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Help: Civil War Harmonicas

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Les B 09 Mar 01 - 12:34 AM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 09 Mar 01 - 04:19 AM
wdyat12 09 Mar 01 - 04:49 AM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 09 Mar 01 - 05:13 AM
Bob Bolton 09 Mar 01 - 08:22 AM
wes.w 09 Mar 01 - 08:47 AM
katlaughing 09 Mar 01 - 01:55 PM
Amos 09 Mar 01 - 11:16 PM
murray@mpce.mq.edu.au 10 Mar 01 - 12:06 AM
katlaughing 10 Mar 01 - 12:35 AM
GUEST,Ole Bull 13 Mar 01 - 07:48 PM
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Subject: Civil War Harmonicas
From: Les B
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 12:34 AM

I seem to remember reading somewhere that one of the most common items found by metal detectors at American Civil War sites is the rusted carcass of a harmonica.

Does anyone have any idea who was manufacturing them 150 years ago ? Also, what size, style and keys were common ?? Thanks for your help.


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Subject: RE: Help: Civil War Harmonicas
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 04:19 AM

There were non-mass-produced harmonicas in the early 1830s. Hohner began its manufacture in the early 1850s and they came to America pretty soon after production began.

I think I read all this in a book called "Band in a Waistcoat Pocket" written by an Australian (whose name I always knew, but has just slipped my mind.) There might be a history in the American book. "Harmonicas, Harps, and Heavy Breathers" (again, I forget the Author's name)

Murray


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Subject: RE: Help: Civil War Harmonicas
From: wdyat12
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 04:49 AM

Les,

I find your query intriging as I am a practicing student archaeologist. I have been privy to some of the most important 17th-century sites in Maine. We have discovered many precursers to the harmonica at these sites, namely the mouth harp or "Jews harp." One can only wonder what tunes were played on these instruments during these times of cultural transition. I will follow this thread to find some answers.

Peter


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Subject: RE: Help: Civil War Harmonicas
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 05:13 AM

I remember now that Carl Sandburg in one of his books about Abraham Lincoln reports that he played a harmonica. There is a quote something like "Mr. Douglas has a brass band but I make due with this mouth organ."

That dates its presence in the US a little more precicely.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Help: Civil War Harmonicas
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 08:22 AM

G'day all,

As Murray says, I am sure I have also heard the Abe Lincoln, harmonica link quoted.

I seem to remember that Ray Grieve, in his book Band in a Waistcoat Pocket mentions this (but I don't have my copy nearby, so I won't check right now.

I know that a number of German makers were turning out mouth organs before the American Civil War started - including Hohner, who has since bought up most of their smaller rivals. (I think the prototype I have seen illustrated is from the 1830s ... or even 1829[?].) I doubt that there was much making outside of Germany by the 1860s, but import links from Germany to the US were well established.

The mouth organ would have been ideal for Civil War soldiers, as it has been for mobile populations before and since - and its plaintive tones well suited to soldiers' sentiments (or sentimentality).

wdyat12: I don't know what music would have been available to your 17th c. Maine 'Jews' Harp' players (although, they could have played anything that they could whistle) but, by the time of the Cival War there was a burgeoning music publishing industry in the US and an equally active performing scene, so soldiers would have had a vast range of popular music to draw on.

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Help: Civil War Harmonicas
From: wes.w
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 08:47 AM

I'm interested in concertina history, and the harmonica and concertina are both in the 'Free Reed' family, which only came into being after some Vietnamese 'Shengs' were brought to Europe around 1820 and shown at some of the 'Great Exhibitions'. I've recently found a few concertina snippets related to the American Civil War on the CSS Alabama Society site (www.css-alabama.com). You might find some information and useful links there.
Good Luck!


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Subject: RE: Help: Civil War Harmonicas
From: katlaughing
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 01:55 PM

While looking for info I found a sort of interesting site with lots of links and pictures of various Harmonica Curiosities. I don't think it answers any of the questions posed here, but I thought you all might find it interesting, too.

This site claims to have the most HARMONIC links on the web, so maybe you can find more there: www.harmonicslinks.com.

Other current harmonica and/or Civil War threads:

Opinionated Civil War Music Article

Harmonicas for the Homeless


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Subject: RE: Help: Civil War Harmonicas
From: Amos
Date: 09 Mar 01 - 11:16 PM

Kat:

The first thread above needs its link fixed.

A


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Subject: RE: Help: Civil War Harmonicas
From: murray@mpce.mq.edu.au
Date: 10 Mar 01 - 12:06 AM

Yes Bob. Ray Grieve is who I meant. I must still be a little jet-lagged as I usually know his name.

That is probably where I read the Lincoln quote.

I think there were a lot of fiddle-like tunes brought over from Britain in the 17th century that could be played on the jews harp. That is an interesting subject in itself. Know anything about it Peter (wyat12)?

Murray


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Subject: RE: Help: Civil War Harmonicas
From: katlaughing
Date: 10 Mar 01 - 12:35 AM

Thanks, Amos, sorry about that.


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Subject: RE: Help: Civil War Harmonicas
From: GUEST,Ole Bull
Date: 13 Mar 01 - 07:48 PM

I've been trying to study this thing, harmonicas that is.

I found an instruction book about published in the 1820's for the "mouth aeolian." It's a harmonica but tuned very different. Then I find nothing else published 'till after the Civil War.

And I've seen the Hohner history, the import data and the dug relics and I can only believe that it was cheap, a novelty that was not taken seriously at first, a toy, for you never see them in ensemble nor very often mentioned during the Civil War. I do see accordian stuff.

If popular you'd think the music publishers would have jumped on.


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