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JimLucas

S. C. Taylor

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I'm looking for information on an instrument. The label, as near as I can tell, is:

S. C. TAYLOR

312 Oxford Street

& Dowes from Bloombury ???? [i can't make out the last word]

 

It's a nice rosewood-ended (see the photo) English with the usual 4-fold green bellows with starred paper. It has wooden baffles.

 

The unusual thing to me is the action. (I should have taken pictures when I had it open.) The lever is wire, flattened where it goes through the post, but the post is a round-topped cylinder the same diameter (4mm) as the buttons, solid except for a slot cut down from the top. Where it fits into the slot in the post, the lever has a U-shaped bend, which fits under-around a pin which is driven through the post from side to side.

 

In addition to the unusual posts, the instrument bears the surprising serial number 179. This number is stamped into the LH baffle, to appear within an oval opening in the usual position in the fretwork. The same number is stamped into both sides of each "pad board". However, both ends of the bellows are stamped with the number 181. Was there a mixup or a deliberate substitution before the instrument left the shop?

 

Was S.C. Taylor a maker, or just a seller? If anybody can shed some light on the origin and/or date of this instrument, I would be most pleased.

post-9-1078824185.jpg

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Jim,

 

I have come across the name S. C. Taylor a few times, on mid 19th century musical instruments. He seems to have been a London dealer. Lyndesay Langwill's Index of Musical Wind Instrument Makers mentions him in connection with a Picco pipe, an instrument that was only introduced to London in 1856, and fashionable for a few years after that date.

 

The fretwork of this concertina is similar to, but less detailed than, that on my Scates baritone # 538, and the washers under the heads of the endbolts would be consistent with Scates' normal practice (can you find the initials JS on it, maybe on the reedpan or one of the bellows papers ?) Early Scates instruments (like # 44 that I have) had round pillars such as you describe, as had the earlier Wheatstones, but the levers were different. Scates later used a riveted lever action, with a bell-shaped pillar, more like that later adopted by George Jones, his former employee.

 

I know that I have seen the action you describe somewhere, I'm just trying to remember where. I wonder if it could be William Dove ? I think I have seen one of his with those ends, could it be "Dove", on the label, rather than "Dowes" ?

 

Otherwise, your Taylor looks remarkably similar to the instrument sold on Australian eBay recently, that appeared to be of French manufacture. So are the ends stamped internally "R" and "L", or "D" and "G", and are the reeds more like harmonium ones ?

 

Cheers,

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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...S. C. Taylor ... seems to have been a London dealer.

As for the "& Dowes...", I have since photographed the label and blown it up, and discovered that I had it wrong. Nor is it "Dove", as Stephen suggests. (That would have been interesting.) No, it's not "& Dowes from Bloombury [something]", but "6 Doors from Bloomsbury [something]". (I still can't read that last word, but it looks like the second part of a 2-part name, clearly one that Taylor expected the public to be familiar with.) Could anyone with access to London directories of the period match this with the Oxford St. address? Also, in the blowup that looks more like "512" than "312".

 

...your Taylor looks remarkably similar to the instrument sold on Australian eBay recently, that appeared to be of French manufacture.

The fretwork is the same. It's also the same as one in poor condition that Neil Wayne got last summer on eBay. I think there was even another at that time, which may have been a baritone, but I've lost the details on that one.

 

So are the ends stamped internally "R" and "L", or "D" and "G", and are the reeds more like harmonium ones?
The reeds are standard, not harmonium reeds, and they have the note names stamped into the tips of the frames. The bellows ends and pad boards are both stamped with "L" and "Я". That's right, the "R" is reversed in all three locations. No serial no. or hand designation anywhere on the reed pans.

 

...the washers under the heads of the endbolts would be consistent with Scates' normal practise (can you find the initials JS on it, maybe on the reedpan or one of the bellows papers ?)
Nothing in either of those locations, but there is a scrawl on one of the reed-pan supports which -- with a great deal of imagination -- could be intrepreted as "JS".

 

Well, I've just taken the instrument apart to answer some of those questions, so I'll take several photos, put them on a web page, and post the URL. That should give you a much better picture (literally) of what I have, including the interesting lever action.

 

One thing I can now see is that the S.C.Taylor label is pasted on top of another label. Is there a safe way to remove the top label to get at the one underneath, without damaging either? Since they're pasted on the baffle, would steaming be likely to damage the baffle? It has a finish of shellac or varnish.

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..."6 Doors from Bloomsbury [something].

