1925

19th September, 2019

Hi there Riff Raffers,

Thought you may be interested in having a gander at the Mouth Organs sold by Albert & Son in Western Australia in 1925. No connection with J Albert & Son of Sydney. Do you have any of these? Maybe the short lived Baby Boomerangs? How short lived they were I’m not too sure as they were given away free with different items in 1934-a toy that fired a boomerang and a book titled 400 Ways To Get Rich were examples advertised in newspapers of the day. I have the more common Tiny. Never seen a Koala of the mouth harp kind-this would be a find. Interesting to see the Boomerang Grand sold with replacement reeds. I always wondered about the interchangeable parts branding. Hohner’s Blow With Ease has to be one of the worst monikers! Probably more appropriate for tissues. Mr Henry Bernard Albert proprietor of the Perth store was born in Wuerzburg, Bavaria in 1870 to a book selling family. As a young man he migrated to Victoria, Australia to seek his fortune mining gold. Not sure if he found any nuggets, but he found a bride (Eleanor de Fides) and they crossed the Nullarbor to settle in Western Australia. In 1908 he established a book selling and music store in Perth originally at the Central Arcade before moving to the premises in Murray street. Henry had one son (Norman) and three daughters (Mrs L E Pearce, Thelma & Melba).

Ch SD

PS: A couple of recent changes and additions have been made to the Aussie Models-Timeline.

Chromatically Chromonica Chronologically

16th August, 2019

Hi Riff Raffers,

A new, very old harp housed in its original box now resides in my humble collection. Mark Weber has meticulously investigated and reviewed technical aspects of the harp at chromhistory.

What follows is an account of my pursuance from world experts on how, when and where this Hohner harp, ‘The Up To Date Chromatically Tuned’ fits into chromatic history. Remember if you know what and how, you should known when and where. First cab off the rank of course was harmonica guru, Pat Missin.

Hi Shep.

I have never seen “Up To Date” on a chromatic, nor have I ever seen a Hohner chromatic that looks anything like that, nor does it resemble, as far as I can tell from the photos, any of the Hohner patents for chromatic harmonica. I have no idea where this fits into the chronology of the instrument. — Pat.

Pat in a follow up email had this interesting titbit.

The whole history of the Hohner chromatic is really weird. The 260 first appeared in Hohner catalogues and the music press around 1911. Then it vanished for more than a decade and finally pops up in catalogues around 1923, with the music trade publications describing it as a new instrument. Then a few years later still, the patent for it gets published. It’s all very odd.

So where this one fits into it all, I have no idea. It could be a prototype that somehow escaped. That has happened – I have a 14-hole Super Chromonica that was never officially produced. It could also be a short-lived design that somehow never made it into their catalogs and escaped the attention of the music trade mags. Perhaps it was unsuccessful and Hohner tried to pretend it never existed. At this point, I honestly have no idea.

Have you run this one by John Whiteman? — Pat.

No I hadn’t, so I ran this by John.

Hi Shep,

It is well documented that the 260 10-hole chromatic made its commercial debut in 1911.  The chromatic that you have is clearly earlier than that. Here is how I date it at approximately 1901:

1) The label indicates 3,000,000 harmonicas produced per annum and 1,000 workmen.  This dates it to approximately 1900. 

2) There is a star in the trademark.  I believe it was added in 1901.  That would date it to 1901 or later, but the 3,000,000/annum holds it back at 1901

3) The slide handle and spring are of a less mature design than the 260 that appeared in 1911.

4) “Up to Date” in the name meant nothing and was evidently put there because they had nothing better to say, yet they failed to suffix it with “harmonica”.

5) “Patented in All Countries” couldn’t be true, so they put it out in limited numbers with a CYA statement about patent, and probably about registration.

I suggest sending the photos to Martin Haffner at the harmonica museum in Trossingen.  I saw nothing like this in that Hohner Museum. Thanks for sharing the photos and history of your purchase. John

I took on John’s suggestion and contacted the museum, however a response would take several attempts and efforts of people working behind the scenes for it to come to fruition. Then blow me down, Pat had this fantastic discovery.

Looks like my gut feeling on the date was wrong. Attached is a page from Music Trade Review, September 1898. I missed this the first time I searched. I’m not finding any later references to it in MTR. — Pat.

When thanked and questioned on how he had acquired this gem, Pat replied.

Happy to help. I’m pleased I gave it another shot – this time I just searched for “chromatically tuned” and that turned it up.

Up until you found this one, the standard chromatic history was that there were several prototypes in the late 1800s, then Hohner advertised the 260 around 1910 (describing it as “the first and only practical one”), but then it vanished for more than a decade. It suddenly popped back up in the early 20s, with Hohner promoting it as though it were brand new. Even weirder, the patents for it didn’t get published until several years later and I’ve never seen any reference to the chromatic “Up To Date” in any Hohner publications, or elsewhere, except for that MTR article. It’s all very strange.

I have a pretty complete collection of German harmonica patents and I’ve never seen a Hohner patent that resembles the chromatic UtD. It’s possible that they may have registered a DRGM for it, but that’s not as easy to dig up. However, I agree with John that “patented in all countries” is some creative BS.

Anyway, here is some background that might be interesting:

https://www.patmissin.com/patents/patents.html#chronology.

Finally, after a little behind the scenes prompting, Martin Haffner (to be fair he had been away) from the harmonica museum replied.

Dear Shep

In short: Your find is spectacular! We do have many different Up to date harmonicas in our collection, but no “chromatically tuned”.

And just now I had a look inside the catalogues, printed for the American / English market in the early 1900s (around 1902/1903). Your model is not mentioned at all.

I’ve got a mail by Roger Trobridge England with an attachment of the Musical Trade Review, Sept. 1898. There is the “Up to date chromatically tuned” mentioned as a new Hohner product. Since the fan community is not so big, you must have got this source meanwhile.

My theory: In fact the model was produced in 1898 (perhaps still 1899), but it must have been a commercial flop. Probably the mechanism didn’t work.(?) As far as I know, our archive has no single document telling anything about this rare model.

The “Up to date chromatically tuned” was an early try. And there was a break of minimum ten years, until the later well known Hohner “Chromonica” was mentioned the first time.

Please send me your report / keep me up to date!!!

Best regards

Martin Häffner

Director

During this chromatic journey I became intrigued into the tuning of all these harps and wondered when and where ‘solo’ tuning came into existence. I probed Pat’s endless knowledge once again. Remembering that if we knew why and who, that would tell us when and where.

“Richter Tuning” is a relatively new term. I’m not certain, but it seems to have originated in the 1980s. The original term was “Richter System” and it referred to one of the various types of harmonica construction:

https://patmissin.com/ffaq/q36.html

Using the name Richter to denote the tuning is a little iffy, as other types of construction (Knittlinger and Viennese in particular) use a similar note layout. However, there is no denying that the term “Richter Tuning” is in common usage. It gets a little messy with the typical chromatic harmonica being technically a Knittlinger System construction (they are basically made like Concert harp, with the addition of the mouthpiece and slide assembly), so referring to them as “Richter Tuned” is a little awkward, although most people would know what you meant.

The 260 is the catalogue number for what was originally termed the Chromatic Harmonica and later the Chromonica, changing to the latter sometime in 1924. It has been made in several different tunings over the years. Initially, it was tuned like a standard 10-hole diatonic in C, with the button changing it to a C sharp scale. This was later referred to by Hohner as “Regular Tuning”, but most people now call it a Richter tuned chromatic.

By the 1930s, it was also available in Solo Tuning. However, that was different to how a 10-hole Solo chromatic would be set up now. Hole 4 and upwards were tuned like the Regular Tuning. 1, 2 and 3 blow were tuned E, G and C, the draw notes tuned F, A and B, with the slide raising each by a semitone.

Then some time later, the Solo Tuned 260 was changed so that it was like a standard 12-hole Solo Tuned chromatic, but missing the top two holes. Not sure when that happened – maybe after WWII?

 

 

 

The slide spring was changed from external to an internal one in the late 1920s around the same time the Super Chromonica was produced. The Super was originally designated 260 1/2 and later changed to 270. It has always been in Solo Tuning, available in a variety of keys.

