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CaryK

Concertinas Made In No. America

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I've recently read Dan Worrall's excellent piece of the history of the anglo and english concertinas in North America. It is clear that anglos were the most common type on this continent during the 19th and 20th centuries and probably still are. Dan says toward the end of the article that it wasn't until the recent 1990s that anglo or english concertinas began to be manufactured in North America. That's kind of surprising that in the land where mass production techniques were heavily utilized and perfected that some clever businessman or woman didn't set up shop to mass produce anglo-german concertinas by the thousands and cut out the import issues. For some reason that never happened for the cheap anglo-german boxes which were so popular in this country from 1840-1900. It would be very interesting if someone came across evidence of a North American made "box" form this period.

 

But if North American concertinas were only begun to be manufactured in the 1990s (less than 17 years ago), I'm wondering who was the first manufacturer of a concertina for sale to the general public (as opposed to a manufactured prototype or one built for personal use only). Was it Harold Herrington, Richard Morse, or some one other of the current well known makers? Or was it someone whose "brand" didn't catch on or who only made a few then stopped? Finally, who might be the lucky owner of the first North American made concertina ever to be built? That concertina would have significant historical value someday, in addition to its intrinsic musical value. Thoughts?

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There were quite a lot of American concertinas manufactured before 1990-- they were Chemnitzers. A lot were made in the Chicago area, Milwaukee, and in Minnesotta. When I visited the Star concertina company in Cicero, IL in about 1990 looking for a concertina (probably what I really wanted was an EC, but certainly one of the hexagonal small kind) they had only one Irish style one they didn't think much of on the shelves, but were quite proud of the midi equipped Chemnitzer that another customer, who clearly knew how to play it, was trying out at the time.

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Leaving aside the Chemnitzer makers pointed out by Larry, I think that Harold Herrington was the first of the American builders with his early square concertinas.

 

Daniel

 

I've recently read Dan Worrall's excellent piece of the history of the anglo and english concertinas in North America. It is clear that anglos were the most common type on this continent during the 19th and 20th centuries and probably still are. Dan says toward the end of the article that it wasn't until the recent 1990s that anglo or english concertinas began to be manufactured in North America. That's kind of surprising that in the land where mass production techniques were heavily utilized and perfected that some clever businessman or woman didn't set up shop to mass produce anglo-german concertinas by the thousands and cut out the import issues. For some reason that never happened for the cheap anglo-german boxes which were so popular in this country from 1840-1900. It would be very interesting if someone came across evidence of a North American made "box" form this period.

 

But if North American concertinas were only begun to be manufactured in the 1990s (less than 17 years ago), I'm wondering who was the first manufacturer of a concertina for sale to the general public (as opposed to a manufactured prototype or one built for personal use only). Was it Harold Herrington, Richard Morse, or some one other of the current well known makers? Or was it someone whose "brand" didn't catch on or who only made a few then stopped? Finally, who might be the lucky owner of the first North American made concertina ever to be built? That concertina would have significant historical value someday, in addition to its intrinsic musical value. Thoughts?

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Yes, I saw and played someone's Herrington at 1998 Noel Hill school in Massachusetts. It was only a year later that the Morse anglo was presented (I was not present, but RP3 was).

 

Ken

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Cary,

 

Glad you liked the article. The closest I have found to a nineteenth century builder in the States would be C. F. Zimmerman. He was one of the very early German developer/builders (at the time of Uhlig) but went bust several times, and then emigrated to the US. He had a shop in Philadelphia as early as 1870. He was more interested in his large, square Chemnitzer-like Carlsfelder system than in anglos, though, and that instrument (and an accordion) seems to be what he built there. His catalog of 1880 lists lots of two row Anglo-German concertinas that all appear to be imported.

 

I agree with Daniel and Ken; Harold Herrington seems to have been the first anglo maker here. He told me once that his first anglo was built in 1997. Also, and I'm not certain of this, he seems to have been the first builder anywhere of the modern hybrids...at least I don't know of anyone earlier. A very inventive guy.

 

Cheers,

Dan

Edited by Dan Worrall

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Leaving aside the Chemnitzer makers pointed out by Larry, I think that Harold Herrington was the first of the American builders with his early square concertinas.

What about Stinson Behlen, mentioned in this thread and this one? I seem to recall that in the 1970's he advertised concertinas of his own make. I believe the reeds were imported and accordion style. I never saw his instruments, but I recall at least a few folks saying they had one. All anglos, I think.

 

Since that first linked thread says that Behlen helped Herrington get started, maybe Harold can tell us whether how (in)accurate my memory is on this account.

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Jim--

 

I thought of Behlen too, and looked at those same threads. In the first one that you cite, Harold Herrington says:

 

"Stinson also was, in a manner of speaking, a builder of concertinas. I say "in a manner of speaking" because Stinson did not actually build them. They were built to his specifications in Germany, under his name."

 

Daniel

Leaving aside the Chemnitzer makers pointed out by Larry, I think that Harold Herrington was the first of the American builders with his early square concertinas.