I was able to blow up a good photo of the label, and I must correct myself yet again:

 

1st line: S. C. TAYLOR

2nd line: MUSIC ????ER & C [dealer? maker? I forgot this line before]

3rd line: 512 OXFO?? S?R?ET [certainly 512 Oxford Street]

4th line: 6 Doors from Bloomsbury Church

 

Would that make sense as a London address? If not, where?

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In the 1851 PO London Directory, Oxford St:

 

512 Taylor Stephen C. pianofrt. & musicwa (ie warehouse)

 

This is at one end of Oxford Street, beyond Dean St., Charles St (leading to Soho

Square) and Tottenham Court Road. The numbers go up to 550 on this side at this date.

 

In 1865 I can't find Taylor in this area, neither is he listed in the Commercial

Directory, and going the other way he isn't listed in the 1839 Pigot & Co Directory.

 

So datewise you seem to have a choice of all the ex-Wheatstone startups.

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I have recently been asked to do some work on an instrument that has some similarities. The action is similar to that described by Jim. Round action posts with a slot cut in the top, but the lever is riveted in place, and the levers appear to be cut from sheet brass. The reeds are not all the same, but most are square ended steel reeds, some brass, and one or two of the brass ones look like harmonium reeds - riveted reed tongue, and round ended. The owner bought this from a dealer who described it as a Lachenal. There is no sign of a serial number anywhere but the pans and bellows are clearly marked L and R. No paper label on the reed pans, but the note names are written on to the pans in black ink. The owner is interested to find out more about it.

 

The ends are nicely figured (rose?)wood.

 

Cna anyone shed any light on its origins?

 

Thanks

 

Theo

post-9-1079103808.jpg

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The unusual thing to me is the action.  (I should have taken pictures when I had it open.)  The lever is wire, flattened where it goes through the post, but the post is a round-topped cylinder the same diameter (4mm) as the buttons, solid except for a slot cut down from the top.  Where it fits into the slot in the post, the lever has a U-shaped bend, which fits under-around a pin which is driven through the post from side to side.

 

In addition to the unusual posts, the instrument bears the surprising serial number 179.  This number is stamped into the LH baffle, to appear within an oval opening in the usual position in the fretwork.  The same number is stamped into both sides of each "pad board".  However, both ends of the bellows are stamped with the number 181.

I thought I had an instrument with that action !

 

It is my Jabez Austin baritone, # 173, but that is stamped with his initials, "JA", on the reedpan, has white leather baffles, matching serial numbers and the "R" is normal (though I think I have come across that reversed "R" somewhere too ... )

 

2nd line: MUSIC ????ER & C [dealer? maker? I forgot this line before]

A commonly used expression, at the time, was "Music Seller", so I wonder if that is what it read ?

 

So datewise you seem to have a choice of all the ex-Wheatstone startups.

A very good point ! It can be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to identify the products of many of the ex-Wheatstone "manufacturers" from the mid 19th century. The problem being that they were all specialists in one area of concertina construction, and tended to collaborate, in different combinations, to build instruments bearing the name of any one of them, so there are lots of confusing similarities, and differences, between their instruments.

 

Round action posts with a slot cut in the top, but the lever is riveted in place, and the levers appear to be cut from sheet brass.

That sounds very much like the action in my earliest Joseph Scates, # 44.

 

... the note names are written on to the pans in black ink.

And that is something that Scates tended to do, but I wouldn't like to say if it has anything to do with him, based on just that evidence.

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2nd line: MUSIC ????ER & C [dealer? maker? I forgot this line before]
A commonly used expression, at the time, was "Music Seller", so I wonder if that is what it read ?

Yes, I think that's it. You can look at the label and see if you agree.

 

I've put up a web page with lots of pictures. My next post will say more.

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For those who might be interested, I have just created a web page with many photos of the "S. C. Taylor" concertina disassembled. I'll put the link toward the end of this post, but first,

here's a WARNING!

 

There are 44 different photos there. I have made small (but not tiny), lower-resolution copies of each, which are arrayed on the page the link will take you to. But if you don't have a high-speed connection, you may be wary of even looking at that page... it's 374 Kbytes in all.

 

The individual full-size photos are each at least 100 Kb, with several arounf 400-450 Kb and a few near 650 Kb each. So if you click on one of the small images to see the full one, be aware that it could take some time to appear. The total of all the full-size images is 14 Mb, so you probably don't want to try running through them all in sequence.

 

Later (maybe even tomorrow) I hope to add some explanatory text, but I didn't want to wait on that before making these available. I hope the photo file names are sufficiently descriptive.

 

If, after that warning, you still want to take a look, the link is here.

 

Edited to add: Please don't put links to this page anywhere else. In part because of its size, I don't intend for this page to live for more than a couple of weeks. And if I do decide to make it permanent, I will change the location.

