J. and W. Sames (1855-1949)

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In 1855 [Jacob] W. Sames Ltd. were established as piano makers and operated for at least 80 years. They were still listed in Whitaker's Red Book as reed organ makers in 1949.

Jacob Sames was an organ builder in Birmingham starting c.1855. Jacob and later William Sames also built American organs and harmoniums. From 1878-1879 the firm was known as Jacob Sames, then as J. Sames and Sons from 1883, as William Sames Ltd. until 1928 then as The Sames Organ Co. Ltd. It is not known if the same Jacob Sames worked from 1855-78 or if it was previously his father.

We believe that Jacob Sames was born in 1831 and came from Frankfurt in Germany but may have been a British citizen. He was a music seller in 1861 and was making harmoniums in 1871.

Jacob married Julianna Smith in Warrington and she was the mother of Matthew and Henry Sames. In the 1851 census Jacob seems to be estranged from Julianna and his children, possibly they were in the workhouse, but Matthew was later living with him in Birmingham.

In summer of 2021 I was contacted by Brenda Conley-Wright who lives nearby and had been researching her family tree. It turns out that she is a distant cousin of Tamar Guest who had several children with Jacob Sames. Wm. Sames was born c.1855 in Birmingham.

Jacob never married Tamar, possibly because Julianna was still alive. Jacob did however marry Lucy Turville (widow Rollason) c.1893 in Birmingham whilst Tamar was still alive. When Jacob was married a second time his father was listed as Ludwich Sames.

The family at one time lived at ``The Beeches'' in Kings Norton.


The firm seems to have started by making accordions at 8 Suffolk Street, Birmingham and later took on harmonium building. There are a number of references to the firm of William Sames, who appeared also to have had showroom premises in London at 16 Long Lane, Aldgate Street and later 331 Euston Road from 1889-94. In Birmingham they had an ``improved'' steam factory at 14-16 Holloway Head, previously 32 Exeter Row, in 1885 expanding to number 18 in 1887, then moving to 6-7 Windmill Street until 1890 and then to Mozart Works, Woodfield Road, Balsall Heath until 1903. There are also references to 21 Ombersley Road, Sparkbrook (also known as Mozart Works) up to 1921 and then a sales room at 155-7 Corporation Street, Birmingham from 1903 right up to 1940. There is also an association with the address at 331 Euston Road, London NW (1891-7).

It is said that in 1888-89 Sames were making some 3,000 (various) instruments per year (pianos and reed organs).

The Ombersley Road factory burned down in 1921 (or 1928?). There had been a previous fire on 26/8/1913, which started in the polishing shop on the 2nd floor and caused an estimated loss of £4,000. They were insured, but when the insurance company received the large claim for the second fire, they went bust. Leonard Sames, then owner of the piano factory, also went bust. Photos taken at the time show that the roof and interior were badly damaged by the fire, but the structure is still standing, you can see it on Google Earth. It is the same building that is shown on an old photo from a descendant, and the same one that is illustrated on their old adverts. The following timeline is from Bill Kibby [122].

1850 - Not listed in the Birmingham Directory.
1855 - Established as dealers and Harmonium Manufacturers, but not as
       piano makers.
1886 - Birmingham Directory lists William Sames, 14 and 15 Holloway
       Head; Pianoforte Dealers and Harmonium Manufacturers, Birmingham.
1886 - Kelly's Directory lists William Sames among the Pianoforte
       Makers and Warehouses at 14, 16 and 18 Holloway Head; works, Windmill
        Street, Birmingham.
1890 - The first reference we know of to them being Limited, but
       the Birmingham Directory lists William Sames among the Pianoforte
       Makers, at 14, 16 and 18 Holloway Head, Birmingham and Harmonium
       manufacters. (Not Ltd.)
1921 or 1928? - The big fire. Opinions vary about the year.
1928 - Musique Adresses Universel lists William Sames Ltd. at a new
       shop address - 121, New Street, but the Birmingham list also includes
       Samestophone Ltd., 21 Ombersley Road, Balsall Heath. - Piano
1934 - Sames piano was said to be the last they made. Some may
       have been made by Kemble.
1936 - Not listed in Kelly's Directory.
1938 - Not listed in the Music Trade Directory.