What about Stinson Behlen, mentioned in this thread and this one? I seem to recall that in the 1970's he advertised concertinas of his own make. I believe the reeds were imported and accordion style. I never saw his instruments, but I recall at least a few folks saying they had one. All anglos, I think.

 

Since that first linked thread says that Behlen helped Herrington get started, maybe Harold can tell us whether how (in)accurate my memory is on this account.

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I thought of Behlen too, and looked at those same threads. In the first one that you cite, Harold Herrington says:

 

"Stinson also was, in a manner of speaking, a builder of concertinas. I say "in a manner of speaking" because Stinson did not actually build them. They were built to his specifications in Germany, under his name."

Hmm. As you might guess, I didn't read every word in that thread before posting the link. Still, my memory is that Stinson advertised that he "made" them himself, though I think from imported parts.

 

But I also remember that information both from and about Mr. Behlen wasn't always consistent. E.g., at one point he sent me a letter saying that he was closing his free-reed business and selling off his spare parts, and asking me to let people know. When I published this, he threatened to sue me for telling lies about him. I had kept his first letter, and it was impossible to misconstrue. Nevertheless, I apologized.

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Leaving aside the Chemnitzer makers pointed out by Larry, I think that Harold Herrington was the first of the American builders with his early square concertinas.

While not exactly an American builder, I think we owe a debt of thanks to Oliver Heatwole, who negotiated with Bastari to make English concertinas, which were distributed under the Heatwole name in the US... and I think eventually also in the UK. I believe these were the first hybrids, in the contemporary sense.

 

Bastari later started selling them under their own name. They also produced anglos with the "English"-sized ends and buttons. I'm not clear as to whether they were producing these before Heatwole's venture, or not. But the little book that came with his English concertinas -- "The English Concertina and An Introduction to Music", by O. W. Heatwole -- is copyright 1974.

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I thought of Behlen too, and looked at those same threads. In the first one that you cite, Harold Herrington says:

 

"Stinson also was, in a manner of speaking, a builder of concertinas. I say "in a manner of speaking" because Stinson did not actually build them. They were built to his specifications in Germany, under his name."

Hmm. As you might guess, I didn't read every word in that thread before posting the link. Still, my memory is that Stinson advertised that he "made" them himself, though I think from imported parts.
You weren't the only one who thought that he made them. From the other quoted thread: "I wasn't aware that Daddy had his "Cajun Queens" manufactured in Germany. I just thought he made him at his little shop behind his house. "

 

Leaving aside the Chemnitzer makers pointed out by Larry, I think that Harold Herrington was the first of the American builders with his early square concertinas.
While not exactly an American builder, I think we owe a debt of thanks to Oliver Heatwole, who negotiated with Bastari to make English concertinas, which were distributed under the Heatwole name in the US... and I think eventually also in the UK. I believe these were the first hybrids, in the contemporary sense.

 

Bastari later started selling them under their own name. They also produced anglos with the "English"-sized ends and buttons. I'm not clear as to whether they were producing these before Heatwole's venture, or not. But the little book that came with his English concertinas -- "The English Concertina and An Introduction to Music", by O. W. Heatwole -- is copyright 1974.

Oliver Heatwole wrote an article about Bastari in Mugwumps magazine in 1983 where he said, "Bastari also makes concertinas similar to the German but with a third row of buttons added--a modification invented in England. One such model is W-15, which has 30 buttons in three rows and an English-type bellows (no frames interspersed among the bellows fold); this type is properly called an Anglo, or Anglo-Chromatic, to use the full name." He doesn't mention when Bastari first made them. But now that I think of it, I bought a used one myself around 1979.

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Thanks for sharing the links about Mr. Behlen. I had never heard of him. While he apparently didn't construct anglo concertinas himself, it seems North American anglo concertina players owe him gratitude for the generous sharing of his knowledge of free reeds, which led to the beginning of construction of anglo concertinas on this continent by Harold Herrington in the 1990s. Unless some additional data is found, it looks like Mr. Herrington may indeed be the first to do it.

 

I still find it surprising that it took till the last decade of the 20th century for the manufacture of anglo concertinas to take root in North America. I'm certainly grateful this has happened in my lifetime and I'll bet we have not yet reached a peak in the number of excellent builders that take on this wonderful vocation of building fine concertinas both here and on other continents.

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I guess we've all forgotten about the Wheatstone Mayfair of the 1950s, that used Italian reeds...that would probably have been the earliest hybrid (I assume they were flat mounted like the modern hybrids). Richard Carlin posted on the Mayfair reeds earlier this year.

 

I met Stinson Behlen on several occasions, and I think his building was restricted to cajun-like accordions, one of which I saw in the late 1980s (nicely built). As was mentioned, he had a habit of calling all the instruments he sold as 'his' and 'made to his specifications'. I do not recall him ever actually making any sort of concertinas....but he imported some real cheapies from East Germany.

