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Dan Worrall

1839 Us Concertina Ad

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Here is one that has me scratching my head. Its an advertisement from the Boston MA Atlas of November 1839....the earliest concertina ad found by far in the US. It advertises both accordions and concertinas. The description of the latter is a bit peculiar (more powerful than an accordion is not usually listed as one of its virtues). Given the date, can anyone peg what it was they were selling? What they were probably NOT selling was English concertinas....they were still being made only by Wheatstone, and in very small numbers (this US dealer was selling both wholesale and retail). 1839 was only 5 years after Uhlig...so it seems a bit early for German concertinas (the first ad for undeniably German concertinas in the US that I have yet found is dated 1855)...but then, maybe? Or are they describing some sort of harmonium? Note the comparison with a small church organ.

 

It doen't seem to be an error, as the same ad ran for months.

 

All ideas gratefully received...and documentable ideas particularly celebrated!

 

Dan

Edited by Dan Worrall

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Here is one that has me scratching my head....

I think you can stop scratching, Dan. The French references in the advert probably point this to the Debain harmonium of ~1838, that he also called a concertina. The documentary source for this is usually given as Maria Dunkel: Bandoneon und Konzertina, Ein Beitrag zur Darstellung des Instrumenttyps,(2nd Ed, Page 17), first para of Concertina - Konzertina section

 

.... 1839 vergibt Debain seine diesbezüglichen Rechte an J. Alexandre, der im gleichen Jahr das "brevet de 10 ans" erhält auf ein "nouvel instrument dit Concertina ou Piano Concertina".

 

and she notes this as from Wright, Rowland; Dictionnaire des Instruments de Musique, Étude de Lexicologie, London 1941, page 42.

 

Alternatively, look on the web http://www.concertinamusic.com/sbox/timeline.html

Edited by wes williams

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Any idea how he varied the air pressures from one side to the other, Wes?

 

And no, I don't want to apply this to my squeeze box before anyone asks.

 

I'd spotted the french references, not only the manufacturers name but also that the ship the concertinas arrived on was the Rhone; got to be Fr less than 20 years after the arch fiend Napoleon's demise.

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Here is one that has me scratching my head....

I think you can stop scratching, Dan. The French references in the advert probably point this to the Debain harmonium of ~1838, that he also called a concertina. The documentary source for this is usually given as Maria Dunkel: Bandoneon und Konzertina, Ein Beitrag zur Darstellung des Instrumenttyps,(2nd Ed, Page 17), first para of Concertina - Konzertina section

 

.... 1839 vergibt Debain seine diesbezüglichen Rechte an J. Alexandre, der im gleichen Jahr das "brevet de 10 ans" erhält auf ein "nouvel instrument dit Concertina ou Piano Concertina".

 

and she notes this as from Wright, Rowland; Dictionnaire des Instruments de Musique, Étude de Lexicologie, London 1941, page 42.

 

Alternatively, look on the web http://www.concertinamusic.com/sbox/timeline.html

 

Thank 'e kindly, Wes. That is the help I was hoping to get. Well, at least the harmonium was one of my guesses! I have a copy of Dunkel, but with my German skills, I plumb missed that sentence.

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I have a copy of Dunkel, but with my German skills, I plumb missed that sentence.

.. and mine are none too good too - I think it probably says the Alexandre was the inventor and patentee of the 'Piano concertina', not Debian. Which makes the weblink a little suspect? Any native German speakers care to comment? It seems this has come up before in this old thread with a translation that ascribed it to both of them.

 

Sorry Dirge, I don't know anymore about it. But if you are really interested there are some French sites that cover these kind of things (en Francais, naturellement!). One of the sites seemed to say that Debian had spend a few years in England up to 1834 working for the nobility, so maybe he saw the Wheatstone version then. Maybe things relating to the name Concertina, as used in France and America at this time, are even more confused.

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Maybe things relating to the name Concertina, as used in France and America at this time, are even more confused.

It doesn't help either, as most of you know, that Germans often referred to accordions as "Harmoniker" (Harmonicas). I belive they say "Mundharmonika" when they mean a mouth organ.

 

Just to even things up, we Yanks often refer to a mouth harmonica as a "harp." ;)

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Just to even things up, we Yanks often refer to a mouth harmonica as a "harp." ;)

 

You would think that a true Yankee like Ragtimer wouldn't claim a Delta term like that. :)

 

Alan

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Well, at least the harmonium was one of my guesses!

Another thing just struck me. Debain patented the harmonium in 1840 or 1842 ( different sources give different dates) so the name Harmonium wouldn't have been around for them to use in this advert.

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Well, at least the harmonium was one of my guesses!

