The people involved in studying and documenting the history of the organ, its builders and players, are very well organised. The informational content and level of historical accuracy in their work is exemplary of any field of historical and social science research. As examples I cite excellent on line sources: the Freeman-Edmonds Database of British Organ Builders (DBOB); the National Pipe Organ Register (NPOR); the Union List of Reed Organ Catalogs; and the Reed Organ Society Database; Fritz Gellerman's Pictorial Database. Others include the Saltaire Museum of Phil and Pam Fluke (unfortunately closed in 2011), the Olthof Collection in the Netherlands and the Woodville Organ Museum in NZ. These sources of information are further described below, but we start with a brief introduction to the various types of instrument that will be examined.

For pitch notation used throughout this study, we defer to Percy Scholes' Oxford Companion to Music [173]. This states that ``old English organ pitch notation'' has CC=8', C=4', c=2', c'=1', c''=6'', and so on. This is similar to modern English organ builders' notation, but slightly different to the American notation. We will therefore use the convention that the bottom key of a modern 61 key organ manual of normal 8' pitch is refered to as CC, middle c is c and the top key is c3 or c'''. It could be argued that some departments (in particular the pedals) are not based on 8' but on 16' pitch and so on, but we shall also refer to the bottom pedal as CC as it typically pulls down the lowest CC manual key when couplers are in use.

The Seraphine

English reed organ production even precedes the harmonium. A seraphine in this context is a free reed organ using pressure wind and possibly of German origin where a similar instrument was known as the physharmonika. This was similar to a harmonium but smaller and of much simpler construction. It is described in Chapter 3. Free reeds had in fact been used in pipe organs in Europe since c.1780 and the sound producting parts were probably discovered in China by European explorers such as Charles Wheatstone who found examples of the Sheng (or Sho), a mouth organ with bamboo pipes used in religious rituals.

The Harmonium

A harmonium is a free reed organ of French origin, invented by Debain and patented by him in 1843 [43], although his first related patent was actually 9/8/1840. It is powered by pressurised air from treadles and bellows and has a distinctive folding case. It is characterised by the Expression stop, which isolates the air reservoir allowing the treadles to have a very important and direct control over the sound. It generally has a CC-c''' keyboard split into treble and bass registers at middle e-f.

Further history of these instruments, as far as can now be ascertained, was recorded by Arthur Ord-Hume in his book Harmonium [144] and more recently in a remarkable doctoral thesis by Michael Dieterlen [43]. For an extensive description of some of the earlier and more esoteric mouth blown free reed instruments which were the ancestors of the modern mouth organ and other Western instruments, see Pat Missin's Web site:

There are some larger instruments using pressure wind which do not fit the precise description of ``harmonium''. Ian Thompson refers to all such instruments as PROs (Pressure Reed Organs). In France they are referred to as ``Harmonium Monumental''. There are photographs in Dieterlen's thesis and there is a collection including some such large instruments maintained by amateurs in France, see There are also suction instruments which are very similar to harmoniums, even having the so called Double Expression. One such, a large 2M by Leibig, is currently in The Netherlands.

The next picture shows the back of my small 1M harmonium. This is by J. Baynton of Hackney, see Chapter 22. It shows the triangular feeders (bellows) at the bottom, which are worked by the foot treadles. Above them is the sprung reservoir, usually isolated by the Expression stop, and above that the wind chest and reed pan with the stop action pitmans visible at the rear. The pallets, which open holes in the reed pan over resonators under which are the actual reeds, are directly underneath the keys towards the front. All harmoniums follow this basic layout.

mine_1_back.jpg More pictures.

Follow the link to see more pictures of this Baynton instrument which show the order of assembly of the major components of a harmonium and how easy it is to dismantle for moving or repair.

The harmonium was strongest in France and Germany with relatively few English and Italian instruments, although a very popular English free reed instrument called the Concertina had been invented by Wheatstone c.1827. Wheatstone, Lachenal and McCann remain the only concertina makers of note to this day and these sought after instruments now command a high price, higher than most reed organs! The Italians later also excelled with the free reed Accordian (most had steel rather than brass reeds). Of course Accordians, Mouth Organs and Bandoneons were also produced in large numbers in Germany - the eastern European Bandoneon became a celebrated instrument in Argentina with the very popular tango orchestras of the 1920s. For more information on concertina history and technical details see or

The best harmoniums are French (Debain, Alexandre, Mustel and other) and German (Trayser, Schiedmayer, Titz, etc.), but there were quite a few made in England, albeit most with French reeds. There are also outstanding instruments from The Netherlands, Denmark, Northern Europe (Norway and Sweden) and Japan. Many of the brass reeds were made in Paris by Estève, see Chapter 32 but companies such as Alexandre made their own. Schiedmayer, Titz and Mustel made ``Art Harmoniums'' which, in addition to the Expression stop had percussion action on the first rank of reeds, double expression and many other accessories. There were also some by Bauer of London. These are very exciting instruments to play! Unfortunately there is a rather small specialised music literature of any real quality, and I'm not even going to write about reed organ music on this site!