 

Edited again to say the page has been updated to include some descriptive and explanatory comments.

Edited by JimLucas

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... the note names are written on to the pans in black ink.
And that is something that Scates tended to do, but I wouldn't like to say if it has anything to do with him, based on just that evidence.

I suppose one could compare the handwriting.

 

If I compare the two note names (why only two?) on the SC Taylor with those in Theo's picture, I would think they were not written by the same person, but I couln't entirely rule it out.

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Here is a picture of the fretwork on mine, in case that helps to identify it.

 

On closer examination I find that the reeds (see previous post for picture) are not steel (except for one or two) but a silver metal which I take to be "German silver" refered to elswhere as a reed material use in early concertinas. The owner of this box is getting quite excited that she has an instrument with history, instead of geing a fairly ordinar Lachenal. She has even changed her mind about selling it!

 

Any further insights into its origin will be very welcome.

 

Theo

post-9-1079196121.jpg

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Theo,

 

I'm sure Stephen can tell us more about this fretwork pattern. I have seen it on early ones with the Wheatstone label (compare the similar overall pattern on the instrument photographed by Howard Mitchell at Neil Wayne's). More interesting in this context is that yours is identical in proportion as well as pattern to my Scates rosewood english #449, also with square-ended, nickel-tongued reeds. Mine has the washers under the heads of the endbolts, as recently discussed by Stephen.

 

Again, not real evidence of who made yours (as Wes and Stephen have emphasized), but interesting.

 

Paul

Edited by Paul Groff

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[Theo's] is identical in proportion as well as pattern to my Scates rosewood english #449, also with square-ended, nickel-tongued reeds.  Mine has the washers under the heads of the endbolts, as recently discussed by Stephen.

Intriguing. There seems to be this general assumption that square-ended reed frames preceded round-ended ones. Wes documents this in Wheatstone instruments, but is it true -- and with the same timing -- across all makers? The Taylor serial nos. 179/181 would presumably precede Paul's #449... if they're by the same maker, but the Taylor's reed frames are round-ended, while #449's are square-ended. So maybe the Taylor isn't by Scates? If not, who are likely alternatives? (I really need to find a way to look at that covered-over label.)

 

Or is it something else? Could the reed pans in these otherwise similar instruments have come from various sources specializing in reeds and pans, with the changeover occurring at widely varying times? Or could there be some reason why several (many?) instruments of this period had reeds or even reed pans replaced some time after they were originally made? I have speculated that this is what happened with the instrument that has what appear to be French harmonium reeds. The Taylor reed pans have no identifying marks (while its other parts do), but several obvious reed replacements, which seems inconsistent with the generally wear-free condition of the rest of the instrument. Theo's instrument has mostly square-ended frames with nickel (?) reeds, but also some replacements, including at least one brass reed riveted in a round-ended frame. Theo, aside from the penned-in note names, do your reed pans bear any serial no. or other identifying markings? Paul G., what markings are there on #449's reed pans, if any?

 

But Stephen Chambers said,

It can be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to identify the products of many of the ex-Wheatstone "manufacturers" from the mid 19th century. The problem being that they were all specialists in one area of concertina construction, and tended to collaborate, in different combinations, to build instruments bearing the name of any one of them,...
And that leads me to a further question/speculation: When attributing an instrument, I think we presume that a maker's label identifies the maker who did the final assembly. But what about serial numbers? Were they stamped in by the builder who did the final assembly, or possibly by the one who did the casework? The latter scenario might explain instruments with numbered bellows frames and pad boards, but numberless reed pans -- which could have come from a different source. It might also allow the Taylor 179/181 to be a Scates instrument (still blatant speculation) of a later date than Paul's Scates #449, if the casework came from different makers.

 

Sorry for muddying the waters like this, but I really do wonder. Stephen, Paul, and others, do your numbered Scates (or Austen, etc.) instruments have their numbers on the reed pans, or only on the frames and boards?

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I'm sure Stephen can tell us more about this fretwork pattern.  I have seen it on early ones with the Wheastone label (compare the similar overall pattern on the instrument photographed by Howard Mitchell at Neil Wayne's).

As Paul suggests, this design of fretwork dates back to the very first concertinas to have "frets" covering their mechanisms, though at that stage there was no oval cut out for a label. The design was used (sometimes with slight variations) by several of the early makers, to produce concertinas that looked like the classic Wheatstone design (as illustrated in their 1844 Patent). I have seen examples by Scates, Nickolds and Rock Chidley, but I expect that others also made "imitation Wheatstones" like this. The instrument in Theo's photograph exhibits a noticeable alteration, in that the Wheatstone pattern has scrolling in the fretwork where the serial number is to be found, while the one in the picture has an oval with a fancy border.

