I would like to preface from the outset that this is not about my psychological scars inflicted by a former music classroom teacher. To be fair he had finally engaged me in the subject after years of experiencing torture from a regimented, dry curriculum which offered no opportunity to display individual creativity. We were challenged to compose our own piece of music and hand in the manuscript (there were other assignment options for those not truly gifted).
I had just started mucking around on the ten hole tin can and inspired by The Dingoes Way Out West riff (if memory serves accurately). Not only did I write out the sheet music, but I also recorded it on cassette. His response to my masterpiece was deflating, although looking back retrospectively it should have been perceived as complimentary, “This could not be your work!” He then asked asked me to submit one of the other options. Some things stay etched in your psyche.
So to the true story behind the title.
A long long time ago, you may still remember I purchased a rustic Cobber Tin. Not advertised as such but as ‘The Music Tracher and Tin’. The seller probably wasn’t an English (Olde) teacher! I was only after the tin and it sold dirt cheap (see article Cobber & Co). Well the harp in the tin was actually The Music Teacher. So whilst not interested at first, a journey began to trace its origins. Yeah you guessed it, Guru Pat good friend of HRR was queried, “What do you reckon?”
Here’s his initial response (before I had located the H Lord advertisement).
“The harp in the Cobber tin is also a little odd. The name is unfamiliar and I don’t recall seeing anything with covers quite like that. If the number on it is a DRGM number, it dates from 1904. If it’s a trademark number, it dates from just after WWI. I’m a little curious, if only for the weird covers.
I never fail to be amazed that despite how many harmonicas I have seen over the years, there seems to be an endless supply of ones I have never seen before.”
I had thought the painted comb may be an indicator (both ends were painted yellow), but apparently this was not uncommon. The cover plate was intriguing with what looks like a hole punch having been incorporated and when I viewed this Christian Essbach harp I knew The Music Teacher was one of his models and perhaps it was produced exclusively for the Australian market.
Carl Essbach (maybe no relation) had sold harps from late in the 19th Century in Oz, in particular the popular Concert Harp pictured (below left). There were quite a few Essbachs involved in the mouth organ trade a Fritz, Otto and two Reinhards. Carl’s enterprise was on quite a bigger scale when compared to Christian Albin Essbachs.
Interestingly The Player’s Vamper (pictured above right) sold in Australia circa 1896 by the American Novelty Co. was very similar in design to Carl’s Concert Harp except it’s a clean skin. Pat with the keen eye of his wife, a professional artist of some notoriety, were 90% certain The Player’s Vamper was a low resolution picture of Essbach’s Concert with the name removed from the cover. In his own words, “Sort of a Victorian Photoshop job!”
The Music Teacher has a registered #241614 stamped on the cover plate which places the harp’s origin in the vicinity of the end of WW1. I found one advertisement for H. Lord, Stationer and Fancy Dealer in Roma, Queensland, who sold the music teacher for six shillings in 1922. Fancy goods were items that were not essential, but rather for taste (fancy) – in case you were wondering.
I haven’t laid my peepers on another one anywhere. The Cobber tin was the prize. The consolation was a rare Chr. A. Essbach 1920-22 The Music Teacher. An antique. Woo hoo!
Can music save your mortal soul?
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PS: Perhaps this could be further confirmation of Chr. A. Essbach as the maker with the discovery in a Herold-Essbach catalogue of Der Musik Lehrer. Thanks to Google translator Lehrer is German for Teacher. Another harp in the catalogue the Knittlinger Concert Octave was of interest as well, for obvious reasons.