Solo tuning predates the Chromonica by some time and was originally intended for use on diatonics:

https://www.patmissin.com/ffaq/q41.html

Older chromatic players recall the change to Solo Tuning back in the day, but apparently at that time it was called Haussler Tuning, after William Haussler who worked for Hohner US and was apparently responsible for a lot of harmonica development and promotion:

https://www.patmissin.com/78rpm/78rpm.html#williamhaussler

For thoroughness, the two patents I’ve been able to locate for the Hohner Chromonica are (click on diagram):

 

 

On the latter page I say: “The Chromonica 260 had been available for almost two decades when this patent was granted”. That probably needs to be amended. As far as I can make out, they announced the 260 in 1910/1911, but it doesn’t appear to have actually been available until later. It reappears in 1923 and is touted as being a new instrument. The following year it was recorded for the first time:

https://www.patmissin.com/78rpm/78rpm.html#borrahminevitch

Which brings me back to the Up To Date. I have been unable to find any other references to the UTD Chromatically Tuned, aside from that MTR article. If it weren’t for you actually owning one, I would have dismissed it as vapourware. There have certainly been numerous instances of Hohner announcing a new instrument that never actually materialised. My wife had an idea about this. She worked in product development for a couple of large companies and often they would send out trade samples of items. These were small production runs that were past the prototype stage and in their final (or near final) packaging, sent out to various dealers to test the market. Sometimes the feedback they got from them lead to changes in the product or packaging, sometimes it lead to the item being killed before going into full production. It’s possible that’s what happened with the UTD Chromatically Tuned and might explain why there are so few records of its existence. — Pat.

I had better throw in the 64 Chromonica into the chronology, which was available down under in 1936.

1936-Hohner 64 Chromonica

While we’re at it lets quickly have a gander where a couple of Aussie Chromatics fit within the chronology.

1936-Albert’s Boomerang Chromorgan made by Seydel (Picture courtesy of John Whiteman)

 

1937-Allan’s Crackamonic made by F A Rauner (photo’s courtesy of Doug Dawson)

A few closing, late additions relating to Klingenthal companies still having the external spring long after Hohner’s internal design and the use of standard tuning on Chromatics. Over to you Pat.

It seems reasonable to assume that the chromatics in Regular Tuning were intended for use with vamped chords in the lower octave. There is also the factor that it meant that someone experienced on a standard diatonic would be able to pick up the new fangled chromatic, without having to learn a new tuning. I suspect that was a factor too.

Also, there was a tuning variant for the 260 I forgot to mention-Alto Tuning. This was the same layout as the older Solo Tuning (ie the one with just the lowest three holes changed), but one whole octave lower in pitch.

It does seem like the Klingenthal companies lagged a little with chromatic design. It’s also possible that Hohner were aggressively defending their German patent from 1930. Currently a German patent has a term of 20 years. It used to be 15 years, but I’m not sure when it was extended. WWII may also have affected things. — Pat.

Further to Pat’s earlier mention that the 260 was not sold until over a decade after it was first announced, a Nicholson & Co advertisement in The Sydney Daily Telegraph (12th December, 1913) for Hohner’s celebrated Chromatic (selling for 7/6) would perhaps suggest otherwise, although this is the only evidence I could find of its sale before the 1920’s.

Pat responded.

As for the Nicholson’s ad, that is the earliest evidence of them being offered for sale that I’ve heard of. I had more or less come to the conclusion that they were advertised in 1910, but never actually sold until more than a decade later. That said, is it possible that Nicholson’s were advertising them without actually having any in stock? – – Pat

My immediate thought was that ‘The Great War’ may have impacted production and sales of the Hohner Chromatic.

Cheers and Guinness frothies to all participants, in particular to Pat Missin (& wife) whose efforts went way beyond the call of duty, John Whiteman, Martin Haffner & Mark Weber. In finishing, how and when didn’t tell us what and where, but it was who and what that told us when and where. Ch SD

Hotel Metropole

July 19, 2019

Hi Raffers,

A quick look at an Australian harmonica box owned by Canadian harmonica collector, Doug Dawson, a couple of record reviews and a link to an article written by Mark Weber about a new addition to my harp collection, which is rewriting Chromatic history, Hohner’s very first Chromatic, the Up-To-Date model from 1898! Just six letters Gollygeewowee!

Recently Doug Dawson contacted me about the article on the ‘Cobber’ tin. He kindly sent photos of other Australian harps from his extensive collection, including this box (no harp), ‘The Metropole’. With a little research and the assistance of Pat Missin on the possible identification of the maker I concluded more than likely it was a product of the Hotel Metropole in Sydney. The Hotel was advertised in 1929 as the largest and most modern in Australia.

With a peek inside the box the CHA logo and made in Saxony indicated to Pat that it was probably manufactured by C A Herold. Not a lot is known of C A Herold (Carl Anton) who operated from about 1919 to 1939.

The Hotel Metropole was built by the Australian Coffee Palace Company for £150,000 in 1890. The grand building fronted Young, Bent and Phillip streets. You were greeted at the foyer with amazing stained glass windows and mosaic tiled floors. Fitted with electric lighting and lavish furnishings there were 260 guest rooms, several dining rooms and probably a gift shop selling ‘The Metropole’ mouth organs. The roof top promenade had exquisite panoramic views of Sydney town and the heads. Prominent International visitors who registered at the hotel included Rudyard Kipling and Jack London. Sadly in 1969 the hotel was closed and demolished.

Interestingly another, perhaps hotel harp appeared on the author’s horizon, The Grosvenor Harp made by Seydel. Several hotels by this name existed in Australia with Adelaide’s having some notoriety. It’s difficult to date, although some of the World collectors suggest circa 1920.

Belmar records in Altona have a fabulous new sessions release by Mon Shelford. Mon was discovered busking on Sydney road by a Belmar house musician. Here was my review. How about this for a first up effort? Mon Shelford’s debut album is hotter than a fire cracker. Her vocals resonate in every fibre of your being. A mix of well crafted originals and uniquely arranged classics. For you Riff Raffers a wee bit of harp by Rob Price on the melodic ‘Walking On Eggshells’. Out now at Belmar-Records.bandcamp.

Canberra dynamic duo The Barren Spinsters have their new album ‘Ten Steps To Cynical Thinking’ pressed and on sale today. Eleven (I think Milkman’s Stomp qualifies) original hits book ended by tunes with the Blues Burger (Punching Above Your Weight-a newbie sitting near the middle has as well) and impressively packaged with fine artwork by Ruth Palmer, who is best known for her Enid Blyton illustrations. Do yourself a flavour and give your three speed gears an aural pleasure!

As mentioned earlier the recent addition to my harp collection has the chromatic harmonica world in a spin. My article isn’t far away, but chromatic historian Mark Weber has just published a fine analysis of this rare and in the main unheard of 1898 Hohner chromatic harmonica. Check it out here Up-To-Date. A few updates to Aussie Models timeline which includes The Melba, Topnotcher, Monarch, Wallaroo and Jazz Master.

A comeback of sorts to radio last week with a once a month (second Tuesday) Huff ‘n’ Puff segment 8:00am-9:00am (AEST) on Peej’s The Imaginary Friends Show.

Hear live off the mast here in the Dandenongs on 97.1 fm, stream anywhere on the planet at 3mdr.com or even listen into the future via the archive (about 2 hours in). Next Huff ‘n’ Puff 13/8/2019 (no show in September Peej heads to the Old Dart). Hear here 3MDR.

A new post on Soundcloud spotlighting the harp of the late Paul Langford Lever (next month’s feature article) fronting the progressive rock band Chetarca in 1975. An early pioneer of the blues harp down under. Don’t forget first of the month is another Now for Something Completely Different #8.

Ch SD

#28285

19th June, 2019

Hello Raffers,

Here we go again a track back (or is that a back track) to the Crackajack. Further evidence the manufacturer was F A Rauner. Just a spelling difference for the Straylian market, perhaps. Registered number 28285 appears in a magnificently presented PDF file entitled, ‘A Collection Of Early Box Art 1890-1940’ by John Whiteman. A coffee table book is in the making, but there won’t be attached foldaway legs for a coffee book that doubles as a coffee table (Kramer invention-Seinfeld episode). John is from San Diego California and is one of the biggest collectors in the world. He provides an invaluable online resource of his and other collector’s harmonicas. See here at Harp Anthology.