English harmoniums were very well made and sturdy, just as well made as the German ones, but maybe lacking the aethereal quality (and mechanical complexity) of the later Mustel and Alexandre instruments. Here is the internal layout of a Stevens harmonium looking from the back with the top hinged forwards to show the reeds and wind chambers (reeds made by Estève). The reed pan and resonators are above.


Harmonium Stops

Harmonium manufacturers standardised their stop arrangements. I don't know who inspired this process, but it was probably Victor Mustel [79]. The Art Harmonium was the final stage of the process. The list below explains the arrangement which is found in harmoniums of every make, be it large or small. Arthur Ord-Hume [144] has an extensive list of stop names for both harmoniums and American style reed organs in an appendix of his book.

Forte Fixe
Metaphone (Met)
Prolongement (Pr)
affects the 12 lowest bass notes
Forte Expressif (0)
usually just a plain Forte, except in Mustel and other art harmoniums. These stops, when drawn, open two shutters, one belonging to the right half of the keyboard and one to the left, and placed above the reed box. By this a greater volume of tone is allowed to escape. These stops may of course be worked together, or separately; so that the tone may be increased throughout the entire keyboards, or on either half, as may be required.
Harpe Aeolienne (5)
a 2' pitch rank with two reeds to each note. There is not usually a treble counterpart as the reeds would be too small to make easily.
Basson (4)
Basson and Hautbois are a pair of stops of reedy tone split at middle e-f. They have a broadish tone of a slightly reedy character with a pitch of 8'.
Clairon (3)
Clarion and Fifre are a pair of 4' stops split at middle e-f. 4' pitch reeds with a light and shrill quality of tone, much thinner than Cor Anglais and Flute.
Bourdon (2)
Bourdon and Clarionet are a pair of stops split at middle e-f. Broad, powerful and slightly harsher than the Cor Anglais and with a pitch of 16'.
Cor Anglais (1)
Cor Anglais and Flute are a pair of stops split at middle e-f. Smooth, full and open tone of 8' pitch.
Cor Anglais Percussion (1p)
a percussion mechanism is activated on the Cor Anglais rank to give faster sound onset. The stop brings into operation a somewhat complicated mechanism like the action of the pianoforte, namely an arrangement of small hammers which, when the keys are depressed, strike the reeds. Percussions in bass and treble act on number 1 reeds.
Grand Jeu (GJ)
full organ. When this stop is drawn, no matter what stops are already out, or whether there be any out, every set of reeds in the instrument is brought into action.
Expression (E)
the Expression stop is the most important in the Harmonium. It switches off the air reservoir giving the player complete tone control via the treadles. When it is drawn, the air is driven directly from the feeders to the wind chest, without being stored in the reservoir. The effect of this is that every movement of the performer's feet tells immediately upon the tone. This gives him immense power of light and shade, as he may instantly change from soft to loud, or increase and decrease the strength of the tone to any degree he may think fit.
Flute Percussion (1p)
see Cor Anglais Percussion
Flute (1)
See Cor Anglais
Clarinette (2)
also sometimes called Clarinette, see Bourdon
Fifre (3)
See Clarion
Hautbois (4)
8', see Basson
Musette (5 or M)
this is a reedy 16' treble stop contrasting sharply with the Clarionet and sounding a little like a bagpipe chanter. It does not have a bass counterpart.
Voix Celeste (6 or C)
in the Mustel harmonium the Voix Celeste had two sets of reeds one tuned slightly above and one slightly below standard pitch (could be 8' or 16'). This small difference in pitch, which is not enough to be disagreeable, causes a faint waviness in the tone. Sometimes it makes use of the Flute reeds, then it is of 8' pitch, sometimes it uses the Clarinette reeds and is of 16' pitch. At times the Celeste is made complementary to a Vox Humaine which might then appear in the bass, at other times it is purely an independent half keyboard stop.
Baryton (7)
a 32' pitch rank with reedy tone heavier and broader than the Musette. There is no bass counterpart.
Harpe Aeolienne (8 or H)
similar to the Voix Celeste with two sets of reeds found in Mustel harmoniums. 8' pitch.
Forte Expressif (0)
Metaphone (Met)
Forte Fixe

Other stops which might appear include:

Vox Humaine (V)
see Voix Celeste above.
a 2 rank Voix Celeste
Dolce (sometimes 6)
this is either a diminutive of the Cor Anglais or a similar arrangement to the Voix Celeste and Vox Humaine with 2 sets of reeds slightly out of tune, one of which is the Hautbois. The other reed set has a similar tone.
Tremolo or Tremblant (T)
this is a mechanical arrangement by which a tremulous effect is produced on the tone, similar to the Celeste, but much more pronounced and not always desireable because it interrups the wind supply. The tremolo acts on the Flute reeds and sometimes on the Clarinette. Debain also used it in the bass.
Sourdine (S or 1)
this stop obtains a softened tone on the lower half of the keyboard. It usually affects one of the 8' stops in the left hand group, and is only available when drawn by itself as it just provides a reduced amount of wind to the reeds.
Jeux Doux (J)

