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Unique 1860s Richter harmonica in Antiques Roadshow

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Deleted member 48

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I have never seen this video fragment before.
It comes from a German antiques roadshow, a 6 minutes video of an 1860s harmonica with a unique valve system:
http://www.br.de/br-fernsehen/sendu...el-musikinstrumente-mundharmonika-set100.html

The video looks to be dating from 2011
The German text says 10 holes, but I see 12 holes (in both harmonicas demonstrated, locked together)

To watch the video:
Mundharmonika-Set
Museale Rarität
Äußerst seltenes und gut erhaltenes Mundharmonika-Set, dessen einzelne Instrumente die Signatur des weitgehend unbekannten böhmischen Musikers Johannes Richter tragen.
 

Glenn

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I think they estimated 2000 euro. Really nice museum piece.
 
D

Deleted member 48

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Indeed, the estimation of the value is around 2000 euro.

This is for the set of the 4 Joh. Richter harmonicas (2 single pieces, and 2 harmonicas locked together). This makes it a unique set, the host hoping it will be exposed in a museum.

They explain the "cover" system, the covers can be closed down or opened. At a certain moment he presses down the top cover, and at the same time the down cover is opened. This blocks some reeds from the air stream, preventing that specific reed plate from vibrating and thus making sounds/notes.
The covers have a piece of leather covering all 12 holes/reeds when pressed down.

These harmonicas are well preserved, dating from the 1860s, possibly with the original first reeds !
The player doesn't seem to have experience in blowing single holes/notes in a harmonica, the chords he plays sounding ok, considering the age of these instruments.
 

Glenn

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It occurred to me that the owner hadn't a clue on how to play a harmonica.
Still, what do you do with such a set of instruments? They are not particular attractive so a museum is a good place for them. I was surprised how well they played though.


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
 
D

Deleted member 48

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I'd like to ask to the experts in reeds, can you guess if the reeds in this Richter harmonica set are brass reeds or steel reeds?

Can anyone see from the video if these reeds have been replaced, or if these are likely to be the first original reeds?
 
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RodionGork

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Stephen said:
Id like to ask to the experts in reeds, can you guess if the reeds in this Richter harmonica set are brass reeds or steel reeds?

I cant pretend to be an expert, but steel for 1860 is something hard to believe. I suspect modern steel industry was just making its baby steps by that time. People definitely already used steel for piano strings, but in harmonicas it needs to be stainless, isnt it?

So I guess the reeds are of bronze / brass. They look as having dull yellow color. One of the reeds is sadly bent half-way - not the easy trick with the steel ones, I think.

Stephen said:
Can anyone see from the video if these reeds have been replaced, or if these are likely to be the first original reeds?
Hard to be sure from the video :) but they do not look like being in the best condition. It looks they were not much played or tuned for about 50-70 years. And 70 years ago probably replacing them all was not worth the efforts. Replacing a few (e.g. broken) still may make sense.
 
D

Deleted member 48

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Yes, the color looks to be a bit dull yellow.

Early reeds in harmonicas or concertinas could be brass, steel, silver, gold, ...
Several have been used for experimental models in the 18th and early 19th century.

Steel reed production for music instruments predates large scale industrial steel production.
Eg Buschmanns Aura or harmonica from 1821 had steel reeds.

http://www.patmissin.com/ffaq/q1.html
The date this book gives for Buschmanns invention is 1821, a date repeated in almost every history of the harmonica written since then, describing the aura as being four inches long and having 15 steel reeds mounted side by side, perhaps intended merely as an aid to tuning, rather than as a musical instrument.
 
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RodionGork

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having 15 steel reeds mounted side by side, perhaps intended merely as an aid to tuning, rather than as a musical instrument.
interesting remark - for I still have some tuning instrument with 4 holes designed for tuning the guitar.

Early reeds in harmonicas or concertinas could be brass, steel, silver, gold, ...
Several have been used for experimental models in the 18th and early 19th century.

Steel reed production for music instruments predates large scale industrial steel production.

I completely agree - as I myself mentioned steel for piano wires - and it sounds OK to use steel for various accordion-like instruments, concertinas etc. But for breath-operated devices, I think, it dramatically reduced longevity as the steel readily corrodes due to moist, I think - and this leads to audible pitch degradation. Am I wrong here?
I have no idea why the Aura have used steel reeds, except for, if it really was a tuning instrument, it does not really matter since it is not played too much.