Having observed the #28285 an email was shot to world renowned harp historian Pat Missin who responded with a page from a 1915 Rauner catalogue displaying their Cracker Jack models and blow me down, would you believe it, with registration #28285. Here’s Pat’s take on the matter at hand, “This was a registered trademark for ‘Cracker Jack’ and not ‘Crackajack’. Unless the trademark specifically states that it covers both versions, I would be very skeptical of both variations holding up in court. Not that it really matters now, but usually trademarks are quite strictly interpreted so that variations have to be specified in the original claim. However, just looking over some of Rauner’s other trademarks, they seem to have played very loosely with this. For example they trademarked ‘Immer Lustig’ as DRWZ 60105, but I’ve seen other harps with ‘Always Happy’ and ‘Siempre Alegre’ on them, both claiming that same number. That seems like it would be stretching things more than a little, but I guess it’s only against the law if you get caught! Or maybe German trademark law was a little more forgiving then.”

Well there it is fellow harpologists further support that Allan’s honeycomb of harmony mouth organs was manufactured by F A Rauner. What do you reckon?

Ch SD

Thanks to both Pat Missin and John Whiteman for their wonderful online resources and their contribution to this article.

New music out now! On CD Baby! A high quality album of musicianship, great songwriting and a bit of harp from Toowoomba outfit, Brendan Leggatt Band. The album is titled ‘Daylight’ and the title track is hotter than a fire cracker. ‘Losin’ My Head’ and ‘Ghost In The Kitchen’ feature the humble harp blown by Brendan and there’s a cool cover of the ‘Greg Kihn Band’s tune ‘Breakup Song’. *****

 

img_3929Mat Black, an alternative country singer-songwriter from Melbourne town, has followed on from his excellent 2017 EP ‘One Man Ghost Town’ with a high quality single entitled ‘Diamond Mine’. The timbre in Mat’s voice immediately draws your attention to the lugubrious nature of the tune. A uniquely crafted song frames its mood and just for extra texture soulful mouth harp is added, blown by co-writer Lachlan Bryan. The single has us travelling in high expectation for the release of his debut album.

The single will be released June 29 with a Melbourne launch on the same day at 2:30pm at ‘The Old Bar’ Fitzroy.

img_3925Hey Barren Spinsters, you guys never fail to deliver! I’m blown away by your new single ‘Hey Ruth’, which has a nice return of the ‘Gob Iron’. Hey Punters gratify your Toby Jugs with a listen. Out Now on all good and bad streaming platforms. I look forward to the release of the long play.

Can be purchased right now on iTunes.

 

Also checkout Liam Gallagher’s new tune Shockwave very nice and harp!

Hohner’s Hollandia (Nova) Harp

6th May, 2019

G’Day Riff Raffers,

Hohner, a world leader in accordion and mouth organ manufacturing, had its share of difficulties in becoming one of the major players in the Australian Mouth Organ market in the early part of the twentieth century. Most models were available in the colonies and they included the popular ‘Up To Date’ and ‘Second To None’ mouth organs. However, Albert’s ‘Boomerang’ and Allan’s ‘Crackajack’ Australian flavoured mouth organs were streets ahead of the field. At the turn of the Century a commemorative model was produced by Hohner for the local market branded the ‘The Federation Souvenir- Century Advance’. In 1912, to further tap into nationalistic fervour and compete with their rivals, a mouth organ with an Australian identity the ‘Young Australia’ was introduced in two models-one for 1/3d and another for 2/- and they achieved promising sales.

A stumbling block to sales occurred in 1928 with a possible violation of Trademark regulations of Hohner’s ‘Young Australia’. The Australian Natives Association (where there were no indigenous Australians allowed) brought to the attention of the ‘Pollies’ of the day that the Australian flag was stamped on the instrument alongside ‘made in Germany’. The A.N.A had formed in 1871 in Melbourne by patriotic white men born in Australia who believed in a White Australia policy. They were heavily involved in the political processes of the time and in particular the federation of the colonies.

Then Federal Attorney General Mr. J.G. Latham proclaimed that, “The Trade Marks Act, 1905-19, section 18, provides that the Registrar may refuse to register any trade mark which contains any representation of the Flag of the Commonwealth. This section applies only to the registration of trademarks. Section 113 prohibits the use in connection with any trade, business, calling, or profession of the Royal Arms without the authority of the King or some other proper authority. This section does not apply to the Australian Flag. Section 114 (a), however, provides that the Governor-General may declare any mark to be a prohibited word or mark, and may also declare that that mark shall not be used or registered as a trade mark or part of a trademark. Under this provision it would be possible for the Governor-General to prohibit the use of the Australian Flag as a trademark, but the proclamation would have to be in general terms and could not under this provision be confined to goods of foreign origin. The Government is not prepared to prohibit the use of the Australian Flag in connection with all goods.” (Perth Daily News, 28 March, 1928)

This, and maybe with lingering resentment of Germany’s involvement in WWI (don’t mention the war) the ‘Young Australia’ was removed from the shelves.

In the 1930’s with the proliferation of mouth organ bands Hohner once again attempted to land a foot hold in the Australian market. They would promote the ‘Auto Valve Harp’ as an Australian model even though it had been sold internationally since 1910. Ray Grieve, Australian Mouth Organ historian, had been informed of this by Kurt Jacob who was sent ‘Down Under’ as Hohner’s representative to promote their products. Ray stated that,“Kurt told me that Hohner decided to use their already well-known Auto Valve Harp as ‘an Australian model’ rather than ‘invent’ a new Oz style brand name. Perhaps that was because of the legal problems they encountered when they marketed the Young Australia model? (Playing it safe).”

In 1938 there was a Hohner model only sold in Australia under the banner of ‘Auto Valve’-branded the ‘Auto Valve Vamper’, which could be purchased for three shillings at all good and bad music stores. It was a ten hole twenty reed diatonic model. The name is an oxymoron as the Auto Valve Harp is a Knittlinger instrument and the Vamper a Richter model. I’ll let Pat Missin, world authority on all things relating to the first instrument played in outer space take over, Vamper is a much-abused term. Strictly speaking, it means a Richter System instrument. Really, at this point we don’t know for sure what Richter did or didn’t do. We’re not even certain who he was. Vamper seems to have become the British-English term for the Richter-style diatonic some time in the late 1800s, although it was also sometimes applied to double-reed harps. Vamper seems to have been the preferred term in the UK, Australia and NZ, but not so much Canada or the US. Also strictly speaking, the Auto-Valve is a Knittlinger System harmonica. So by definition, an Auto-Valve can’t really be a Vamper – not that Hohner let anything like correct terminology get in their way.”

For further information check out Pat’s website

The term ‘Vamping’ and its origin is intriguing for the author. My idea of vamping was a chordal chugging arrangement. Could it/did it evolve from the word Vampire? There is sucking involved in playing! Again I’ll hand over to Pat Missin for his take on vamping, “I have always assumed that the term originated from the ability to vamp chords under a melody, although to be honest, you can do that just as well with a tremolo or octave harp. Also, “vamp” can mean slightly different things in different musical contexts, but most often it means an improvised accompaniment.” I researched further for the etymology and discovered it’s derived from the medieval French word avant-pied which translates to before the foot and was used in reference to the part of a stocking below the ankle. Somewhere in the middle seventeenth century the word was used for anything that had been fixed up (such as hole in a sock). The verb to revamp has its origins here. By the end of the nineteenth century into the musicians vernacular arrived the term vamp for short, simple repeated phrases (usually improvised) that were called a safety. In musical theatre they were originally used for stalling for time so the singer could use dialogue (a patch). Perhaps the origin of today’s looping. In 1933 Harold Collier, Crackajack Mouth Organ representative and Australian champion of 1927 and 1936, wrote two feature articles for the Melbourne newspaper ‘The Age’ on mouth organ playing. In the second instalment he explained the method of vamping under the heading of ‘How To Use The Tongue’. “The tongue is removed from the notes each time you blow and draw, in fact, it should move in and out as quick as a snakes tongue.” (The Age, 7 April 1933).

In my copy of the 1926 ‘Boomerang’ mouth organ instructional booklet, it outlines that when playing a chord accompaniment (vamp) you take the tongue off the three holes being blocked (to play the single note on the fourth hole) and then place the tongue back on and off again. “In practising this say La-La”. The booklet then emphasises to remember, “In Waltz Music the tongue would be taken off and put back 3 times to each measure. In Fox Trots, four times to a measure. In some Marches, four times to a measure. In some Marches, six times to a measure.”

This technique of tongue blocking to play a clean single note was another area of interest for the author. How did it come about? Who developed this unique method? Pat kindly expands on the topic, The subject tongue blocking and its place in history is something I’ve recently been discussing with Joe Filisko. He is strongly of the opinion that tongue blocking was essentially THE embouchure up until the 1960s, even for those players who rarely played chords. I think he’s right on that point and we are currently trying to figure out how the balance of power shifted towards the pursed lips embouchure.”

