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Wheatstone 'philharmonic' Label

Dave Prebble

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Hi Folks,


Just had a Wheatstone 56k extended treble come in, as you see below, in a pretty sorry state. It was, I am told, rescued from a Singapore flea market some years ago.


The instrument bears has an interior batch number on numerous parts but no full serial number anywhere.

It has 7 fold bellows which is a bit unusual, These seem to be original as they are marked internally on the cards with the same batch number. Ends are solid ebony which have suffered somewhat over the years. The buttons are square silvered top caps on wood cores, the reeds are riveted and the action is Wheatstone flat type riveted.

It bears a '15 West St, Charing X Rd.' paper label


There is a small silver/ nickel silver plate on the RHS below the buttons (see below) that reads 'PHILHARMONIC'

I have never come across one of these before. It appears to have been fitted at manufacture or, at least, very early on, as the polish beneath is in pristine condition.

Perhaps the mark of a dealer or maybe a concertina band ???


Anyone ideas as to approximate age of the instrument or the meaning of the 'Philharmonic' label ????






post-49-1176291809_thumb.jpgpost-49-1176291845_thumb.jpgWheatstone 'Philharmonic' Label

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There is a small silver/ nickel silver plate on the RHS below the buttons (see below) that reads 'PHILHARMONIC' ...

Anyone ideas as to approximate age of the instrument or the meaning of the 'Philharmonic' label ????



I haven't seen such a label before, but it denotes the pitch as well as suggesting something about the date of the concertina.


The old "High Pitch" (A-455*) was more properly called "Philharmonic Pitch" up until the introduction of the lower "New Philharmonic" (A-439) in 1896. Thereafter "Philharmonic" became called "Old Philharmonic" to differentiate between the two.


As the instrument is of professional quality (for its era) I would suggest that it may have been one of a pair, the other being in "Paris Opera Pitch" (A-435), the alternative pitch standard of the time (aka "Continental Pitch"). There would seem little point in thus displaying the pitch, unless there was another otherwise identical instrument to confuse with it.


Orchestral performances were usually at Philharmonic pitch, but vocal performances and domestic pianos were generally at Paris Opera pitch.


So maybe you will find it as one of a "matched-pair" in the ledgers?


The West St. label must have been fitted later, probably when it went back to Wheatstone's for service, and seven-fold bellows would be highly unusual for the time. When it was made four-fold were more the norm!


(*Philharmonic Pitch arose over the years, rather than being set as an absolute official Standard, and was recorded as low as A-450 and as high as A-456)

Edited by Stephen Chambers
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Thanks Fellas.


I realised a couple of minutes after I posted that I had made no reference to pitch in my post but my positon at the keyboard had by then been usurped by a somewhat fractious daughter so, discretion being the better part of valour, I beat a hasty retreat.


Having been out in Singapore, the reeds are well covered by surface rust (thankfully there seems to be no pitting) so until I get them cleaned up and sounding properly I will not be able to have a stab at what tuning, if any :lol:, they are in. It certainly looks to have remained relatively untouched for many, many years


Yet another totally uneconomic labour of love - but eventually one more back in a someone's hands.


I have in mind to make a new set of 7 fold bellows as this is easier for me on my Jig ... would that make it much harder to manage as an instrument ? ..... any views on this ... ?


Regards and thanks again



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Well the "Standard" is always based on A. Wheatstone's were following the piano tuners' convention of working from C.

..which is why I quoted what Wheatstone (and Lachenal) actually used. But in ledgers (eg C1054 p230)

they become even more 'non standard'.... French, American, and Medium Pitch.

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... I quoted what Wheatstone (and Lachenal) actually used.

Harry Crabb too for that matter, though the 1930s Crabb catalogue that I recently bought seems to indicate that Englishes/Duets were never intended to play with Anglos :huh: :


All English and Duet concertinas made by us, are tuned, equal temperament and new philharmonic (low pitch) C522 vibrations, unless otherwise ordered. All Anglos tuned C540 unless otherwise ordered.

That should create a good "wolf"! :blink:


But in ledgers (eg C1054 p230)they become even more 'non standard'.... French, American, and Medium Pitch.

Yes, that would be symptomatic of the confusion of tunings at the time (1887), as would the cased sets of three and four tuning forks (for piano tuners) at different pitches that I possess.


It was a topic that prompted correspondence in the columns of the journal Musical Opinion and Music Trade Review in 1899, when Wheatstone & Co. wrote:


We cordially agree with [leading piano makers] Messrs. Broadwood and Sons on this question. We are of the opinion that there should be one pitch only for all instruments; and if piano makers lead the way, makers of other instruments must follow them eventually. It appears to us that the standard should be the
diapason normal de Paris
, as this pitch is used almost if not quite universally now, except in this country; and we cannot see that England's "splendid (?) isolation" in this matter is at all desireable. A considerable proportion of our business is with the continent, and we never have any doubt as to which pitch to send there: we know that nothing but French pitch is wanted. On the other hand, in filling our home orders, unless the required pitch is mentioned, we are frequently at a loss which pitch to send, and, as naturally follows, we are occasionally wrong, causing trouble and annoyance to both ourselves and customers.


While pianos in England are tuned to either French, medium, or English Philharmonic pitch, and not infrequently to pitches that have no name at all (careless piano tuners have to answer for the latter), there can be no hope of doing away with the present confusion: and if Messrs. Broadwood & Sons' action is instrumental in the establishment of the continental pitch as the one and only standard for this country, we certainly think that they will have achieved a great object beneficial alike to all branches of the musical trade and profession.


We would suggest that there be some competent government authority - say Kneller Hall or the minister of education - to fix the standard and issue accurate and certificated forks, the use of unstamped forks being made illegal. We would also suggest that all pianoforte tuners should have to pass an examination and be certificated.

Says it all really ... ;)


Certify the piano tuners! :rolleyes:

Edited by Stephen Chambers
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Anyone ideas as to approximate age of the instrument ...



I've been looking through the ledgers for clues, but didn't spot anything that was identifiably this instrument (though in the case of #20228 a 6-fold bellows was considered worthy of comment). However, the earliest Ebony 56 key appears to be 18463 on 23 February 1869, and the next ones (that aren't gilt or vulcanite) are 19003-4 in the first quarter of 1874, then 19296 in the second quarter of 1876 and no more until 20041-2 and 20100 in late 1882. They started to become more common from 4 July 1884 onwards, when a batch of 6 numbered 20259-64 appeared, now with the model Number 8 and described as Extra Best Plain Ebonized, and thereafter they made quite a lot of them until, with 20944 in October 1889, the concert instruments Nos. 6 (48-key) and 8 (56-key) started to become pinhole Aeolas.


So the most likely answer is somewhere between 1884 and 1889.

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