Regretfully I could not find at once info on when harmonica makers started using stainless steel first :(
Ill try to find out more... But perhaps you have some ready suggestions? Or at least can advise where to ask... It becomes an interesting question :)
 
D

Deleted member 48

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It will be hard to find the origins of stainless steel use in harmonicas.
There may have been many individual attempts before satisfactory industrial stainless steel production.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stainless_steel#History
The corrosion resistance of iron-chromium alloys was first recognized in 1821 by French metallurgist Pierre Berthier, who noted their resistance against attack by some acids and suggested their use in cutlery. Metallurgists of the 19th century were unable to produce the combination of low carbon and high chromium found in most modern stainless steels, and the high-chromium alloys they could produce were too brittle to be practical.
In 1872, the Englishmen Clark and Woods patented an alloy that would today be considered a stainless steel.[25]


Early harmonica development is clouded, very few information is online.

This aeolina still looks to be in good shape, zinc can help against corrosion:
NMM 10434. Triple Æolina by Charles W. Wheatstone, London, ca. 1830. Original case. An article in The Harmonicon (London, 1829) describes Wheatstones triple Æolina and documents the makers use of argentum (nickel silver), a new metallic alloy of nickel, copper, and zinc, several years before the first commercial production of nickel silver in England in 1833. Length: 98 mm; width: 48 mm; height: 4 mm.
http://collections.nmmusd.org/FreeReeds/Harmonicas/Wheatstone/10434TripleAeolina/TripleAeolina.html

http://www.patmissin.com/history/aeolina.html

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mundharmonika_Wien_SAM_730.jpg
Mundharmonika von Wilhelm Thie, Wien nach 1834, Holz und Neusilber, im originalen Etui
Wien, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Sammlung alter Musikinstrumente (Neue Burg), Inv. Nr. SAM 730

Reichsteins 1828 version of the new sheng
http://www.europeana.eu/portal/record/0 ... 51767.html
Mundharmonika, 22 Klappen (Aura, Mundäoline)
 
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RodionGork

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I was shown a few references suggesting that the first "for-sale" version with the stainless steel reeds was by Hans Eisen company. However some references give a year of 1932 and others of 1937. And of course it is hard to find proof that was really first. I'm trying to find the pictures of this "Stahlklang" harmonica, with no success still.

BTW, I'm curious, what were the market-ready harmonicas with silver reeds. It seems like silver was a good alternative to stainless steel, since reeds are very small and small quantity of silver shouldn't make the price extremely high.
 
D

Deleted member 48

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1835 text referring to steel in Mundharmonikas, not stainless probably.
We also need to be careful with the use of the word Mundharmonika in historic texts.
Online one can find many scans of books before 1820, even in the 1790s or before, and we find the word Mundharmonika in these books.
But sometimes Mundharmonika is a set of jaw harps in a frame.

Beschaeftigungen für die Jugend aller Stände zur Gewöhnung an ...

Gotthilf Heinrich von Schubert - 1835
... Zinn werden Orgelpfeifen, aus Stahl und Messing Saiten zu Klavieren, aus Messing Waldhörner und Trompeten, aus Stahl die Zungen in der Mundharmonika ...

https://www.google.be/search?q=stah...UIBSgA&dpr=1#q=stahl+zungen+AND+mundharmonika+


The single reed tuning device Typotone has a gold reed:
http://collections.nmmusd.org/FreeReeds/Harmonicas/Pinsonnat/8206/Typotone.html
NMM 8206. Typotone (tuning device) by Pinsonnat, Amiens, France, ca. 1830. Mother-of-pearl plate; gold reed; two gold rivets.


The early 1820s market for silver free reed or gold free reed music instruments probably was a small niche of rich customers.
Eg for the C. Wheatstone symphonium.

I havent seen an online picture of a steel reed Hans Eisen company made harmonica.
 
D

Deleted member 48

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Page 314 of the 1823 Musikalische Zeitung by Schicht says some Maultrommel playes not only pluck the tongue, but also blow music into jaw harps.
denn die Maultrommel lässt sich auch anblasen

and also in this 1823 text: some employee also put a set of jaw harps into a box and attached a bellows to it, creating a new pretty sounding music instrument.

https://books.google.be/books?hl=nl...q=maultrommel#v=snippet&q=maultrommel&f=false

Musikalische Zeitung
Voorkant
J.G. Schicht
1823


Ernst Florens Friedrich Chladnis book on Acoustics from 1787 is said to have influenced many free reed music instrument makers.
He did acoustic experiments with all sorts of reeds, plucking or using air pressure.
 
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RodionGork

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Thanks for all this material! I'm in process of googling around all these references...

But could you, by the way, tell what were the typical prices for harmonicas, say, when M.Hohner just set up his business?
The matter is I want to compare the costs with price of silver. However I could not find relevant info :(
 
D

Deleted member 48

Guest
I have no information on exact prices of Hohner harmonicas from early as 1857.

The best source is a 670 pages book published in 1997 about the development of the Hohner harmonica business:

"Zwischen Kleinstadt und Weltmarkt: Hohner und die Harmonika 1857-1961"
 

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