In a follow up he provides further detail, “The oldest English language book on playing the modern harmonica is from 1870. It describes tongue blocking as the way to play, although its instructions are rather vague. Interestingly, the instructions for playing the Pandean Aeolian only mention the pursed lips method.”

In Sonny Terry’s ‘Country Blues Harmonica’ (Oak Publications, 1975 p46) book as told to Kent Cooper and Fred Palmer by Sonny, it tells us that Sonny obtains single notes by centering down on one hole by using his lips, claiming it allows him free to do tongue flutters and trill effects. It does suggest you can combine both methods, but basically finishes by stating that you can make the same sound in many different ways.

The Auto Valve Vamper was a fair dinkum Aussie harp, but with the onset of the second world war (sorry I mentioned the war, but I think I may have got away with it) it was gone before it arrived. After the war Hohner would eventually establish itself in the Australian Mouth Organ market with their high quality Chromatics and also the ‘Echo Super Vamper’ (Hohner’s ‘Marine Band’ stamped differently for Australia and UK markets).

The first post war shipment in 1949 that reached the shores of ‘Terres Australis’ included a ten hole vamper mouth organ sold by J Madgwick & Co of Pitt street Sydney as the ‘Echo’. Interestingly Harry Landis’ music store in Elizabeth street Sydney of the same year advertised the twenty eight reed tremolo harp as the super-vamper. By 1952 the ten hole ‘Echo’ vamper transformed into the ‘Echo Super Vamper’ and quickly became a popular acquisition for those looking for a precision vamper. I had always wondered why the twelve hole model that appeared years later in an orange box wasn’t named the ‘Super Vamper’. One would have presumed the larger size would have been superior to the smaller. This model is identical to the Marine Band 364 which became popular after Sonny Boy Williamson II produced amazing sounds from the harp. Not sure why it was marketed this way, perhaps it was due to our predilection for the nomenclature (Vamper), which certainly had a resonance down under and sales would reflect their popularity. Pat Missin suggests, “When Hohner got seriously into export, they really concentrated on making products aimed at specific regions. Often what was essentially the same harmonica would be marketed under several different names, depending on where they were trying to sell it. The Marine Band was named after the US Marine Band and it probably didn’t make much sense to try and sell one in the UK. Likewise, as Vamper was not a term commonly used to describe diatonic harmonicas in the US, something called the Echo Super Vamper was not probably going to be a big seller in the States.

There you go.

Ch SD

PS: Thanks to both Pat Missin and Ray Grieve for the information they provided in this Dawg Blawg.

Hohner harmonica’s are distributed here in Australia by KJ (Kurt Jacob) Music. They are celebrating their 80th year in business. Check out their website .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mouth Harp Mimicry

17th March, 2019

Hello Riff Raffers,

A special free offer with today’s St. Patrick’s Day edition. Sláinte.

Mimicry: the action or skill of imitating someone or something especially in order to entertain or ridicule. (Oxford Living Dictionary)

The harmonica is well known for it’s imitation of the steam train, the hounds of the fox chase, sirens, chooks and babies crying for their Mama. Check Out Salty Holmes’ ‘Talking Harmonica’ here. Australia’s Mouth Organ Champion P C Spouse (1925, 1927, 1928 and 1935) was an exponent, he was reported as delighting his listeners with his warmth of feeling when playing ballads, classics and band waltzes” and also for his “clever imitation of other musical instruments and mimicry of vocalists,” (Macleay Argus, 23 July 1935). Many of the mouth organ contests of the day included a section for best mouth organ imitation. Musicians would emulate bagpipes, church organs, violins and gramophones to name a few. Another fine Australian Champion of yesteryear Stan Andrews (1926, 1930 and 1935) from Ballarat could execute a fabulous rendition of a military marching band. Hear here!

Rick Dempster, ex Autodrifters, Brunswick Blues Shooters and Moonee Valley Drifters, is an extremely underrated but amazing harmonica player. He imitates a steam train on a tune called Broad Gauge Beat‘. Rick a self confessed train buff had worked for the Victorian Railways and locally in the Dandenongs with tourist icon Puffing Billy. On the tune Rick’s percussive technique for the train travelling on the tracks is three in breaths followed by an out breath, which is not commonly used by train imitators. Dave, who he had worked with at the Victorian railyards, taught him this method. Rick even plays the sound of the wheels slipping on the wet tracks as it attempts to move. Another skill he possesses is whistling two notes simultaneously. Why is it so?img_1195-1What better way to do your mouth harp mimicry, but on a W F Coxon ‘Lyre Bird’ mouth organ. The Lyrebird is an Australian ground dwelling songbird that is noted for its ability to mimic sounds from their natural and sometimes unnatural environment. Their name derives from the male of the species, whose raised feathered tail plumage in the act of courtship (look at me) replicates an image of the ancient musical instrument, the Lyre. The Lyrebird is able to mime sounds due to the structure of their syrinx (vocal organ). They have been known to mimic Kookaburras, Koalas and Dingoes from their natural habitat and introduced sounds such as camera shutters (click and motorised), car alarms, sirens, chainsaws and even the human voice.

W F Coxon in 1898 operated out of two stores one at 745 George street (later expanding to 739 and 741), Haymarket (just opposite Christ Church) and 274 King street, Newtown. They were importers, merchants and furniture manufacturers. They prided themselves on doing business on the ‘terms system’ where people of small but steady incomes could secure items they normally couldn’t acquire. The business went from strength to strength with large profits on shares and they opened three more stores in 1899 at Newcastle, Bathurst and Lithgow.

img_1852-1In 1903 W F Coxon joined the ever increasing profitable mouth organ market. The Lyre Bird is Mr. W F Coxon’s invention and is the result of years of experiment, having been tested and found perfect.” (Sydney Sun 5th August,1903). It appears the filing of the reeds both vertically and horizontally gave it the perfect tone and tuning. I’m no expert and I wasn’t around to test one, but filing horizontally might be fraught with danger (don’t do this at home). It even received a special prize at the Agricultural Show in 1903. In 1904 a local championship was won by Thomas McHenry using a ‘Lyre Bird’ mouth organ. By 1909 they came in six models (originally four) from the most basic 1/- model to the ornamented plush lined case model for 7/6d. Each mouth organ was warranted for two years and fitted in various keys. In 1910 their business premises were being demolished for development and due to their outstanding liabilities they were put into receivership. It didn’t take long before German mouth organ manufacturer Seydel jumped on the opportunity of trademarking the name Lyre-Bird. They did so the following year, although I don’t believe they put any into production.

In 1913 A Macrow & Sons of Melbourne kept the mimicry theme to the forefront selling their brand of mouth organ, ‘The Magpie’. They advertised their brand as, Magpie Mouth Organs-Boys! They’re It! High grade mouth organs specially made for our Australian Customers-Superior European Manufacture. I know of four models which include a ‘Vamper’ and a ‘Tremolo’. The black and white Australian Magpie is another songbird (flying) so talented they can vary their pitch by four octaves and can mimic over thirty five species of birds, dogs, horses and human speech.

(Macrow & Sons, office and factory workers, 259 Collins Street, 1913)

I’m sure ‘Macrows’ had no interest in offering a ‘Crow’ mouth organ as they’re not the sweetest sounding bird and certainly not popular among the populous. Crows were considered vermin by sheep farmers and they could be trapped for a few pence. In their defence they are capable of making about eighty different call types and can mimic sounds. They also have the ability to count the beat. They can count up to six. Television host Graham Kennedy famously created awareness in 1975 on how exceptional they were as copiers of the most famous swear word in the world. I wonder if there was any consideration given to producing a ‘Cockatoo’ model on the market? Pretty Cocky. Polly want a cracker? Maybe their screeching was off putting. What about a ‘Galah’? We did, however have a ‘Kookaburra’ (the laughing jackass) on sale by Alberts. In North America a ‘Burrowing Owl’ mouth organ might be well received as they can do a mighty impression of a rattlesnake.

Happy Mimicry Raffers.

Ch SD

PS: As a result of the research we have a free bonus supplement article for you this St. Patrick’s day on Albert Owen Macrow (pictured above) and family members. Perhaps my Irish immigrant grandfather Paddy’ may have visited Albert’s store and even blew a ‘Magpie’ mouth organ.