The factory is still there! See Google StreetView. In July 2015, the factory is again being renovated and converted to a variety of uses, including a kids nursery. The following photo is how it looked in 1892 (thanks to Bill Kibby). The church seen in this photo is now the Bahu Centre on Ombersley Road.


Another photo can be seen here ©Balsall Heath Local History Society: ? [link TBA].

Photo: The Mozart Works, Sames' Piano Factory in Woodfield Road. The firm was founded in 1855 in central Birmingham but in 1889 expanded to cheaper building land in Woodfield Road, constructing a vast three storey factory. Sparks from the nearby railway caused fires in 1913 and 1923, the latter destroying both the roof and the business.


Makin Pianos: Allan Makin was born in Chatham, Kent in 1900. He worked as the production manager in the Sames piano factory in Birmingham until this was unfortunately lost to a tragic fire. He moved north to Edinburgh looking for work and was hired by Patersons.

Mark Jefford found some more information in the Archives of the London Gazette at about the history of the Sames company. Firstly Notice is hereby given, that the Partnership previously subsisting between us the undersigned, Jacob Sames, Matthew Sames, and William Sames, carrying on business in co-partnership at No.32 Exeter Row (now called 14 and 10, Holloway Head), Birmingham, in the county of Warwick, under the style of J. Sames and Sons, as Harmonium and Organ Makers and Musical Instrument Dealers, was, on the 2nd day of January, 1882, dissolved as from the 30th day of September, 1881, by mutual consent, so far as regarded the said Jacob Sames, who retired from the said firm. Dated the 12th day of December, 1883. Jacob Sames. Matthew Sames. Wm. Sames.

A further notice of 29/2/1884 added the address of 16 Long Lane, Aldersgate in London: Notice is hereby given, that the Partnership heretofore subsisting between us the undersigned, Matthew Sames and William Sames, in the trade or Business of Harmonium and American Organ Manufacturers and Musical Instrument Dealers, carried on by us at Nos.14 and 16 Holloway Head, Birmingham, in the county of Warwick, and also at 16 Long Lane, Aldersgate, in the city of London, under the style of J. Sames and Sons, has this day been dissolved by mutual consent; and that the said business will henceforth be carried on by the said William Sames alone, who will receive and pay all accounts due to and from the said late firm. Dated the 23rd day of February, 1884. Matthew Sames. Wm. Sames.

Later At an Extraordinary General Meeting of William Sames Limited, duly convened, and held at 10 Newhall Street, in the city of Birmingham, on the 20th day of August, 1894 ... That it has been proved to the satisfaction of the [Liquidator] that this Company cannot, by reason of its liabilities, continue its business, and that it is advisable that the same should be wound up voluntarily, and that the Company be wound up accordingly. Wm. Sames, Chairman.

Finally on 28/9/1894 Notice is hereby given that a General Meeting of the Members of William Sames Limited, will be held at 110 Edmund Street, Birmingham on Monday the 1st day of November 1897 ... for the purpose of having an account laid before them by the Liquidator (pursuant to section 142), showing the manner in which the winding up of the said Company has been conducted, and the property of the Company disposed of, and of hearing any explanation that may be given by the Liquidator ... This notice does not relate in any way to the new Company of W. Sames Limited who acquired the assets of the above Company and are at present carrying on the business.

William Sames Limited, presumably the new company, were finally dissolved and struck off the register of joint stock companies on 7/2/1928. Operations continued under the name of Sames Organ Co. Ltd.

Register of types produced

We here collect some of the information about Sames models and serial numbers.

Designation Serial nos. Date Description
  13454   14 stops
      11 stops, pipe top
Balmoral     13-16 stops, mirror
Castle 23102, 21240 G5946    
College (?)     no stops, small mirror
Colonial     9 stops
Dorothy (?)     10 stops, mirror
Eclipse     10 stops
Empress 11568   11 stops, pipe top
Empress 11344 c.1895-1911 11 stops, pipe top
Lichfield     10 stops, mirror
Premier     high top, 14 stops
Regent     8-10 stops, mirror
Royal     10 stops, mirror
Salisbury     11 stops, mirror
Sandringham 13018    
School     11 stops
Windsor 8674   8 stops

Note that according to Bill Kibby the organ numbers are in the same series as the pianos.

This was clearly quite a large operation.