 

Mine has the washers under the heads of the endbolts, as recently discussed by Stephen.

I should mention that Scates was not the only mid 19th century maker who ever did this, I have also seen this feature on concertinas by Case, Nickolds and (early) Jones.

 

Again, not real evidence of who made yours (as Wes and Stephen have emphasized), but interesting.

I doubt if we will ever be able to pin down exactly who did make many of the concertinas from this period. I think that many of them, including instruments labelled (and sold) by prominent "manufacturers", were actually produced by various alliances (sometimes shortlived) of concertina craftsmen. It is a bewildering subject, and there are often no easy answers (if any at all).

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There seems to be this general assumption that square-ended reed frames preceded round-ended ones.

They did, the difference being more to do with how the slots for them were cut. If the slots were cut by hand, using edge tools, then they are going to be square ended, but if the slots were cut using a machine, a pattern-following router (as shown in the Pathe newsreel "Concertina Factory"), they will be round ended.

 

Wes documents this in Wheatstone instruments, but is it true -- and with the same timing -- across all makers?

No, Louis Lachenal was the first to introduce this, as one of his technological innovations at Wheatstone's, in 1848. The next people to use it seem to have been the Nickolds family, probably not before the early 1850's.

 

maybe the Taylor isn't by Scates?  If not, who are likely alternatives ? ... do your numbered Scates (or Austen, etc.) instruments have their numbers on the reed pans, or only on the frames and boards?

Having now seen your photos, the reed shoes appear to be typical Nickolds ones, the lack of markings on the pans is also typical of their instruments, but not the action, which is more like that used by Austin.

 

You could drive yourself mad trying to decide who actually made many of the mid 19th century concertinas like these ! (Regardless of what the label says.)

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You could drive yourself mad trying to decide who actually made many of the mid 19th century concertinas like these ! (Regardless of what the label says.)

Thanks. I think I'll use it to drive others mad, instead. :)

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Hello all,

 

Even, if as Stephen says, there is much we can't know for certain I find this discussion very interesting. I appreciate the examples introduced by Theo and Jim, and Stephen's wealth of knowledge on this subject.

 

Just a few minor additions.

 

Stephen, my Scates 449 does have the exact fretwork of the one Theo has shown (on the left side anyway), down to the last detail including the small "ornamented oval." But there is no serial number label in the left oval of mine, and no sign on the white leather baffle (very old if not original) that there ever was one. There is the odd Scates label in a larger oval on the right side, glued to the leather baffle. Frank Butler had the idea that this fretwork pattern might have been one used by Austin at Wheatstones and later, but I suspect this may have been a guess.

 

I was wrong to describe the action of that instrument as steel; it is riveted and with very finely made brass levers and posts. It is the springs that are steel or nickel. Steel levers are found in some instruments, but not this one!

 

The "disc" as I now know to say is stamped J. SCATES on both sides. The number 449 is stamped throughout the instrument (pans, bellows-frame corner blocks, inside of ends, soundboard inside action case). However, where it is handwritten on one soundboard, the middle "4" looks like a "2" to which a cross-stroke was added - different from the first "4." Maybe just a handwriting style, or just perhaps evidence that this instrument had a maker's number of 429 and was renumbered by Scates with his stamping tools as 449. Not an important point unless the ledger information for Wheatstone 429 fits this instrument (I know Wheatstone 449 does not).

 

The letters "L" and "R" are stamped; the "R" is not inverted.

 

Mine still has two early type thumbstraps (with slot for adjustment) and some of the leather covering on the "little-finger rests."

 

One of the internal, waxed card baffles is signed in pen (ink) "Double soundboards and leather covering invented by Joseph Scates," the other is scratched (no ink): "Extra sound boards and leather covering invented by Joseph Scates." I wonder what "leather covering" is meant -- the white leather baffles in the action case, the leather-covered finger rests, the silk reinforcement of the bellows themselves? I thought all these were found in early Wheatstones, but possibly Scates invented one of those when working with the Wheatstone operation, and/or was trying to claim credit later. I understand that at this time and place "patents" and "inventions" were often claimed in labels even when there were no patents, possibly to discourage competitors or just as a "selling point." But in this case the claim is hidden within the instrument, along with the signature. Stephen??

 

Paul

Edited by Paul Groff

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...the middle "4" looks like a "2" to which a cross-stroke was added - different from the first "4."

I often seen "4"s in that style, which really were "four". The fact that the two fours differ, is interesting, though.

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