Kangaroo Hop (The Swiss Connection)

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.

Hi Shep,

……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

greetings Isabella

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.

Ch SD

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.

 

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’.