Mr Albert Macrow was born in London in 1837 and emigrated to Australia in 1853. He married Colina Fairbairn in 1856 and they had five sons and six daughters. Sadly Thomas died tragically at the age of fifteen. He was operating a lift at Paterson & Co in Flinders Lane. It was disclosed that on the 5th May, 1891, Thomas Albert Macrow who had very little experience of the lift, endeavored to take up a passenger. He landed his passenger on the third floor and followed him along the corridor. The lad then ran back, but as he had not stopped the lift, instead of running on to the lift floor he stepped into space and fell to the bottom of the well, a distance of about 40 feet. He was picked up and taken to the Melbourne hospital where he remained for some time. He was then taken to the home of his parents at Auburn, but subsequently died from the effects of the injuries he had sustained.” (The Age, 6 June, 1891). At the Coronial Inquiry Dr. William Warren testified that he died from a fractured spine. He had also suffered a broken leg and arm. Mr. Macrow asked the Inquiry on whose authority was his son working the lift as he had not given his consent? A witness replied he had no authority, but he did it for his own pleasure, as boys do. The jury found he had met his death by accident, but added that a mechanical device needs to be attached to the cages and fixed to the landings when the person in charge leaves them.

Albert’s first business ventures were at Bendigo, Ballarat and Bullarook. In 1897 Albert commenced business as a wholesale jeweller and piano importer in Flinders street and subsequently established businesses in many regional areas of Victoria and interstate. Sydney and Newcastle (New South Wales), Adelaide and Gawler (South Australia), Perth and Kalgoorlie (Western Australia), Hobart and Launceston (Tasmania) and Brisbane in Queensland. In 1905 the business traded as A Macrow & Sons with Albert, William and Francis Macrow named as the proprietors. Colina passed away at their Auburn residence in 1911 aged seventy one. Albert would venture into marriage once more and tied the knot with a younger girl, sixty seven year old Charlotte Mary Morgan on the ninth of August 1920. Retiring in 1922 he handed over the reins to his son William, but still retaining an interest in the firm until his tragic death in 1927 aged ninety. With head down, crossing Elizabeth street against the traffic, he was hit by a Collins street tram. Albert had enjoyed good health. He walked a couple of miles each morning but at the time of his demise was being treated for a weakness of the heart. Albert’s eye sight was excellent, however his hearing wasn’t and in fact he was nearly stone deaf, which may have contributed to his death.

In 1910 Ethel Colina ‘Dolly’ Macrow (William’s eldest daughter) married celebrated Australian Test Cricketer Vernon Ransford. William’s only son William Reginald Macrow, at one time a cadet at Camberwell Grammar, would enlist in the Australian Army with the outbreak of war in 1914 at the age of twenty five as a driver for the 1st Divisional Train. He was promoted to Lieutenant and received the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty whilst engaged on pack transport work in forward areas during operations. He carried on his work day after day in spite of heavy shelling and most difficult weather conditions and the fact that the ground which he had to cross was at times a sea of mud. On one occasion, when his convoy was caught in an enemy barrage and several casualties were caused, he arranged for the removal of the wounded, reorganized his convoy, and delivered his stores. He proved himself a most capable and fearless leader, and kept his men in fine spirits by his disregard of danger and coolness under fire.’ (National Archives Of Australia). William, however was in some trouble for wearing medals on Armistice day processions that he wasn’t entitled to. One of these medals was the Sultan of Egypt’s Sudan Medal. William was a handy cricketer, a fast bowler for the Richmond Cricket Club and he represented his state on five occasions, one of which was against a touring England.

An unfortunate note to end on is William Macrow (Senior), who passed away in 1946 aged eighty six, did not leave one of his daughters, Frances, a brass razoo out of his £146,546 estate even though the rest of his children and several organisations would benefit. The Gordon Institute for Boys, Salvation Army (Victoria) Property Trust, Prince Henry’s Hospital, Austin Hospital, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Hospital, Royal Children’s Hospital, Queen Victoria Hospital for Women and Children, and Mount Royal were all entitled to a share of £3,200. The court rectified Frances Elizabeth Macrow’s absence from the will by awarding an income of £1100 a year. The judges decision had taken into consideration that Frances aged forty four wasn’t given the opportunity to support herself and her father by discouraging male visitors had caused Frances to be a spinster. William was found guilty of a breach of the moral duty that a wise and just father owed his child.

The end! (I think)

Aussie Models-Timeline

14th February, 2019

Hi there Riff Raffers,

A timeline of Australian models (an attempt), as promised a while back.

No no no, not that type of model, sorry! Australian brand harmonicas up to WWII. Like this.img_23341890’s-The Scorcher (F A Rauner/Feldheim, Gotthelf & Co)-up to 1920

1895/99-The Melba (?/H S Chipman-TM 1895), Crack A Jack (F A Rauner?/?)

1896Woolloomooloo Warbler-originally had a patent bone lip protector (Seydel/Alberts), Kangaroo Chalmer (Seydel/Alberts)-Later that year King Billy-two sided & another with bells maybe later at 3s 5d (Seydel/Alberts), Boomerang Large & Miniature-also three sided models in both (Seydel/Alberts-TM 1897), The Federal Harp-perhaps as early as 1880, three models sold in 1910 as the Midget Federal 20 reeds, Junior Federal 20 reeds & Senior Federal 40 reeds (Ernst Hess/J Hess & Co)

1896/98Native Waratah-with celluloid sliding cover (Seydel/Alberts-TM 1910), Wallaby and Possum (Seydel/Alberts-TM 1910)

1898Kookaburra & Cooee 2d (TM reg by M. Johs Richter)

1900The Bushman-originally 2 models 2/- 20 reeds & a 3/- then a 40 reeds at 4/6 (C H Meinel/ W H Paling), Larrikin ? (Carl Essbach) Century Advance Australia (Hohner TM)

1901Corroboree & Geebung (Hohner registered never sold), Federation SouvenirAdvance Australia (Hohner TM)

1902Boomerang Professional and a three sided model (Seydel/Alberts), Crackajack three models all with open back covers Professional, Senior & Junior 20 reeds-also sold by same brand Tommy Dodd and Little Gulliver, added later Boss Cracker, Cadet & Double (F A Rauner/Allans TM-1903), Kookaburra (Seydel/Alberts), The BuglerSmall 10 hole/20 reeds for 1/- and a Large 20 hole/40 reeds for 2/- (Seydel?/Deane and Sons), Wallaroo (C Essbach/Johnstone & Company) sold alongside the Humming Bird and maybe even earlier.

1903Lyre Bird-four models upgraded later to six (?/W F Coxon)

1904Bonzer & Boshter-sixpenny models (?/Allan & Co), Melba (F A Bohm/Flights-Bendigo)

1908Topnotcher-Ordinary & Professional, later the Nipper, Scout, Artists, Vamper, Standard & Concert Grand (C H Meinel?/W H Paling TM-1906), The Kangaroo (A Koch/-) different to Seydel’s later model of same name. Dickens’ Echophonean attachment for the mouth organ invented by Sydney Dickens and patented.

1909B.A.B (Boomerang Arch Bell) series: initially three models #1-4 professional organs 120 reeds with 2 sets of bells 17/6, #2-2 professional organs 80 reeds with 1 set of bells 10/- and the #3-1 professional organ 40 reeds with 1 set of bells. Later (1912?) a mini professional 20 reeds 1 set of bells and a mini professional double with 1 set of bells.

1910The Wallaroo-diatonic and a four sided model (Seydel/Alberts), Kookaburra (Seydel/Alberts TM)

1911-Boomerang Grands-Miniature Grand (nickel plated), Grand (nickel plated), Miniature Grand (black enamel), Grand (black enamel), Austral Harp, Black Gin, Wonga, Jabiru, Wombat, The Wallaroo, Golden Wattle, Budgeree & Lyre-Bird (Seydel/Alberts TM)

1912Cobber four models-20 reed Vamper, 20 reeds miniature professional, 40 reeds standard, 40 reeds professional (Bauer & Krause/Jackson & MacDonald), five Boomerang Professional Arch Bell models, Young Australia-two models (Hohner Special Edition-sold to 1920: TM 1912)

1913Rozella (Seydel?/A P Sykes)-3 models-Solo 20 reeds 1/-, with nickel mouthpiece 1/-3, with nickel mouthpiece and metal case 1/6, Concert 20 reeds with nickel mouthpiece and metal case 2/- and the Professional 40 reeds with nickel mouthpiece and metal case 3/-, Magpie four models-40 reeds, two large 28 reeds 5s & 3/6 and a small 20 reeds (?/Macrows) to 1920, Coo-ee (Seydel/Alberts), The Kangaroo & Wallaroo (Seydel/Alberts), Bess O’ Th’ Barn (F A Bohm?/A P Sykes)-3 models-Solo Artist 20 reeds 1/-(with nickel case 1/-6), Concert Artist 20 reeds with nickel mouthpiece and metal case 2/- and the Professional Artist 40 reeds with nickel mouthpiece and metal case.

