It’s funny how you can stumble on an item that piques your interest while searching for something totally different. Canadian collector Doug Dawson had recently acquired a harmonica called Sounds Of Peace and he was trying to identify the maker. I felt it may have been sold here in Australia so into the search engine Sounds Of Peace was typed. No hits, but I came across a mouth organ that was sold by The Union Company of 299 Elizabeth Street in Melbourne. The Solo(?) Schall ten hole mouth organ came with a book that explained the tricks of the professional players.
Then when searching further into the company a catalogue of theirs surfaced #38 (pictured top – dated circa 1927?) that had an advertisement of the new Boomerang Grand Chromorgan. What piqued my interest was the style of button on the slide mechanism, which was quite different from the Chromorgan registered in 1936 that had the leaf button external spring.
Where to next? Further investigation produced a Boomerang Songster #33 (pictured below) with a J Albert & Son advertisement with the same diagram of the Chromorgan. In it they state, “At last we have perfected the Chromatic Boomerang Mouth Organ, known as Chromorgan, enabling you to play sharps and flats”. On the opposite page was a song titled And So I Married The Girl by Herb Magidson and Sam H Sept. This was first published in 1932 and as these were the songs of the day, I presumed this would date the Chromorgan at least to then and still four years earlier than the 1936 external spring registered Chromorgan.
Perhaps further evidence (if it was needed) pointing to the Chromorgan being available earlier than 1936 were two advertisements – one from Paskin’s of Sydney in August of 1935 stating they had sold out of the Chromorgan and it would be another six to eight weeks before another shipment would arrive. Secondly, in December of 1933 Wm Munro & Co of East Street Rockhampton were selling (within their Boomerang range) a Large Grand Chromatic (40 reeds). Was this the Chromorgan? Is it possible it also had the same button lever? We may never know for sure, however in conjunction with the other advertisements mentioned it would appear to be quite likely.
I had a hunch or two that would require further investigative skills and from men with higher powers. Two associates came to mind, Mark Weber authority on all things Chromatic and Guru Pat Missin authority on all things snort organ with lever or without. These were my hunches – Seydel’s new button lever Chromorgan was discontinued because the slide didn’t operate effectively or because Hohner had forced them to withdraw this model from the market as they had already patented this type of mechanism. Now to test this theory with my learned colleagues.
Mark responded, “Not sure about that button. Never saw this type of button on any Seydel chromatic harmonica.” Pat’s immediate take was, “As for that odd button, I notice that it is an internal spring model. I’ve only ever seen the external spring version and it has a fairly flat button. That said, are we sure that the catalogue picture accurately depicts the instrument? I don’t recall seeing any Seydel-made chroms with that style of button.”
I believe the diagram has to be ridgy – didge as it appears as part of an Albert’s advertisement in two sources. Pat also thought when pressed on the second part of the hunch (and with the caveat of not being a hundred per cent certain), “that Hohner had the first of that type (ignoring the original version of the Koch chrom and other designs) and lots of companies started making them in the 30s, so I don’t think they stopped anyone from doing it.” For more information on the origin of the internal spring sliding mechanism visit Pat Missin’s site and on all things Chromatic Mark Weber’s blog.
It’s my sad duty to report that in this world of missing and undocumented harmonica history this will have to remain a hunch. It does appear that it wasn’t because Hohner stopped it. Perhaps there was something else contributing to this models vanishing act and Seydel’s Chromorgan returning with an external slide button. Pat had further observed that, “the “Grand” and “Deluxe” versions I have been able to find, have 12 holes, unlike the 10 in the catalog pics. Also check out the shape of the holes in the mouthpiece. All the examples I’ve seen of the 12-hole versions have the tall narrow holes, rather than the square ones in those catalogs.”
As I have done so often in the past I throw it over to you Riff Raffers. If you have any information or even a physical specimen could you please pass it on to your humble harmonica author?
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