Pressure Organs (and Harmoniums)

e-Bay *5462

These are quite rare. One with 9 stops and two knee swells appeared for sale in Camarthenshire during Feb'2012, e-Bay *5462. It was said to have been restored.


e-Bay *0730

This one was advertised in Chepstow in Nov'2020.


Another one, also with no stops, was advertised in Redditch during Oct'2015. Both these have the same shaped opening above the treadles.

Suction Organs

A few instruments are listed in the ROS and RFG databases.

ROS DB entry 75

Serial number 13454 with 61 keys, treadles and knee swells. Stops are: Principal Bass, Bass Coupler, Bourdon Bass 16', Diapason Bass 16', Piano 8', Forte, Vox Humana, Forte, Echo 8', Vox Celeste 8', Diapason Treble 8', Cello 16', Treble Coupler, Principal Treble 8'.

ROS DB entry 952

61 keys FFF-f'' with treadles and knee swells. Stops are: Sub Bass 16', Diapason Bass, Viola 8', Bass Coupler, Forte, Vox Humana, Forte, Treble Coupler, Echo 8', Piano 8', Diapason Treble 9'.

ROS DB entry 2939

A small one with pipe top. Stops are: Viola 4', Diapason Bass 8', Piano 8', Bass Coupler, Forte, Vox Humana, Forte, Treble Coupler, Echo 8', Diapason Treble 8', Vox Celeste 8'.


e-Bay 19/1/2005

A Sames organ was advertised by its owner in Kissimmee, Florida on e-Bay saying that it had been brought to the USA to a North Carolina residence many years before. This photo if from ROS database RFG-4588.


Sames organ owned by Ian Thompson 1M/4:4

Ian sent me a message about this one: In early Oct'2005 I got a William Sames 1M from near Nuneaton, Warwicks. Build quality is first-rate - everything solid; accessibility good; very elegantly shaped wooden parts inside; relatively few borrowed stops. And yet aesthetically speaking the treble is weak and the bass is thick but without real weight. It has 268 reeds in 4:4 ranks (16, 8, 4, 2: 16, 8, 8, 4) which could have been distributed and voiced to give far more variety of voice and volume than they do. My opinion is that it is a triumph of workmanship over musical design.

Balmoral Organ

Many Sames instruments carry fanciful names, we have chosen to list them in alphabetical rather than chronological order.

A ``Balmoral Organ'' was advertised as e-Bay item *5931 in July 2014, located in London. [Available photographs are rather poor]


Fritz Gellerman [4] noted that ``Burlington'' is known only as a name with no further information. There does however appear to be some connection with the firm of W. James. The name ``Sames'' is however often mis-read as ``James'' in advertisements. One such appeared on e-Bay *1375 in Sep'2006 from a vendor in Birmingham.


This next instrument is noted as a Burlington, it shares many similarities in case style with the previous one. It is currently located in Inverness.


Castle Organ

Whitney Wade of Los Angeles, USA, contacted the RO mailing list in Dec'2006 to seek advice on a Sames reed organ which his 92 year old neighbour was selling.

It's a Sames, The Castle, Organ Harmonium. Registered design no: 23102. The plaque on the top front says el Scottam, 15 years w/ Paterson & Sons - 40 Cockburn Street, Edinburgh. There is a number pressed into the back - 21240, and another number written in chalk - G5946.

Another Castle Forte Organ Harmonium was for sale from the Paul Sartori Foundation in Haverfordwest in May 2020. The photos show that it is actually a single rank pressure harmonium with C-c compass in a different style of case.

Stops are: Forte, Sourdine, Cor Anglais, Expression, Flute, Tremolo, Forte


Colonial Organ

A 1M instrument bearing the appellation ``Colonial Organ'' appeared on e-Bay in May 2014 from a vendor in Coventry. This carries the later name label.



Seen for sale *2908 in Apr'2011 from a vendor in London. This has the labels ``Eclipse'' and ``Sames Organ Co. Ltd.''. It is a late model with 10 stops.


Empress Organ

More information was received from Mark Jefford 10/1/2008: I have been doing some more research on the latest instrument in my collection that was ``manufactured expressly for Wm. Kenna Smith'' as I'd not been able to track down who the manufacturer was. Mine has ``Empress Organ'' in gold on the stop board, so using Fritz Gellerman's database I found one looking identical that was manufactured by Wm. Sames of Birmingham. Because of the name change to Wm. Sames Ltd. Reed Organ this probably dates from after 1900. It is virtually identical to this one (serial number 11568): This is RFG DB entry 3285.