Violoncelle (V)
an 8' bass stop found in Debain instruments
Saxophone (SP)
found in the bass of a Debain harmonium
Soprano (SP)
corresponding treble stop
Contre Bass (10)
found in the bass of a Debain harmonium

Violon 8' (10)
Schiedmayer bass
Dulciana 8' (9)
Schiedmayer bass
Harpe-Eoliene 2' (8)
Schiedmayer bass
Violoncell 8' or Basson 8' (7)
Schiedmayer bass
Violon 16' or Violoncell 8' (6)
Schiedmayer bass

Voix Celeste 16' or Cremona 8' (6)
Schiedmayer treble
Baryton 32' or Hautbois 8' (7)
Schiedmayer treble
Harpe Aeolienne 8' or Flageolet 4' (8)
Schiedmayer treble
Vox Angelica 16' or Viola 8' (9)
Schiedmayer treble
Saxophon 8' (10)
Schiedmayer treble
Prolongement 8' (11)
Prolongement 16' (12)

Manual Coupler
this stop is only found in instruments having 2 keyboards. When the stop is drawn the action of both keyboards is connected so that when the performer presses down the keys of the lower manual the corresponding keys in the upper manual are brought down also. Sometimes split between treble and bass. Also known as Copula. Very rarely it couples the lower manual to the upper, e.g. on some Mustel models.
Double Expression
The object of this stop is to equalise the pressure of wind on the reeds, so that the tone may be kept at a uniform strength no matter how the blowing may be varied. The sound can be increased or decreased at pleasure by pressing levers with the knees.

The knee levers are found in most harmoniums and also American organs. Sometimes there is only one, put into operation by inward pressure of the right knee and shut off by inward pressure of the left. This is however un-comfortable. In most cases the single knee lever is pressed outwards by the right knee and when the pressure is withdrawn it shuts itself off by means of a spring. Single knee levers generally bring on the full power of the instrument. When there are two knee levers it is not uncommon to find the one on the right used as just described, whilst the one on the left opens the shutters of both Forte stops. By being pressed slowly outwards the left lever is capable of producing a noticeable swell effect - the shutters being made to open gradually, which cannot be done by means of the Forte stops. Both knee levers are in some instruments made to serve this latter purpose of swell, then each lever acts upon its own half of the keyboard. A lever for the heel of the performer is also sometimes employed for the purpose of bringing on the full power of the stops.

Some of this information is taken from Edwin Malkin's useful little book [136] and some from J.C. Grieve's chapter on the harmonium in the New Musical Educator [97].

The arrangement of the reeds is also standardised - remember the picture of the Stevens instrument above? Ranks 1 and 2 appear at the front and 3 and 4 at the back as their numbers might imply. The front organ would usually also have the second treble rank for the Voix Celeste. In a single manual instrument there would typically be two sets of pallets, one set for the front and another set for the back organ. This leads to a simple and natural split for 2 manual instruments. The result is that the lower manual (or indeed the only manual in smaller instruments) has Bourdon, Cor Anglais, Flute, Clarionet and the upper manual has Basson, Clairon, Fifre, Hautbois. Larger instruments would have rank 5 and also the Musette and Baryton as solo stops in the back.

The stops of the Stevens harmonium are:

Dolce 8'
Dble. Diapason Bass 16'
Diapason Bass 8'

Grand Organ

Diapason Treble 8'
Dble. Diapason Treble 16'
Voix Celeste 8'
Octave Coupler 

There is a single knee lever.
pressure gauge showing ``soft - increase - loud''

The stops have been given English names, but follow exactly the same pattern as above, except the Octave Coupler which is very unusual in harmoniums but a feature of American organs (suction powered as described below). In some instruments the felt behind the stop knobs was coloured to distinguish them, but most performers would be expected to know the standard configuration and numbers.

Kunst Harmonium

We note the special German name ``Kunst Harmonium'' (meaning Art Harmonium) is given to the best quality larger instruments. This was designated by S. Karg-Elert for a large 24 stop harmonium which he took with him on recital giving tours. Many were made by Mustel in France. His instrument was made by J. Titz in Germany, but the specification (actually that given in the description of stops above) resembles that of the larger Mustel organs and several others.

Pete and I had a large 2M Schiedmayer harmonium from c.1880 in 1973 which was very similar to the one shown in the next picture. This was a massively made instrument but fantastic to play with light action and expressive bellows. My great respect for the best 19th Century harmonium builders started with this instrument.