Another thing just struck me. Debain patented the harmonium in 1840 or 1842 ( different sources give different dates) so the name Harmonium wouldn't have been around for them to use in this advert.

Good point, Wes.

 

BTW, it strikes me as a bit odd that the French could trun around Debain's invention into a product and ship it to America all within a year, when the Germans couldn't do the same with Uhlig's 1834 concertina. Or at least that is how it seems. Documentary evidence in London for the German concertina only go back to the mid 1840s from what I have seen, and the 1850s in the US. Perhaps the late 1830s/early 1840s were a time of unusual strife in the future Germany?

 

I have found an autobiography of Zimmerman here in the States. He moved here after helping to invent and produce the Konzertina, and operated a shop in Philadelphia, before going on to autoharp fame (I also have an early catalog from his shop). I've listened to a partial translation of the autobiography (written in an old style of German) that was made by an autoharp researcher, but that translator was remarkably uninterested in the concertina bits (and he found the old German hard to deal with). If any German speakers want to have a go at translating the first part of it...the early years....for the rest of us, let me know!

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.... 1839 vergibt Debain seine diesbezüglichen Rechte an J. Alexandre, der im gleichen Jahr das "brevet de 10 ans" erhält auf ein "nouvel instrument dit Concertina ou Piano Concertina".

 

It's always a challenge to translate a piece of something without having the whole piece, but here goes:

 

in 1839 Debain gave his thereto-appertaining rights to J. Alexandre, who received in that same year the "brevet de 10 ans" for a "nouvel instrument dit Concertina ou Piano Concertina".

 

I'm lost when it comes to French, but it appears in this instance that Debain transferred his copyright to Alexandre, who received a second copyright for another instrument in that same year.

 

Hope this is helpful.

 

-David

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... it strikes me as a bit odd that the French could trun around Debain's invention into a product and ship it to America all within a year, when the Germans couldn't do the same with Uhlig's 1834 concertina.

Didn't isn't the same as couldn't.

 

Even today, not everyone (nor every business) is driven by the philosophy that dominating the world (or the world market) is an important goal.

 

But I do suspect that in the first half of the 19th century, trade between the US and Germany -- especially the interior state of Saxony -- was much weaker than between the US and France, England, or Holland. Communication and trade by sea were frequently both easier and quicker than overland, and to get from Saxony to the US one would first have to reach a European seaport.

 

A quick web search tells me that the first "long distance" German railroad opened between Dresden and Leipzig (a distance of about 100 km, and both ends a long way from the coast) in 1839. My search for information on canals as a possible means of continental transport at the time was less successful. But regularly scheduled "packet ship" service was initiated between the US and Britain in 1818, and by 1830 there must have been scheduled packet service at least once a week between every pair of major European and American Atlantic ports.

 

The transportation issue could well have hindered the spread of Uhlig's invention, even if he and his immediate successors did dream of American markets.

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To follow on from Jim, production engineering was in its infancy, and both in Germany and England, the industries didn't really start producing until 5 or 10 years after the instruments had been invented, when each found its own tame production 'mechanic'. The German/Austrian diatonic instruments were produced for a local popular music market, so first came to England as part of the novelty market (see Randy's tutors list), and maybe unexpected to be of much interest outside of the local German market.

 

Conversely, the French seemed to have a much wider market outlook, and its interesting that George Jones mentions the French Accordion as his source for his anglo, rather than anything German.

 

in 1839 Debain gave his thereto-appertaining rights to J. Alexandre, who received in that same year the "brevet de 10 ans" for a "nouvel instrument dit Concertina ou Piano Concertina".

Thanks David. The quote was a whole sentence. The real question was if the 'who' could refer to Debain. Obviously not in our English usage, but is there a German usage that would?

Edited by wes williams

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Thanks David. The quote was a whole sentence. The real question was if the 'who' could refer to Debain. Obviously not in our English usage, but is there a German usage that would?

 

I am pretty confident that the "who" in that sentence refers to Mr. Alexandre. While not strictly impossible, it would be very unusual, in my opinion, for the reference to be to Debain.

 

-David

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... it strikes me as a bit odd that the French could trun around Debain's invention into a product and ship it to America all within a year, when the Germans couldn't do the same with Uhlig's 1834 concertina.

Didn't isn't the same as couldn't.

 

Even today, not everyone (nor every business) is driven by the philosophy that dominating the world (or the world market) is an important goal.

 

But I do suspect that in the first half of the 19th century, trade between the US and Germany -- especially the interior state of Saxony -- was much weaker than between the US and France, England, or Holland. Communication and trade by sea were frequently both easier and quicker than overland, and to get from Saxony to the US one would first have to reach a European seaport.

