7th November, 2019
G’Day Riff Raffers,
It’s an Australian hop, the Kangaroo hop, but it’s also the German hop.
Earlier this year I found The Kangaroo mouth organ in of all places Riga, Latvia. I had believed in the beginning that this was manufactured by Seydel for Albert’s here down under. In Ray Grieve’s magnificent resource book Boomerangs & Crackajacks there is a picture of a 1913 J Albert & Son advertisement with The Kangaroo in company with a Wallaroo and a Coo-ee (both of these were Seydel products). On closer examination of my specimen I noticed something was missing. Registered-Made In Germany wasn’t stamped on the front cover plate. The graphics and font, however appeared to be exactement.
Stamped on the reverse cover plate was a large letter R (perhaps some lettering after), Swiss Harmonica, a circular Made In Switzerland mark and the trademark pictured here. All I see is a lady in a dress. Pat Missin, harmonica savant, initially identified the maker as Thorens! Well blow me down with a harmonica!
Pat would also send me a page from a 1908 Catalogue which had The Kangaroo mouth organ stamped Registered-Made In Germany and clearly designated as manufactured by Ands Koch, the same mouth organ pictured in Ray’s book. What what what? This had us all scratching our heads. Where to next? I sent an email off to Isabella Kraph a fine harmonica player, who years ago stumbled across Bohm and Rauner stamps and dies in Seydel’s storerooms. Isabella replied to my email on how this possibly could be and if she knew of a Koch/Thorens connection.
……the cover stamp (the german term is deckel-prägestempel) was made by another factory …..it is very massive work …a heavy metal block and it was not made in the harmonica factory since this was a completely different thing…..also the boxes for harmonicas were usually made somewhere else – so it can also happen that you find quite similar boxes in different brands
so I guess that maybe the factory/ manufactory made two of these prägestempel and sold one to Switzerland and one to Klingenthal ….but also the : “made in germany ” would be on the stamp so it is not really the identical stamp
also back then there was not much choice for writings and kangaroo emblems ….like when you had a printed crocodile in a children’s book a long time ago you would also find the same crocodile picture in a lexicon or somewhere else
also I guess there were not so many factories who would made these stamps
so again …the only link I see here is the stamp …..but that came not from Seydel
Pat found some comfort in Isabella’s response stating, “Isabella’s comments make a lot of sense-I’m glad that something does in this story.”
I contacted Thorens in hope their historical records had been maintained. Michael Garner for the company told me that, “We do not have any information on old Thorens mouth organs at all. Sorry, no chance at all, all the documentation was lost during the decades.”
What’s that Skip?
Go get Pat Skip, we’ll have another look at the Trademark.
He’s not just a Kangaroo he’s a champion. Good on ya Skip.
Where does this leave us? Confused to say the least. We revisited the trademark once more and with meticulous forensic examination by Pat it was discovered to be a manipulated Koch trademark. Just a headshot of the goat that usually stands on a rock. Why is it so? Well history reveals Germany was on the nose around the period of 1914-18. Having Made In Germany stamped on your product was not great for business, however Made In Switzerland on the other hand did-you know it makes sense.
Trossingen’s proximity to the Swiss border and by somehow meeting regulations would provide Koch with a unique marketing opportunity. They removed their own brand name from the covers and replaced it with Rigi (Mountain Range In Switzerland) and cropped their trademark logo to have just the head of the Chamois (Goat-Antelope family). I can see a goat now! So there you go, the mystery demystified. It is speculated little or no manufacturing was done in Switzerland, but just enough to qualify for a Made In Switzerland stamp. Koch’s clever branding of Rigi on the harmonica reinforced the perception this is a Swiss harp-not German! It has to be doesn’t it?
(Picture courtesy of John Whiteman from his collection of harmonica box art)
I could also include in this journey the Kangaroo Charmer sold by Albert’s as early as 1896 and The Kangaroo they sold in 1923, but what would that prove?
(Picture courtesy of Ray Grieve’s book ‘ Boomerangs & Crackajacks’)
It’s well known Kangaroos like to hang around in Mobs and that’s what appears to be happening to the mouth organs that carry the same moniker. It’s just a Kangaroo hop, the Australian hop, the Germany hop.
PS: FYI Hohner also had a Swiss made line called Helvetia seen here with the box artwork from an Alliance harp.
In The Smith’s Weekly of December 1919 a report under a sub heading King Street Shop Displays Hun Goods stated the Alberts Music Store was advertising quite blatantly Made in Germany mouth organs. In one paragraph it mentions the Boomerang Miniature was described as, “Not Japanese and never will be, it is made in Switzerland.”
After WW2 the Chromorgan was made by Thorens for Seydel.
When I had thought I had finished my work here with the Swiss Connection I stumbled on this harmonica advertised in the Melbourne Weekly Times on the 23 September 1923 by Edments. Pat Missin confirms it is manufactured by Thorens. He also added Hans Rolz a Klingethal company made Brilliant harmonicas with a similar script and that they even had a Trademark that featured an anchor. There you go.
Thanks to Pat, John, Ray, Isabella and Michael for their contributions to this article.