The specification of our 2M/4:6 was: Tremulant, Sourdine, Forte, Bassoon, Clarin, Dolce, Bourdon, Cor Anglais, Percussion, Grand Jeu, Copula, Expression, Percussion, Flute, Clarinette, Voix Celeste, Flageolet, Hautbois, Forte, Musette, Tremulant. Front ranks are played from the lower manual and rear ranks from the upper.

The Reed Organ

Reed organs, for the sake of this study, are usually free reed organs powered by vacuum (suction), often referred to as ``American organs'' because most originated in the USA. They are also often refered to as ``pump organs'' on all continents. Ian Thompson refers to them as SROs (Suction Reed Organs). The story is that an employee of Debain invented this kind of instrument, was not able to produce it in France and therefore emigrated to seek his fortune. We note however that there are some pressure instruments which cannot be classified as harmoniums (such as certain models of Aeolian Orchestrelle and the Vocalion) and there are also combined suction/ pressure instruments which we have listed as reed organs. We thus reserve the name ``harmonium'' for the original French style pressure wind instrument and use the name ``reed organ'' for everything else. Self playing instruments are covered in a chapter of their own, as are the more familiar of all types.

Reed organs have a completely different internal arrangement to harmoniums, and lack the ``Expression'' stop which does not work with vacuum wind for some reason. The single manual American organs typically have a range from FFF-f'' (F compass) with a split at B-c. The large and later English instruments were built as practice organs, so have a standard Royal College of Organists (RCO) recommended layout with CC-c''' (C compass) manuals and radiating CC-f 30-note pedal board.

American organs also have a different arrangement of stops, and are not simply suction variants of harmoniums. There is no reed pan, but a windchest having the pallets inside. Mounted on this is a stack of tubes into which the reeds are inserted from the outside. The tubes then act as resonators. The whole thing is covered by an arrangement of swells and shades allowing for the stops and tones to be varied. We should also note that partially stopped reeds do not work very well in Harmoniums (e.g. the Sourdine), so this is one reason why the American organ often has as greater richness of available sounds. American instruments equivalent to the later British ones fulfilled the AGO (American Guild of Organists) specification.

Some typical American reed organ stops are listed as follows. There is not really a ``standard'' arrangement, and the names vary quite a lot, but most manufacturers followed a similar practice. There is usually a Vox Humana (or Vox Jubilante) in the centre with Forte stops each side, then the speaking stops (bass on left and treble on right) and finally the couplers at each outer end. For more detailed information see Ian Thompson's treatise on the subject [197].

Bass Coupler
couples the bass register to keys one octave lower producing a pedal like effect if used carefully
Viola 4'
principal bass 4' stop
Viol d'Amour 4'
quiet stop derived from the Viola using a shade or partly opened stop
Diapason 8'
principal bass 8' stop
Piano 8'
derived from Diapason
Cornetino 2'
principal bass 2' stop
Harp Aeoliene 2'
derived from Cornetino, but possibly with a separate rank to produce a vibrato effect.
Sub Bass 16'
principal bass 16' stop
Diapason Forte I
Forte stop acting on the front reeds by opening their swell shades
Vox Jubilante
also often called Vox Humana, a mechanical ``fan'' regularly disturbing the air at the the back of the instrument in the treble so producing a kind of tremulant effect.
Viola Forte II
Forte stop acting on the back reeds by opening their swell shades
Cremona 16'
principal 16' treble stop, often called Bourdon and sometimes Clarionet
Grand Solo 4' and 16'
probably borrowed from Cremona and Flute
Violoncello 16'
a diminutive of the Cremona
Vox Angelica 8'
treble stop, might also be called Celeste and have a derivative Celestina
Dolce 8'
diminutive of the Principal, often called Dulciana
Principal 8'
principal treble 8' stop, also sometimes called Melodia 8' or Diapason 8'
Flute 4'
principal treble 4' stop, could have a diminutive Flautina
Treble Coupler
couples the treble register to keys one octave higher producing a bright effect for loud passages. It must be used with care because of the split at middle C.

The above is taken from the specification of an organ with 5 1/2 ranks of reeds by D.W. Karn and Co. of Woodstock, Canada who also sold their instruments in London. Pete and I had a smaller one in the early 1970s and it was a good instrument, I have many fond memories of Dennis Karn's organs. The smaller instruments were derived from a similar specification but had less stops and less reeds. These were very similar to the 1 manual instruments of Estey, Packard, Bell and other well known North American makers, but the order of the stops varied. Larger instruments could have up to 6 full ranks or reeds, three in front and three at the back split into 12 treble bass sets plus several derived stops.

There is also no real standard to the way the reeds are divided front to rear. Typically the more ``reedy'' stops are found in the rear and the more ``organ like'' stops in the front, just as in the harmonium. Often in a 1 manual instrument the principal 4' stops and secondary 8' stop (Vox Angelica) will be in the front, whereas the principal 8' and 16' stops in the rear. On 2 manual instruments the lower (Great) operates the front ranks and the upper (Swell) operates the back ones, this could be up to 5 ranks each. In bigger instruments anything is possible!

