Many harmonica collectors around the globe have the Australian Boomerang De Luxe front and centre in their displays. All De Luxe models were boomerang shaped. This twelve double aperture mouth organ and its single aperture partner (The Miniature) were uniquely designed in the shape of the indigenous Australian’s returning boomerang. There was another boomerang designed for hunting that didn’t return, but this is not unique to the indigenous Australians as discoveries of these boomerangs were recovered in Ancient Egypt in Tutankhamun’s tomb. The De Luxe models (boomerang shaped) first appeared in the marketplace in 1925 and by the late thirties they were all but gone. The Tiny De Luxe (4 or 5 holes) did hang around for quite some time after – up until the sixties.
The Boomerang De Luxe regained prominence in 1990 when it was pictured in the hand of the man, not from Galilee, but Memphis – in Charlie Musselwhite’s hand on his album Ace Of Harps. Then in 2004 Seydel, through Isabella Krapf’s ingenuity, manufactured a limited release of a thousand (600 in ‘C’ and 400 in ‘A’) De Luxe’s putting the model back in the limelight for collectors.
The Boomerang De Luxe maybe the most readily identifiable Aussie harp today, however it had a limited life span on the shelves and, by the newspaper advertisements of the time, it wasn’t a highly promoted model by J Albert & Son. Albert’s forty reed The Boomerang was their popular enduring model and was frequently illustrated in their advertising. The forty reed The Boomerang model was registered in 1900 and contained the associated graphic pictured above. I had to test my theory that the De Luxe (because of its configuration) was somewhat cumbersome to play and that the public viewed it more as a gimmick.
There were two people I had in mind to help test my theory. You’ve probably guessed one, Pat ‘Guru’ Missin and the other, who helped with research on my Swiss Kangaroo mouth organ, Isabella Krapf. Pat’s initial take was, “I suspect that it might have been a bit more expensive to make, as there we several unique parts to it that couldn’t be repurposed from other models. I thought the reissue played pretty well and I have no reason to believe that the originals were any different, but maybe players back then just didn’t click with them. Usually products get discontinued because they are not profitable. Either they cost too much to make, or they don’t sell in sufficient quantity. Unless, of course, there is a part of the jigsaw that we are missing.” This had some resonance as it was an expensive model for the time – 18/6 for the Boomerang De Luxe compared to the forty reed The Boomerang that sold for five shillings. You could have purchased three forty reed models for the cost of a De Luxe and be well on the way to the fourth! And, if you wanted the same number of reeds in a different model, the Large Boomerang Grand came in at 12/6.
We couldn’t locate a patent for the De Luxe, however in 1925 Seydel trademarked the Boomerang De Luxe design along with the slogan “Having Tried the Rest, Now Buy the Best”. Pat suggested that, “maybe Seydel thought that it didn’t need the protection of a patent as it would be too difficult to replicate the design and a trademark would suffice.”
Below is the store counter card displaying the graphics of the trademark courtesy of the National Library of Australia.
The Boomerang De Luxe shape was recorded as registered in the leaflet wrapper (c1934) found in the mouth organ’s velvet lined wooden box. The leaflet claimed, “The Miniature Boomerang ‘De Luxe’ Mouth Organ is the smaller of the two latest types and is fitted with 24 Reeds of celebrated Boomerang System possessing as in the large type a wonderful Cremona tone found only in Genuine old Violins that cost thousands of Pounds. It took over twenty years of research by the greatest inventors of the world to produce this result which can only be found in the BOOMERANG DE LUXE Mouth Organs.” Who needs a violin?
Isabella’s shed some light on the reintroduction of The Boomerang De Luxe, “The Boomerang reissue was a project I made to save the Seydel factory as there were lots of financial troubles …..the owner of Seydel could not pay insurance or wages for quite a while. The boomerang reissue helped to keep the machines going till somebody (Hardy Hennige) bought it. It was difficult to make because some of the old tools that were used for the original boomerang were not there anymore …it took some time to “reinvent” it again.” Pat Missin has written a fine review on the making of the reissue here – review.
Word on the street is Hardy from Niama Media was looking for a harmonica to package with a compilation CD. Seydel was suggested and when he visited them he was so impressed with the loyalty of their workers that he envisaged a bright future for the company and as they say in the classics, “the rest is history”.
Now for Professor Shep’s layman explanation into the physics of the returning boomerang. Why is it so? The classic shaped boomerang is basically two wings joined together and this is the key to its returning flight path. The higher wing moves quicker than the lower – forcing the boomerang to tilt on a returning path back to the thrower. The reason they fly in the first place is due to Bernoulli’s principal.
I was going to tell a joke about a Boomerang mouth organ, but I couldn’t remember it. It’ll come back to me. Seriously don’t throw one of these away – they definitely won’t come back.
In the writing of this article I managed to acquire a reissue for my collection – number ‘688’ in the key of ‘A’. This was quite sometime after drafting this article. I did give it a little workout (not in the habit of playing used harps, but this looked new and clean) and I must agree with Pat that it did play pretty well, although it wouldn’t be my instrument of preference.
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PS: Not sure where this fits into Seydel’s Boomerang history. Thanks to Mark Weber for sending this photograph through to HRR from the Klingenthal Museum.