1920’s-Bonzer-four new models (F A Rauner?/Allans), The Kangaroo (A Koch/-)- Made in Switzerland, Rigi model

1923-Boomerang (TM USA)

1924-Boomerang De Luxe-‘Boomerang Shaped’ (Seydel/Alberts) with the slogan “Having Tried the Rest, Now Buy the Best TM 1925 also Boomerang Tiny-four hole, Tiny De Luxe-five hole, Pocket, Miniature & Miniature Professional (Seydel/Alberts)

1925-Baby Boomerang and Baby Boomerang De Luxe (Seydel/Alberts) for a very short time. Koala Harp (?/?). Monarcheight models Piccolo, Vamper, Junior- 20 reeds, Senior, Tremolo Harp, Professional, Artist- 40 reeds & a Grand Concert Harp- double sided 96 reeds at one stage there was a ‘Monarch King’ (E Deinst?/Musgroves)

1926Perla four models-Medium 20 reeds, Medium Professional 20 reeds, Large 40 reeds, Large Professional 40 reeds (F A Rauner/Mick Simmons Pty Ltd)

1926/27-Crackajack upgrade to ten models-Cadet, Junior, Miniature Professional, Professional, Senior, Artist, Miniature Concert, Concert, Concert Grand, Tremolo Concert another advertisement listed them from lowest to highest price as the Tivoli 1/6, Cadet Plain 2/-, Cadet Nickel 2/6, Boss Cracker 3/-, Double 3/6, Junior 4/6, Concert 5/-, Senior 5/6, Professional 7/6 and Artist 10/6

1930Auto-Valve Vamper (Hohner)-Marketed as ‘Australian’ Model and three other auto valve models-blue box with wide air slots, red box an octave lower, brown box two octaves lower

1936Chromorgan-Chromatic & Mezzo Boomerang-Diatonic, a lower music range model (Seydel/Alberts)

1937-Crackamonic-Chromatic (F A Rauner/Allans) also the Crackajack Regal a double sided, two different keys ‘C’ & ‘G’ with 48 reeds each side. Nickel plated and colourfully enameled. P C Spouse ‘Champion Series’-World’s Fame (F A Bohm/Mick Simmons)-3 models a small 20 reeds, medium 40 reeds and a large concert 40 reeds. The Federal Band-Chromatigrand (Johann Schunk/Mick Simmons)-2 models standard 40 reeds and a professional ‘Grand’ 48 reeds.

1939-Jazz Master (F A Rauner/Allans) replaced Crackajacks short lived due to war.

img_3035TM=Trademarked. First named=harmonica maker followed by music house. Unless otherwise stated.

Like ‘The Scorcher’, ‘The Federal Harp’ may not strictly be an Australian name brand, however the ‘Hess’ connection made it a viable inclusion, in my humble opinion. Ernst Hess of Klingenthal, Saxony, Germany made and registered the model (N.25116) and J. Hess & Co music wholesalers of Clarence street, Sydney sold the mouth organ. Ernst Hess had a display at the ‘World Fair’ held in Melbourne, Australia in 1880.img_1771

Please don’t take as gospel, however if you have any information it would be greatly appreciated. This is a fluid document that will be updated when new verifiable information comes to hand.

This research was a result of searching for the maker of Crackajack mouth organs (seeQuest For The Maker‘). Thanks to Ray Grieve & Pat Missin for all their assistance. Here is a collection of their endeavours.

Notes:

PM- I can’t find a “Kookaburra” trademark by Seydel, but there was a “Kookaburra” registered by M. Johs. Richter in 1898. Don’t know if that’s a trademark that Seydel later acquired, or if they are unconnected.

RG- The “Kookaburra” was on the market in 1902. His mention of the 1898 reference is interesting because a “Kookaburra” wasn’t in the original Albert’s range which came out in 1896. (Would be a rare one-off mouth organ if it was ever marketed by Richter.) Pat’s discovery would explain why Alberts had their unique and different “Kookaburra” on the market six years later, if Richter held a patent on it in 1898, which presumably must have lapsed by then?

img_1915-1PM- I’d already written a little about M. Johs. Richter on my website. On the same day that he trademarked “Kookaburra”, he also registered the same “Coo-Ee”. I doubt that these are connected with the later models of the same names, as his involvement with harmonica making seems to have been quite brief. He was mostly known for stringed instruments. Carl Essbach registered the name “The Larrikin” in 1900, for a variety of things including harmonicas. This was presumably for the Australian market, but I don’t recall any harmonicas with this name. Also that year, W.H. Paling of Sydney in conjunction with Glaser of Berlin registered the name “The Bushman” specifically for harmonicas. Again, don’t recall hearing of those.

img_1520-1Hohner registered a bunch of Australian-flavoured TMs, including “Century Advance Australia” (1900), ” Federation Souvenir, Advance Australia”, “Geebung” and “Corroboree” (1901) and ” Young Australia” (1912). The latter seems to have been their best seller Down Under.img_1195-1

Seydel’s earliest TM for “The Boomerang” was from 1897. They registered “The Moa” a couple of years later. They trademarked the name “Kookaburra” in 1910. I’m guessing the Richter TM was expired by then. The same year they also trademarked “Woolloomooloo”, “The Possum” and “Boomerang Miniature Grand”. The next year they registered “Austral Harp”, “Black Gin”, “Wonga”, “Haka”,”Jabiru”,”Wombat”,”The Wallaroo”,”Golden Wattle”, “Budgeree” and “Lyre-Bird”. In 1925 they trademarked a design for the Boomerang-shaped “Boomerang De Luxe” with the slogan “Having Tried the Rest, Now Buy the Best” and in 1926 they registered “Tapu” and “Kiaora”.

I also found a trademark for “Cobber” registered in 1911 by a Leipzig-based company called Bauer & Krause.

img_1552-1RG- Some notes on Pat’s brilliant research: There was a Bushman available in Australia in the 1920s and always sold alongside of the English Topnotcher. (see my “Boomerangs & Crackajacks” book P. 60). It was never advertised as an ‘Australian’ brand. Would seem that Hohner’s Geebung and Corroboree never went into production. I couldn’t find any mention in old Hohner catalogues. And if so Kurt would have definitely mentioned this to me. Very likely that Bauer and Krause made the Cobber. Couldn’t find any info on this at all from either Jackson or McDonald descendants. Would be interesting to know just how many of these actually went into production.

PM-https://www.trademarkia.com/au/crackamonic-71796.htm

img_1459-1It lists “Crackamonic”, but unfortunately has no other data on it. It gives the date Monday, January 1, 1900, but that seems to be the default for this site when they don’t know the filing date.

img_1591-1RG- Pat must be right regarding 1900 being the default date for the “Crackamonic”. It was marketed briefly from around 1938 – I had never seen one until the photo you sent. Most of the old Australian players were using diatonics and considered the Hohner as the superior chromatic anyway (Larry Adler had a lot to do with that).

img_1144-1Articles have already featured Crackajack & Cobber Mouth organs. Waiting in the wings W F Coxon’s Lyrebird, Hohner’s Auto Valve Vamper, Paling’s Topnotcher and Frank’s Boomerang.img_1754

Ch SD

PS: Just found (28/2/2019)! An application by Michel Francios Albert in 1927 for a Trademark. Mouth organ depicting picture of a Kookaburra and the words “The Kookaburra (Laughing Jackass)”. Application # 43906 April 23, 1927.

img_1803-15/3/2019- New addition ‘The Bugler’ sold by William John Deane and sons from 1902 to about 1909. Advertised as Deane’s patent and Sydney is stamped on the cover plate. Appears that it’s an Australian Mouth Organ although not an Aussie brand name, so to speak. Interesting to note that William Deane married Pauline Albert in 1896 (Jacques’ daughter and Frank’s sister). So maybe it’s a Seydel Mouth Organ because of the Albert’s/ Boomerang connection.