The next picture is of my 2MP Spencer illustrating the arrangement of keys with the Swell manual partly dismantled to show the pitmans which open the pallets inside the rear of the wind chest. The Great has a similar arrangement acting on the front of the wind chest. Couplers between the two manuals enable multiple pitmans to be depressed at once. This is exactly as in all American organs, although there were some much more elaborate arrangements, e.g. the Aeolian, the Vocalion and Gregorian (Hill, Mason and Risch), the Phonorium (Estey) and the Liszt Organ (Mason and Hamlin). Some organs even had pneumatic action as in pipe organs, such as the Aeolian Orchestrelle.


The second view is at the same stage of dismantling of my 2MP Spencer. The Great to Pedal couplers have had to be removed to access the Swell manual. It is actually quite difficult to maintain these instruments, as, not only do the pedal couplers over arch the manuals, but the keys are locked in place at the rear to prevent tilting. It is therefore completely impossible to remove a single key quickly. 1 The Apollo organ by Rushworth and Dreaper which was developed by Wallis Holt, see Chapter 21, was much more clever as well as having detachable keyboards had the pedal action fan levers made of metal and passing underneath the whole organ. Information was collected on Jason Fisher's excellent Web site which I am temporarily hosting here


Three manual instruments have a second upper sound board (or more in the bigger complex ones). The third Solo manual of the Spencer models has centre pivoted keys and rear trackers to carry the action to the top. I didn't understand why this soundboard wasn't simply inverted. Actually in the 2 manual Apollo organs, the Swell reed chest was inverted, so this clearly poses no problem. In the Holts it is not inverted, but instead there is a pivot which carries the Swell action to the upper soundboard and it has its own couplers on top.


This photo shows the complexity of the stop mechanism, the upper soundboard and the tremulant box on the RH side.


My drawing shows the arrangement of the large pedal reeds in these instruments which have their own sound chest behind the air reservoir just visible in the previous photos. The photograph is from a dismantled Apollo showing the Open Diapason 16' chest with front panel removed. This is higher up in the case just behind the Great manual. There is also a photo of the bottom octave of reeds. The external pallets are raised by the vertical trackers which also serve for the Great-Pedal coupler action. There is a resonating chamber and swell shutter above the reeds and there is an air valve underneath the chest (not shown).

crane_pedal_fig.jpg pedal_chest_small.jpg pedal_reeds.jpg

Note that the pedal pallets are now outside the wind chest rather than inside, but each read has its own resonating channel. The next picture shows some of the 32' pedal reeds from a Holt organ, the longest being 6-1/2 inches. Most reed organs don't have reeds this big!


You will by now guess that I am mainly interested in the larger reed organs as there is little new to say about the smaller ones, being really just copies of the best American organs described by Jules Duga, Arthur Ord-Hume, Fritz Gellerman and others [50,144,84]. Large reed organs usually have some form of tracker action, like the many pipe organs, and are therefore very sensitive to temperature and humidity. They really require a stable environment and do not like being moved.

Arrangement of Soundboards

[list possible arrangements, dimensions and some examples]

Some Large Instruments

The following table, in the style of many pipe organ Web sites, lists the ranking of reed organs in terms of sheer size, i.e. number of reeds. Nothing below 13 ranks is listed (with one exception). As far as I can ascertain these instruments were actually built at one time but many have now vanished as explained elsewhere. You will see that most of them are of UK origin, although there are a few American built Vocalions (the design was developed in the UK) and one French instrument on the list. Please correct me if you know of any that are missing.

Maker Location/ Serial Year Manuals Stops Ranks Reeds
Sawyer     3MP or 4MP 92 85 5,090
Sawyer RFG-1730 1919 3MP or 4MP 79 70 4,444
Sawyer same?     4MP 65 3,805
Sawyer   1902 4MP 40 30?  
Holt Islington Exhibition 1896 4MP 45    
Holt   1938 4MP      
Sawyer RFG-1731   3MP   27  
Holt for M.Conway 1938 3MP 41 27 1,461
Holt for S.Holmes 1937 3MP 39 27 1,461
Debain         25:25  
Mason and Risch Pisa, Italy, 3114 1898 3MP 36 24 1,280
Holt Edinburgh War Hospital 1916 3MP      
Bauer   1869 3MP 40 24 1,426
Bauer Philadelphia Exhibition, USA 1876 3MP 40 22:23 1,365
Holt Otaki College, NZ, 1479 c.1926 3MP   23  
Holt Hillegom, Netherlands   3MP   22  
Vocalion?     3MP   23  
Holt Netherlands 1921 3MP 30 20  
Roberts     3MP 28    
Holt Netherlands   3MP   20  
Holt Netherlands   3MP   20  
New York Church Organ Co.   1888 3MP 26? 18 960
Humphreys     3MP 30 17 1,000?
Holt Masonic Temple, Erdington   3MP   15  
Holt M. Conway 1935 2MP   18  
Vocalion Manassas, VA, USA, 1960 1893 2MP   17+2  
Vocalion Springfield, IL, USA, 1006 1892 2MP   17  
Vocalion Wellesville, USA, 1970 1893 2MP   17  
Vocalion Radnor, PA, USA 1896 2MP   17  
Vocalion Springfield, IL, USA, 2829 1895 2MP   17  
Vocalion Springfield, IL, USA, 5753 1905 2MP   17  
Holt for S.Holmes 1934 2MP 23 17  
Vocalion Townshend, VT, USA, 4680 1906 2MP   16  
Holt Lind Road Methodist   2MP   15  
Holt Germany   2MP   15  
Hillier Paris Exhibition 1878 2M 25 13 793
Kelly London Exhibition, Saltaire, now EMCOA. ROS-406 1862 2MP 34 12:13 764
Humphreys Cambridge   1M 58 18? 1,100?