 

I bought an Italian Bastari anglo in about 1976; it had reed boxes like German concertinas, so I never thought of it as a hybrid. However, Ken Coles once found a used one with flat-mounted hybrid reeds (see http://www.concertina.net/kc_bastari.html); not sure when that one was built, but it would count as a hybrid for sure. I've never seen the innards of a Bastari English....if it was flat mounted, then it counts as and early hybrid too. I first saw one of those in 1976. I still like the sound of those Bastari English systems, regardless of their wheeziness.

Edited by Dan Worrall

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I bought an Italian Bastari anglo in about 1976; it had reed boxes like German concertinas, so I never thought of it as a hybrid. However, Ken Coles once found a used one with flat-mounted hybrid reeds (see http://www.concertina.net/kc_bastari.html); not sure when that one was built, but it would count as a hybrid for sure.

 

Yes, it's sitting here and I really should give it the going-over I planned to! Geo Salley (shipcmo) had a lot of experience with Bastaris years ago; he might recall what kind of construction he saw and when.

 

Ken

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What about Stinson Behlen... All anglos, I think.

I've just dug up Stinson's letter to Neil Wayne from Concertina Newsletter No.9 (Dec 1972). He writes of 30K and 48K English systems ($100 and $250 inc post to UK). Of anglos, he says...

 

I have in stock some New Anglo-20-Key Concertinas, these are not popular here.... Your price only £21 Postpaid. Limited supply, not my line but very fine quality. Delivery soon as possible.

 

and what about Anton Wolfe, from Wisconsin, more of a bandoneon type maker, but still a concertina maker ... he made his first concertina in 1951.

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While not exactly an American builder, I think we owe a debt of thanks to Oliver Heatwole, who negotiated with Bastari to make English concertinas, which were distributed under the Heatwole name in the US... and I think eventually also in the UK. I believe these were the first hybrids, in the contemporary sense.

.. But the little book that came with his English concertinas -- "The English Concertina and An Introduction to Music", by O. W. Heatwole -- is copyright 1974.

Jim,

They seem to have been announced on this side of the pond in Jan 1974, with availablity from March. Neil Wayne was the UK source. Frank Butler's tutor was announced at the same time, as was Heatwole's book, which was to be published in Feb '74.

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If you count Chemnitzer makers like Wolfe, the first would probably be Otto Schlicht in 1902 if this timeline is accurate.

 

What about Stinson Behlen... All anglos, I think.

I've just dug up Stinson's letter to Neil Wayne from Concertina Newsletter No.9 (Dec 1972). He writes of 30K and 48K English systems ($100 and $250 inc post to UK). Of anglos, he says...

 

I have in stock some New Anglo-20-Key Concertinas, these are not popular here.... Your price only £21 Postpaid. Limited supply, not my line but very fine quality. Delivery soon as possible.

 

and what about Anton Wolfe, from Wisconsin, more of a bandoneon type maker, but still a concertina maker ... he made his first concertina in 1951.

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If you count Chemnitzer makers like Wolfe, the first would probably be Otto Schlicht in 1902 if this timeline is accurate.

 

What about Stinson Behlen... All anglos, I think.

I've just dug up Stinson's letter to Neil Wayne from Concertina Newsletter No.9 (Dec 1972). He writes of 30K and 48K English systems ($100 and $250 inc post to UK). Of anglos, he says...

 

I have in stock some New Anglo-20-Key Concertinas, these are not popular here.... Your price only £21 Postpaid. Limited supply, not my line but very fine quality. Delivery soon as possible.

 

and what about Anton Wolfe, from Wisconsin, more of a bandoneon type maker, but still a concertina maker ... he made his first concertina in 1951.

Well, if this thread started, as I think it did, with Cary's question from my US anglos article, then we are not taliking about Chemnitzers...such were excluded from that article just to keep out such confusion (and besides, Leary has written a very nice history of Chemnitzers in the US already, followed by an even more extensive history of them by LaVern Ripley last year). But just for the record, there is a documented 'first' big square-box Chemnitzer-style maker in the US, Carl Zimmerman. His fingering was slightly different than the Chemnitzer ('Carlsfelder'). Mr. Z came to the US in 1864, and when he became a US citizen in 1869, he listed himself as a concertina maker. I cannot remember, but I think I mentioned him earlier in this post. THis beats Wolfe and others of the later Chemnitzer crowd in the US by quite a bit. But I don't think he made the cheap two row Anglo-German models, at least that is what his Catalog shows....just the big square 4 row guys. He imported the rest. Zimmerman was later largely responsible for the autoharp, which made him much more famous.

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Unless some additional data is found, it looks like Mr. Herrington may indeed be the first to do it.

Then I've played a bit of history, because the first time I encountered a Herrington was in 1997 at Joel Cowan's house. Harold had sent it to him for review (I know that the subsequent fate of that concertina was the subject of some controversy, but those were happier times). I was sufficiently impressed that I ordered one a little later. My square Herrington G/D is dated July 1998 inside.

 

Chris

Edited by Chris Timson

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