Mark posted more information in the ROS Quarterly . His instrument carries serial number 11344 stamped inside the fretwork front beneath the keys. He now believes it to be from 1892 at the earliest, and possibly in the period 1895-1911. It was built for the pianoforte dealer and joiner Wm. Kenna Smith of 304 Rochdale Road, Manchester and 206 Regent Street, Salford, the business being established in 1874. The stops are Sub Bass 16', Diapason Bass 8', Piano 8', Octave Coupler Bass, Forte, Vox Humana, Forte, Octave Coupler, Echo 8', Diapason Treble 8', Vox Celeste 8' with the usual Grand Jeu and Forte knee swells.

Another Empress Organ appeared for sale in South Lanarkshire e-Bay *7455 in Oct'2020. No pipe top on this one but otherwise very similar.


List of stops given: Sub Bass 16', Diapason Bass 8', Piano 8', Bass Coupler, Forte, Vox Humana, Forte, Treble Coupler, Echo 8', Diapason Treble 8', Vox Celeste 8'

Lichfield Organ

An instrument was advertised mid-2007 on the Reed Organ and Harmonium Workshop site. ``Lichfield'' reed organ manufactured by William Sames Ltd. supplied by T. Sheppard, Goole. 5 octaves 10 stops. Working order apart from ``B'' first octave. Approx. 4ft wide and 5' 10'' high, including decorative top with mirror.

Mansion Organ

This Mansion Organ, which we provisionally attribute to Sames [to be confirmed] was advertised in July and Oct'2016 by a vendor in Harwich.


Marlborough Organ

This one, e-Bay *0613, was for sale in Denbigh in Aug'2020. Unfortunately it has probably been scrapped.


Regent Organ

And now, here's the ``Regent'' model. This one appeared as e-Bay item *6073 from a seller in Brighton, Nov'2012. I was contacted by the new owner Tim Lloyd, a Luthier working near Brighton. It turned out that is was in rather worse condition than is evident from the photograph.


A similar one was item *9253 in Hinckley Nov'2013.

Another Regent Organ appeared on Chris Hampson's Web site in Sep'2020 from a seller in Combe Martin. It does not have the Sames label, but that of the seller Charles F. Hocking. It is also slightly different to the above.

Stops are: Bass Coupler, Diapason Bass 8', Piano, Forte, Vox Humana, Forte, Treble Coupler, Echo 8' Diapason Treble 8' Vox Celeste.



Instruments carrying the ``Salisbury'' name are also known.

Sandringham Organ

A few Sandringham Organs still exist. One was advertised as e-Bay item *2385 in Sep'2014 in West Yorkshire. Dimensions are 3' 9-3/4'' x23-14'' x4'2''h. It had serial number 13018 on the rear.

Another one in very good condition was *4478 advertised near Truro in Jan'2021.


Windsor Organ

The following picture of a Windsor Organ, a suction instrument with 8 stops, appeared on e-Bay *1244 in Sep'2010. It carries the name of James Haslings, Sheffield who was presumably the retailer. It measures 39'' x41'' x21''.


1M Vancouver, USA

This one appeared on a American auction site in July 2010. The label appears to say ``College''.


e-Bay *9697 1M2:2

This one appeared for sale in Letchworth Gardey City during July 2018. It has an unusual style of oak case suggesting a fairly late date of manufacture. It is a a very imposing piece with large rectangular mirror

Stops are: Sub Bass 16', Diapason Bass 8', Piano 8', Bass Coupler, Forte, Vox Humana, Forte, Treble Coupler, Echo 8', Diapason Treble 8', Voix Celeste 16'

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Premier Organ eBay *4027

Principal Bass 4', Bass Coupler, Bourdon 16', Diapason Bass 8' Piano 8' Forte, Vox Humana, Forte, Echo 8', Voix Celeste 8', Diapason Treble 8', Cello 16', Treble Coupler, Principal Treble 4'



A few other photos of Sames instruments in different styles are shown separately here.

More pictures.

For reference, other serial nos. of known organs are: 9171, 9700, 9990, 11568, 11847, 13886, 14792, 22794. Dates of manufacture are not known.

Rob Allan