img_213523/3/2019- New addition the P C Spouse ‘Champion Series’ on a F A Bohm ‘World’s Fame’ mouth organ for Mick Simmons of George Street, Haymarket Sydney. More information in Ray Grieve’s upcoming third book on the history of mouth organs in Australia. P C (Percival) Spouse was Australian Mouth Organ champion in 1925, 1927, 1928 and 1935. Mick Simmons also had a chromatic brand ‘The Federal Band’ stamped on the cover plate of a Johann Schunk ‘Chromatigrand’.

img_2264

27/3/2019- A few more added. 1928 a ‘Baby Boomerang’ and ‘Baby Boomerang De Luxe’. Appears short lived for the same models branded ‘Tiny’. The ‘Koala Harp’ in the same year. Also in 1908 the Dickens’ ‘Echophone’ invented by Sydney Dickens of Carlton, Melbourne, Australia. A horn attachment for the mouth organ to increase volume. More to come in Ray Grieve’s third edition of the history of the harmonica in Australia.

img_2255

2/4/2019- I’m throwing in Musgroves’ Monarch mouth organs from Western Australia from 1925 or thereabouts. Not an Australian sounding name, but being part of the Commonwealth  (Boomerang mouth organs were once advertised as the ‘Monarch Of Mouth Organs’) and also because Musgroves’ were sole distributors they’re in. More to follow.img_2176

23/5/2019-Recent discovery a ‘Tommy Dodd’ (the boy’s Crackajack) sold by Allan & Co in 1903 for sixpence and also the ‘Little Gulliver’ for 4/d made by F A Rauner. Story to follow!

Tommy Dodd

10/7/2019-Further updates on maker of Topnotcher’s-a Cadet model has appeared with the Balloon Brand and logo stamped on back cover plate which means C H Meinel made this one. In a 1899 trade page The Melba is pictured along with a Crack A Jack! Samuel Holmes Chipman of Margaret street Sydney trademarked the name Melba for musical instruments in 1895. In 1904 a new Melba model made by F A Bohm was sold in Australia. Have also placed Eduard Deinst tentatively as the manufacturer of the Monarch-research is pointing in his direction. Added the Wallaroo sold by Johnstone and Company of 27 The Strand and 672 George-street, Sydney, who were sole agents for Essbach’s celebrated improved Humming Bird and the Wallaroo mouth organs (TM must have lapsed and Albert’s swooped in). We also have two harps that may belong to the gift shops of prominent Australian Hotels. The Metropole (C A Herold) and The Grosvenor Harp (Seydel). Articles to follow.

18/9/2019-Latest updates to timeline. B.A.B Boomerang Arch Bell models advertised earlier than indicated. Preceded the Boomerang Grands and were sold as early as 1909. Rozella’s came in a few different formats and I’ve included the Bess O’ Th’ Barn models sold by A P Sykes as they appear to have only been sold in Australia. The other addition is The Kangaroo, made in Switzerland mouth organ-circa 1920. An article on this will be out before the end of the year.

Cobber & Co.

7th December, 2018

Hello Riff Raffers,

Recently I acquired somewhat fortuitously, a ‘Cobber’ harmonica tin. The top of this once colourful tin has a three dimensional graphic of the harmonica that should lie within. However the harp inside wasn’t a ‘Cobber’ and it’s name had been incorrectly identified by the seller (maybe a Dawg Blawg down the line). They advertised it as ‘harmonica with tin’ with the emphasis squarely placed on the harmonica. I believe the vendor had no knowledge of the container’s cultural significance as there was not a mention of the ‘Cobber’ brand name. The metal tin wasn’t in prestigious condition, but in any condition it was an important historical discovery. Then there was the question of restoration. Patina can be an endearing feature as it displays its age and heritage. To destroy the patina could decrease it’s value and could put off would be collectors. I put the question to a respectable restorer and an estimate of a ‘sympathetic’ restoration was quoted at between two hundred and two hundred and fifty dollars. The tin is an antique and I have never set eyes on another one. So for the time being, it will be displayed as is.

Four different models of ‘Cobber’ harmonicas were sold in Australia from 1912 to 1920 by jobbers (wholesalers), ‘Jackson & MacDonald’ of Sydney. Samuel Jackson and David MacDonald did their apprenticeship as employees of ‘Allan & Co’ in Melbourne, who had great success selling their own ‘Crackajack’ brand of harmonicas. Both gentleman were great friends and expert rifleman at the ‘Mosman Rifle Club’. Initially, ‘Jackson & MacDonald’ had the franchise for ‘Edison Phonographs’. Later they would find enormous success manufacturing their own brand of talking boxes (gramophones), the ‘Rexonola’. Their wooden cabinets later evolved into speaker boxes that would replace the sound horn. ‘The Gloucester Advocate’ on Friday 3rd May, 1929 reported where the timber for the cabinets was sourced: after exhaustive search and tests the company have decided to use suitable softwoods including sassafras, corkwood, beach and other timbers from the Copeland brush.” Most cabinets appear to have been carved from oak or Queensland maple. ‘Cobber’ was trademarked in 1911 by Leipzig based company, ‘Bauer & Krause’. Although primarily an import-export set up, they were a highly regarded German toy maker producing a wide range of horse themed toys, which included rocking horses hand crafted by folk artists of their employ. Perhaps they outsourced the making of the harmonicas too, and then sent them on to ‘Jackson & MacDonald’ for sale down under.

These days their ‘Cobber’ harmonicas are as rare as rocking horse poo. In a 2007 article entitled, ‘Hum Along’, business journalist James Cockington of ‘The Sydney Herald’ suggested that, none are known to have survived.” There must be at least one out there waiting to be housed in my tin. I want to believe. Australian harmonica consultant and author, Ray Grieve told me, I’ve only ever seen one and that was in bad shape, it was owned by an American collector.” I’m sure I can recall a young harmonica player from Warrnambool, Eddy Boyle mentioning to me off air prior to a radio interview that he possessed a ‘Cobber’.

Samuel Jackson was incredibly skilled at promoting the harmonica. A marketing skill he employed with some success was either publishing a weekly ‘Cobber’ limerick or by surreptitiously placing a headline with a ‘Cobber’ twist in Sydney’s, ‘The Sunday Sun’.

This headline, ‘Shocking Discovery’ placed in July 13th, 1913 read, Yesterday afternoon, shortly after a pleasure party had arrived at picnic ground, it was discovered that nobody had brought a ‘Cobber’ mouth-organ and a picnic without a ‘Cobber’ mouth-organ is like an egg without malt, or, as the Spanish girl said, a kiss without a moustache. The party returned to town greatly depressed.” Another, a week earlier entitled, ‘Indignant Conductorwas written as a concerned letter from A. Noyde:  As a conductor of a large orchestra I beg, through your courtesy, to ventilate a grievance under which Sydney conductors suffer. We have to pay our musicians good salaries, but how can we charge adequate fees for our performances when anybody can have a fine orchestra of his own by buying a Cobber mouth-organ for a shilling?” With this kind of marketing manyCobbershad to be sold and played. They’re out there surely. Don’t call me Shirley.” Like their competitors, ‘Jackson & MacDonald’ used competitions and mouth organ champions to promote and endorse their product. Mr. J. Donelly, who was used regularly in their advertising won the New South Wales ‘Cobber Championship’ in 1913 at the Glaciarium Theatre in Sydney. He had been tutored by Albert Emmett of ‘Dr. Carver’s Entertainers Of America’ twenty one years ago. An international taking out our great event. Who would have thought! His endorsement read,  Every Cobber Mouth Organ I have had, and I have used no other for some time, has been perfectly satisfactory in every way. I am prepared to play any player who cares to challenge me, or refutes my right to hold the titles mentioned in this report, and the instrument I will use will be a ‘Cobber’.”

As Andy Pipkin (character played by Matt Lucas in ‘Little Britain’) would retort, I want that one.” They’re out there. Here’s hoping.

Ch SD

PS: Here’s a photo of a better conditioned ‘Cobber’ tin (no restoration) from newly joined Riff Raffer-Canadian harmonica collector, Doug Dawson. Cheers mate.

cobber tin

Quest For The Maker

28th October, 2018

Hi Riff Raffers

The epic journey set out on the first of October, 2018. The trekking party consisted of Pat Missin, Ray Grieve and myself. We were in search of a gold nugget. Just as George Leavis Allan had done in 1853 when he took out a gold licence (#88) and went prospecting at Campbell’s Creek. George would go on to build Australia’s largest music house, Allan & Co in 1877 at 276 Collins Street, Melbourne. In 1902 they would sell their own brand of harmonica called ‘Crackajack’ to rival their Sydney counterpart Alberts, who had already established a successful brand called ‘Boomerang’. The ‘Boomerang’ brand were manufactured in Germany by Seydel. Our gold nugget would be to find the manufacturer of the ‘Crackajack’ harmonicas.

