pathe 1961 newsreel about the Wheatstone Factory, where it's described as "the pride of the collection." See the thread "Pathe News Reel" in this forum for the link to the Web site where a preview version of this newsreel can be downloaded at no charge.

Michael,

 

It is indeed the same instrument shown in the Pathe newsreel clip "Concertina Factory (or, Concert in a Factory)".

 

I have watched that Pathe clip with Stephen Chambers, who confirmed that the instrument was the one now in his own collection.

 

Bob

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Ed Stander said about #98:

One thing that interested me was the fact that the reeds are screwed in place. Mine has steel reeds that are actually rivited to the pan. Has anyone else ever seen this?

The usual number range for these kind of reeds is somewhere around 18,000 to 24,000. Its a bit too long to go into all the 'why & but' details here, but Wheatstone used these rivetted reeds exclusively for a while from the late 1860s onward.

Edited by wes williams

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Wes

 

I'm not exactly sure what Ed means about "riveted to the pan." Most of us use the term "pan" to refer to the reedpan, the complicated piece of woodwork with the partitions and slots for the reeds.

 

But I suspect you (Wes) are right -- Ed may be talking about the difference between Wheatstone's (19th century version of) "riveted reeds," where the tongue is riveted to the brass shoe or frame, rather than clamped down by a metal yoke and two bolts. In my experience, these instruments in the number range you mention had their true serial number printed on a paper label, not stamped in many places on the woodwork as was seen later. If the number label is missing, the serial number can't be exactly established, as far as I know. But as in many concertinas with serial numbers stamped into the wood, there are also usually "batch" or production numbers that are much smaller in value. Perhaps this is the significance of the other number. It seems higher than most batch numbers though.

 

Paul

Edited by Paul Groff

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Wes and Paul:

Yes - the reeds are rivited to the brass shoes , and I stand corrected. Sounds like I have a hybrid box here. The basic structure, with green 4 fold bellows and 418 side stamp probably comes from the early days of Wheatstone, while the reeds themselves were replaced some 20 years later. This seems logical, as the "his majesty" lable has been replaced by "her majesty" somewhere along the way as well.

Does this all make sense? Cheers, Ed

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Ed, Paul,

To make it even more complicated, there were two forms of rivetted reeds according to Neil Wayne ("Final Edit" p38/9):

 

Changes also occur in the reeds of these early Wheatstone instruments : all instruments after No 1320 (September 1847) have brass reed tongues instead of the nickel tongues used earlier, and the early squared—end reed beds are replaced by rounded—end beds after instrument No 1775. Large iron rivets, rather than screwed brass retaining pads are used to secure reed tongues in instruments No 7339, 8751, and 10552, during 1854—1857, and smaller ones are used in later concertinas such as No 19252 (1875) and 20950 (1886).

 

So the change could have happened in the earlier period, or later. Anyone have a photo of a large rivet that Ed could compare with?

 

Neil also puts the change from 'His' Majesty's to 'Her' as occuring between #1320 and #1339.

 

But 418 is listed as a 48 button instrument in one of the early ledgers, and I don't recall seeing any batch numbers much above 200.

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...according to Neil Wayne ("Final Edit" p38/9):

 

Changes also occur in the reeds of these early Wheatstone instruments : all instruments after No 1320 (September 1847) have brass reed tongues instead of the nickel tongues used earlier, and the early squared—end reed beds are replaced by rounded—end beds after instrument No 1775. ...

Some friends and I recently opened Wheatstone #1132 and wondered over the reeds, most of which were silver-colored, but didn't look like the usual steel. The above quote seems to resolve this... the reeds were nickel.

 

A few of the reeds were brass, which would seem to indicate that they were later replacements. However, I recall that the brass reeds were mostly (all?) paired, which I wouldn't expect from ad hoc replacement of broken reeds. (I'll see if I can get the owner to open it again to see if my memory is right on this detail.)

 

The reed shoes all had square ends. I was also unable to extract any of them from the reed pan using only finger pressure. I'm not sure why, as I didn't have time for thorough investigation.

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It is indeed the same instrument shown in the Pathe newsreel clip "Concertina Factory (or, Concert in a Factory)".

I have watched that Pathe clip with Stephen Chambers, who confirmed that the instrument was the one now in his own collection. 

 

... and the man demonstrating it, in the newsreel, is none other than my late friend Harry Minting, who was then the Sales Manager of C. Wheatstone & Co. It was a great surprise when Bob Gaskins showed me the clip, on his laptop, in London. I had no idea that it existed.

 

However, it is not the only documentary evidence to suggest that this "pride of the collection" is, as announced in the film clip, "the first concertina ever made" :

 

Charles Roylance wrote about it, in the mid 1870's (and hence within living memory of its being made), in the Remarks section of "How to Learn the English Concertina Without a Master", when he stated that "The first Instrument was sold to Capt: Gardner [sic] of the 2nd Life Guards, it was then called the "Symphonian" [sic] with bellows, and not until December the 27th in that year [sic] was it named the Concertina."

 

I had already noticed the name "T. GARDNOR" stamped twice into the top edge of the instrument's case, but I had supposed that it might be the name of the cabinetmaker who made the case. However, Roylance made me think again, so I paid a visit to the National Library, here in Dublin, to consult the Army Lists, and found that "Captain Gardner" was actually named Thomas Gardnor, so both his initial and the spelling of his surname match the name on the case.

 

Hence this must have been Captain Gardnor's concertina, that Roylance was writing about, and therefore it really is "the first concertina ever made", as claimed in the newsreel.

 

So the answer to the question about the oldest Wheatstone concertina in private hands is "The Very First !"

 

And here's a picture of it :

 

(Edited to correct title of Roylance's Tutor.)

post-9-1074230053.jpg

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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