 

A quick web search tells me that the first "long distance" German railroad opened between Dresden and Leipzig (a distance of about 100 km, and both ends a long way from the coast) in 1839. My search for information on canals as a possible means of continental transport at the time was less successful. But regularly scheduled "packet ship" service was initiated between the US and Britain in 1818, and by 1830 there must have been scheduled packet service at least once a week between every pair of major European and American Atlantic ports.

 

The transportation issue could well have hindered the spread of Uhlig's invention, even if he and his immediate successors did dream of American markets.

 

Overland by rail wouldn't likely be it. Chemnitz is only a hop skip and a jump from Dresden, capital of the Kingdom of Saxony, a cultured city several centuries old by that time, on the Elbe. The navigable Elbe trundles down to Hamburg...Europe's third largest port in the late 19th century (smaller but growing in the early 19th). You can take river cruises today up the Elbe past Dresden. And Dresden had a Technical University that started in the early 1800s. No need to cite transport and remoteness to make excuses for the Chemnitzians!

It may be that political turmoil and its economic aftermath was the excuse. Napoleon trashed the area in 1810-1814, followed by a depression, and of course there was later the big revolution of the 1840s if I remember my history correctly. From the bio I have of C F Zimmerman, access to startup capital was a big problem....he was involved in one failure after another. As far as 'Even today, not everyone (nor every business) is driven by the philosophy that dominating the world (or the world market) is an important goal' goes, Zimmerman wasn't into world domination...just feeding his family, from what I can see. If world domination would have done that for him, he'd probably have been all over it.

My guess is that once the wars and related economic depressions settled down, the Chemnitzians were able to get after it with their free reeds...but only then. And I seem to remember reading somewhere that they had a lot of technical challenges to overcome before they could really ramp up full mass production, too (machinery for punching out reed plates so that they weren't hand cut, etc)....

That subject is not what I was after, though. For now, the Uhligs and Wheatstones of the world will have to take a back seat....the French brought the first 'concertina' to the US! Sacre bleu! :lol:

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Thanks David. The quote was a whole sentence. The real question was if the 'who' could refer to Debain. Obviously not in our English usage, but is there a German usage that would?

 

I am pretty confident that the "who" in that sentence refers to Mr. Alexandre. While not strictly impossible, it would be very unusual, in my opinion, for the reference to be to Debain.

 

-David

 

The original: .... 1839 vergibt Debain seine diesbezüglichen Rechte an J. Alexandre, der im gleichen Jahr das "brevet de 10 ans" erhält auf ein "nouvel instrument dit Concertina ou Piano Concertina".

 

The 'who' in the sentence is Mr. Alexandre. That 'der im gleichen Jahr' grammatically assigns gender in the 'der' of the definite article, Nominative case, masculine, singular.

 

Yours truly, Del the Pedant

 

'will translate for concertinas'

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FOLKS: to second the translations offered by David and Delbert. . . .the "der" MUST refer to Jacob Alexandre. . . .who thus got a ten year patent ("brevet"). . . . .

 

both Debain and Alexandre held various patents in connection with the harmonium. . . . . .i checked the articles in New Grove revised ed. and came up empty about Debain assigning his rights to Alexandre. . . .

 

bear in mind that wheatstone & Co. were also fooling around with free-reed keyboard instruments. . . .in fact, during the reign of William IV he delivered such an instrument to the royal court where it was given as a present to the visiting Prince (later King) of Hanover. . . .he took advantage of the same occasion to demonstrate the symphonion. . . . .

 

the entire account appears in John Ella's MUSICAL SKETCHES, ABROAD AND AT HOME, 3rd ed., 1878. . . Ella was an important figure on the London chamber music scene and actually purchased two wheatstone concertinas himself. . . .one in the '30s, the other in 1851. . . . .he sold both of them. . . .allan

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Any idea how he varied the air pressures from one side to the other, Wes?

I've just seen the answer to this, in Organographie: essai sur la facture instrumentale, art, industrie et commerce by

Le Comte AD. de Pontécoulant (1861), which can be downloaded at googlebooks. There is a whole chapter about Free reeds from the French point of view.

Chapter7, page 195 (page 522 in the PDF):

 

La soufflerie du Concertina se composait de deux boîtes, dont l'une servait à faire parler les lames chargées de l'harmonie, et l'autre les registres destinés à la mélodie.

 

which basically says there were two wind chambers, one driving the accompaniment and one the melody.The same page also explains that Debain transferred his rights on the instrument to Alexandre in 1839, so we have a good near contemporary source.

 

There is also a very interesting claim in Chapter 5 page 152 (page 479 in the PDF) that says that in 1828 Silvestre produced the Kallist-Organon which was the same as Wheatstone's symphonion. So there you have it, the French were first!

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