Ray Grieve had it on good authority (Kurt Jacob) that F A Bohm were the likely culprits. However, Ray had found indisputable evidence hard to come by. A book on the history of Allans had made no mention of their harmonica line and descendants of the Allan family had no knowledge either. Pat had assumed it was Seydel as the big harmonica collectors of the world had labelled them such. One collector from San Diego, John Whiteman had them listed in his comprehensive anthology this way. Pat asked John if he could backtrack on how this information was derived. John obliged, but found no evidence for this decision.

Where to next? Pat ventured to the world of Trademarks, a place he was familiar with. He uncovered a mine of information relating to Australian harmonicas, but nothing that helped us in our quest. He kept digging. He was nearly down under when he came across a Trademark for the ‘Crackamonic’. Alas there was no extra information and a default date had been given for its registration (Monday January 1, 1900). Ray was excited by the find as Nellie Collier had told Ray of a ‘Crackajack’ Chromatic, but he had never seen one. I’m stoked! I was never able to see a ‘Crackajack’ Chromatic I couldn’t source one not even a photograph for my book. This shot of theCrackamonic’ is a first for me” (A picture exists in John Whiteman’s’ anthology). These were on sale in Australia in 1938 but with the onset of war and because they couldn’t compete with the ‘Chromorgan’ by Alberts, they disappeared as quickly as they arrived.

I decided to go surfing, nothing like an early morning surf down on the Mornington Peninsula at the breaks of Gunnamatta. No it wasn’t that type of surf it was of the information highway and would you believe it I discovered the patent for the name ‘Crackajack’ in of all places a supplement to the Western Australian Government Gazette of 1903. This was no nugget, but as this was Allan’s personal Trademark it was unlikely these harmonicas would have been made by Seydel as they held all the Trademarks for Albert’s ‘Boomerang’. We delved further into Ray’s book, ‘Boomerangs & Crackajacks’. There was the ‘Bonzer’, a ‘Perla’ and the ‘Rozella’. Nellie Collier had mentioned the ‘Bonzer’ to Ray. He discovered an advertisement for the ‘Bonzer’, but no other information presented itself and Pat couldn’t identify any trademarks either. It was the same result for the ‘Perla’. The ‘Rozella’s’ cover plate was of some interest and especially alongside a photograph of a 1927 ‘Crackajack Junior’ which I had forwarded to Pat. Could this be the lead we were after. He remarked, “… one thing has struck me over the past few days. When you look at the ‘Boomerang’ models with their fluted covers, the two flutings do not meet in the middle of the cover. This is how Seydel did the flutings on the covers of harps they made under their own ‘Bandmaster’ brand. As best I can make out, the ‘Rozella’ has similar flutings. Bohm made at least one harmonica with similar covers, although I can’t find any photos online. This design was registered by Seydel in the late 1800s and they got rather annoyed at imitations of it. They ranted a little about it in one of their catalogues and I have an article from a German music trade magazine from 1928 that talks about the alleged infringements, but sadly it does not name the accused infringers. However, looking at the fluted “Crackajack” covers, the two flutings run into each other to form one continuous channel. I don’t know if they are all like this, but this is quite different from the Bandmaster/Boomerang shape”.

There were several more days of frustration. The ‘Jazz Master’ which was sold by Allan & Co as a temporary stop gap measure just before WWII could be another line of inquiry. It too would be a dead end. Then suddenly quite by accident on the 24th of October while working on another project Pat tripped on a golden nugget. This is what he found, It’s been bothering me that whilst many companies copied the Seydel ‘Bandmaster/Boomerang’ fluted covers (so many that Seydel felt obliged to take action), the ‘Crackajack’ fluted cover is noticeably different. Then I stumbled on this photograph of F A Rauner’s ‘World Master’. It is very similar, right down to the hatching on the embossed name and the engraved scroll-work that frames it. I can’t be certain without having actual specimens in my hands, but these really look like they came out of the same factory. I haven’t seen anything by Bohm or Seydel that matches the ‘Crackajack’ design like this one”.

There was no doubt about it F A Rauner’s ‘World Master’ has the same cover plate. In fact in 1929 due to the recession and Hohner buying out smaller harmonica manufacturers, Rauner, Seydel and Bohm merged. Interestingly Rauner was the first named and the manufacturing operation was out of Rauner’s Klingenthal factory. The amalgamation didn’t last long folding a few years later in 1933. F A Rauner was a big exporter overseas, they even made the Babe Ruth harmonica bat for the World Series of 1927. F A Rauner when blowing their own trumpet, or should I say mouth organ, said they were the second biggest manufacturer in the world (well least they didn’t say they were the largest). The ‘Scorcher’ a popular model of harmonica in Australia in the 1890’s had also been manufactured by F A Rauner.

So there it is, our quest for the maker is completed. With a high level of confidence I can conclude that F A Rauner were the manufacturer of Allan & Co’s, ‘Crackajack’. I think!

Special thanks to my fellow trekkers Pat & Ray. You can find their websites here http://www.patmissin.com and http://www.bushlarkmusic.com. They can take four bob out of the till and get themselves a cigar.

Ch SD

PS: I have derived a wealth of information from this journey and I plan to share this with you in upcoming Blogs. Next in line as a follow up to today’s is, ‘Collingwood’s Crackajack Collier’.

Up To Date

 

24th September, 2018

Hi Riff Raffers,

Having determined that collecting vintage/antique harmonicas was confined to my past why did I shell out twenty bucks on another harmonica that didn’t even have its original box. Their worth more in their original packaging.

Freud would say it had something to do with my toilet training, of course he would. It certainly was not as an investment, although I have given my son details on how much I paid and how much I believe my collection is worth for when I pass from this mortal coil. I appreciate that I can’t take them with me. Speaking of the mortal coil, on the flip side it would be great to catch up with Noah, the greatest collector of all time, who had a fetish for two of everything. Knowledge is a double edged sword or should I say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, or both. Somewhere in my past learning about the age of Hohner harmonicas and through television programs who regularly suggest if you haven’t seen one before you should buy it. I could not contain myself and it was a bargain at twenty dollars. Wasn’t it?

This model is named ‘Up To Date’, patent applied for and the M. Hohner signature appear on one of the cover plates. Apparently Hohner produced more than a dozen ‘Up To Date’ models. I believe it is a twenty hole non-octave harp with a segmented comb. Hohner produced these to take advantage of the belief in the market place that the octave harp had a superior tone. It had the appearance, but not the cost of its octave cousin. The comb is a large block of pear wood or maybe peach, perhaps this could help identify when it was manufactured. The key of ‘D’ is embossed on the cover plate. Is this a clue as embossing is earlier than engraving? With the patent applied for inscription could it be as early as 1895 before the 1896 patent of the Marine Band? Without the ability to carbon date I will set about trying to determine how old the mouth harp is. Information is limited and it won’t be an exact science, but with some ‘nouse’ in regards to the Hohner Trademark I will take a closer look through my magnifying glass. My eyes are not what they used to be.

The reverse plate displays the Hohner Trademark. There is a small six pointed star in the circle. A larger star would mean it was of a later vintage. The star was removed with the rise of the Nazi party in the 1930’s, although it wasn’t the Star Of David. The six points on the star represents Matthias Hohner’s six sons who were running the business at the turn of the twentieth century. It thus pre dates WWII. Another give away of the age was the ‘mouse ears’ or the double tabs on the cover plate where it’s nailed to the comb this clearly makes it before 1925. The ragged sleeve edges of the hands holding the circle date it earlier than WWI when combined with the single circles wrapped around the Wien and Philad medals. I’m not sure if this is applicable for this model as it is with the Marine Band, but there is four nails connecting the reeds to the comb and they don’t appear to be stamped.

I’m thinking that the harmonica I have collected is somewhere between 1900 and 1910. It means it’s ‘bloody’ old and it’s an antique, being over hundred years old. The harp’s history intrigues me, where has this harmonica been, whose lips have covered the plates and blown life’s breath through the chambers, were they a legend of the game? Before I become too nostalgic, how much is it worth? Still clearly what someone is prepared to pay for it, in my case twenty Australian dollars.

Ch SD

PS: Here’s what Pat Missin believes it may have been. See comments below for further details. img_1658