What makes these Organs English?

When did the English reed organ diverge from its American counterpart? I think this was quite late. Holts were producing organs from c.1910 onwards to comply with the Royal College of Organists (RCO) recommendations for console layout. Others, like Hill, Sawyer, Stevens and Spencer were doing similiar things and some continued building very large reed organs until the '50s and '60s. There is a fascinating little book by H.F. Milne [140], written as a practical guide for craftsmen with instructions for making, including chapters on tuning and voicing, etc. This was written in 1930 well after the hayday of reed organ production in England. It contains a suggested specification for a 2MP/9 instrument as follows:

2x 61 note manuals
32 note pedals

Great:                        Pedal:
Open Diapason 8'              Open Diapason 16'
Clarabella 8'                 Bourdon 16' (derived)
Stopped Diapason 8'           Bass Flute 8'
  or Dulciana (derived)
Principal 4'

Swell:                        Couplers:
Double Diapason 16'           Swell to Great
Gamba 8'                      Great to Pedal
Oboe 8'                       Swell to Pedal
  or Horn
Gemshorn 4'
  or Flute

balanced swell pedal

This interesting and modern specification, with English stop names then in vogue, included a 32 note pedalboard with an 8' stop, and had the 16' stop in the Swell department which is more useful than on the Great. It however lacks a Great or Swell Octave coupler which would also have been useful and simple to fit. It is doubtful if a reed organ of this specification was ever built. There are also specifications for a 1M and 1MP instrument along similar lines.


In considering the specifications of the larger instruments shown later on this site it is worth bearing in mind that these are not pipe organs. Relatively more low pitched stops will be found, and not only because the corresponding pipes are expensive, or because it is hard to make very small reeds so only rarely is a 2' pitch reed organ stop found. Marmaduke Conway in his 1935 article [37] explains this: In actual registration, one or two points are worth noting. First the use of 16' pedal stops un-coupled is not only possible but often desirable. Free reeds are so strong in overtones that in a quiet passage enough 8' tone is generated by the un-coupled 16' reed without adding the manual to pedal coupler. Secondly, for the same reason, 16' stops can be used somewhat more freely on the manuals than on a pipe organ. They are best avoided of course in contrapuntal work, but in chords they often secure a good balance of tone together with the 8' stops. Care must be taken that they are not voiced too heavily - a common failing in reed organs. The use of 16' stops on the manuals opens up many possibilities in playing Bach's Trios etc. in which, provided we have the full 61 note manual compass, we can draw a 16' stop on the manuals, couple it to the pedal (no pedal stops drawn) and then play with the RH part on the 16' stop an octave higher. Bach does not write above c'', so we shall never find the manual compass insufficient. On a pipe organ this effect is seldom good, but on a reed organ it is often excellent.

Dr. Conway had an important input to the design of the later organs by John Holt, as is explained in Chapter 10.

There is also a plea for an advance on the standard construction methods give in The Organ of January 1949 by Alan Douglas [46]. I am a taking the liberty of re-producing the whole article here because it makes explicit many issues and ideas which are only tacitly described later in my site.

The historical development of the [free] reed instrument has been fully covered by many writers. The form of instrument with which we are all familiar has remained substantially unchanged for forty to fifty years. It is interesting to speculate on the reasons for the extraordinary conservatism of the various manufacturers, even after making every allowance for the rather intractable nature of the free reed, and to consider what improvements could readily be made.

Broadly speaking, all [free] reed instruments - to use a generic term as a means of distinguishing them from the pipe organ - consist of one or more rows of vibrating elements, mechanically controlled from one or more claviers and attached to some form of soundboard. The vibrators are set in motion by wind under pressure or suction, supplied by any convenient means. Sets of reeds not required have their wind supply cut off by mechanical means.

Now the free reed, in which the tongue is able to oscillate through an aperture in the frame, is a device subject to known physical laws. It is perhaps redundant to say that its fundamental mode of oscillation depends on the ratio of its moment of inertia to its restoring couple, or, more simply, the relationship between its mass and its stiffness. The greater the weight the deeper the pitch; the stiffer the tongue, the more prompt the speech.

It is clearly easy to design reeds of any desired pitch, but pitch alone is of no interest; it is the timbre that counts. Here we have a very special problem. What happens when the reed vibrates? The wind is drawn over the tongue of the reed and through the frame. The sudden opening of the pallet valve causes the wind to take hold of the tongue and draw it down through the aperture in the frame. During this process the reed accelerates until the restoring force of the spring balances the pressure of wind. The accelerating force is dissipated, and, since the momentum of the tongue causes it to overshoot the equilibrium point, the spring gains some energy with which to return the reed against the stream of air. The tongue is now carried almost back to where it started from, when once again the spring loses power, the wind pulls the reed down, and the cycle starts over again.

It must be clear that the rate at which a reed vibrates up and down is not precisely the same at all points of its travel. This results in a non-sinusoidal waveform which produces and impure note. But unfortunately this is not all; the reed is much more flexible near the tip than at the base, because if it is regarded as a lever, the further one goes away from its base the less is the power required to move it. So that the tip of the reed moves faster in any one cycle than the rest of the reed, and waits longer at the point of reversal. (This does not apply to weighted reeds.) The non-uniform mode of vibration causes harmonics to be generated as well as the fundamental; many of these are quite high and the ear is particularly sensitive to high notes. For equal audibility at 2,000 cycles per second (for pure tones) only one hundredth of the power of 64 cycles is required. Thus, the upper harmonics appear (to the ear) to be more powerful than the pitch tone. Many harmonics are often simultaneously present, true and tempered, concordant and dissonant. There is no means of selective filtering to remove unwanted ones, all must sound together.

While, however, the tip of the reed is vibrating fairly freely in the aperture, the edges of the reed are building up a considerable pressure along the narrow slits in the sides of the frame. This acts as a brake and tends further to restrict the bulk of the reed from moving, so that even more prominence is given to the tip movement. The sides of the reed are stiffened relative to the centre so they become more rigid; in this condition they will have a very complex mode of vibration, some transverse vibrations being set up across the reed as well. Since the length in this plane is short, such vibrations will have a very high frequency. Where the side pressure is reduced, as by undercutting the frames, the transverse vibrations are less and the tone is smoother. All these factors contribute to the characteristic snarling tone of the free reed.

The voicing of reeds is carried out, within such limits as are possible, by treating the free end of the reed and by altering the ratio of width to length of the vibrating tongue.

Another limiting feature of standard reeds is the power output. This is due to two factors; first, the custom of mounting reeds so that they fall within the key scale; secondly, the use of inefficient soundboards or other means of causing the vibration of the reed to be coupled to the surrounding air. It has long been a source of amazement to the writer that reeds are so small and so poorly mounted. A good reed organ is not cheap, but the technique necessary to produce a cheap instrument is always repreated in the more expensive makes. A small reed cannot move much air, and if this is so, then it cannot transfer much energy to the air. There is no reason at all why the reeds should not be much larger and better spaced out. Even in the meanest pipe organ, a roller or fan movement is provided in the action. The cost of such an organ often does not exceed that of a medium size reed organ, although every part is relatively more expensive.

No vibrating system can impart any energy to the air unless there is some effective means of coupling it thereto. The method of mounting reeds close together entirely negatives the effect of the soundboard at medium and low frequencies. All reeds from middle C downwards should have large sounding boards and a special soundboard is necessary for the lowest octave. This is not difficult to achieve if the reeds are mounted vertically, adequately spaced, and of sufficient scale. For many years reed banks gave been buried in the interior of the instrument; this is quite wrong, and is analagous to having a pipe organ with the swell box always closed. Reed banks should be mounted vertically and above keyboard level. Proper enclosure of these units in a louvred chest with heavy shutters produces a surprisingly good effect, and, of course, the accessibility is much improved.

A far as the tonalities of the reeds are concerned, the complex harmonic development which exists naturally lends itself to the production of true reed tones quite well; there is little difficulty in producing oboes, clarinets, trombones, etc., of quite good character. It is the production of smoother tones which presents difficulty. Since all the generated harmonics must be present, the only way to eliminate unwanted ones is by some sort of filter or dissipative device. Elaborate techniques have been evolved to remove bands of frequencies by acoustic filters, but the design of any form of reed organ makes them difficult to apply. In the case of extremely quiet stops, muffling by thick felt or rock wool can be effective over most of the pitch range. But for the more powerful stops some form of resonator must be applied. By proper design of this, the fundamental resonance may be as much as fifty times the power of the remaining tones, so that the pitch note is greatly augmented.

Many attempts have been made to attach resonating tubes to reeds, generally of an inadequate nature. But if there is vertical mounting of the reeds, and they are a reasonable height, it is quite possible to fit stopped resonators of full length, possibly mitred. A rearrangement of some reeds will permit of horizontal tubes. They should be made from soft wood, which tends to reduce the upper harmonic development owing to its high damping capacity and the reduced rate of transmission in comparison with metal.

It is admittedly difficult to secure good 16' tones, usually only the upper harmonics are heard, whilst the ear obligingly supplies the missing pitch note. But in a fair sized instrument stopped pipes of full length can be accommodated quite well. More than one reed of the same pitch can be attached to each tube to increase the power. It should be noted that if true resonators are fitted the wind pressure must be fixed and quite steady. The open free reed is independent of change in pressure because it has no coupled tuned resonator, which, of course, can only respond to one band of frequencies.

It has long been the custom to make reeds from hard rolled or cast brass. Other materials offer scope for investigation. Brass is most readily attacked by sulphur compounds in the air, which are always present in industrial areas. It is also a material subject to fatigue, which causes embrittlement and consequent cracking in time. Steel can be very effective and produce excellent string tones. Beryllium-copper can be voiced to produce smooth tones and is quite the most resistant material to fatigue. Synthetic resin makes very fine scale reeds of delicate tone. A thin plating of cadmium on reeds makes them corrosion resisting and reduces friction in the air stream.

The customary form of mute employed in exhaust instruments is very primitive. Sliding mutes are most effective, use no springs, and permit pistons to be used. Pallets operating on the ends of the reed cells instead of underneath allow of a much lighter touch and are very suitable for vertically mounted reeds. Metal can be used much more extensively for action work; if silver steel or duralumin rod is run through graphite bushes, a silent, strong and self lubricating action results. This is far more effective than felting and remains in permanent adjustment.

More than one wind pressure is often desireable, and since modern instruments are electrically blown, fan tremulants worked by small synchronous electric clock motors are a great advance on wind motors. To be effective, these should operate in a flat duct conveying the sound to the air so that the fan practically seals the duct in each revolution. A deep tremulant is thus possible. All complication accociated with the un-wieldy composition pedals can be overcome by using bowden wire cables.

The nomenclature of stops merits some consideration; for too many years the most absurd titles appear on the controls. The writer has seen ``tuba mirabilis'', ``ophicleide'', and other pipe organ tonalities featured on these reed instruments, quite apart from the strange terms exclusive to the reed organ which mean nothing at all. Surely some more satisfactory names could be given to the speaking ranks. Divided ranks should be abolished except possibly in single manual instruments.

The reed organ can be a pleasant instrument in the home, and has undeniable advantages for the small church or for practice purposes. The pipe organ is almost unobtainable at the present time, and the electronic instrument, on a comparative price basis, is not yet wholly satisfactory. Reed organs with electro pneumatic action and other modern features are made, but the tracker instrument could be made quite satisfactory at a reasonable price if a little attention were paid to the foregoing observations. Stagnation in design can only result in discredit to the industry.

Of course these observations were correct, and partly addressed in the Vocalion and instruments derived from it such as the Aeolian Orchestrelle. See Chapter 7.

Let's now give some information about a modified American style instrument built by enthusiast Michel Jacot who later built some new organs, see Chapter 24.67. Over the years I rebuilt my Mason and Hamlin. It had a fine tone, but lacked brightness. The Great was 16/8/8 and the Swell 8/4, the Solo was OK with 6 sets of reeds and I think that I added a proper valve tremulant. I made a unit organ division for the Great and Pedal with electric action. This gave me 4' and 2' on the Great and 4' on the Pedal which originally had 32/16/8. The Swell was also enlarged into 2', giving in total on the Swell 8/8/4/2' and 16' (treble). All this work resulted in a very jolly noise indeed! Many completely different tone colours and complete choruses in all departments. I really don't know today just how I managed all this, but I suppose that I was younger and full of energy! The organ went with us to Evesham, but was eventually sold to a prep. school near Guildford. I installed the organ for them and they were very pleased with it. I seem to recall that after the installation I heard no more from them. I suppose that somebody was found to look after it as it was large, complex and not easy to keep in trim, especially for somebody who had not built the thing.

In the USA the electro mechanical organ (the Orgatron) had been invented by F.A. Hoschke and B.F. Meissner and the principle used to produce these organs by Everett, WurliTzer, Estey, Gulbransen, Ketterman, RadaReed, Hallman in Canada and others. They had low vacuum or pressure free reeds used only to provide the original source of oscillating current, but had electronic amplification and variation of the wave envelope to provide the sound through loud speakers. I do not know of any British makers who used this principle, although quite a few were experimenting with electronic sounds from thermionic valves and amplifiers, e.g. the John Compton Organ Company who invented the Melotone and used it in their cinema organs.

Organs by Holt and Sawyer were bespoke and therefore mostly built to order. Pneumatic action, as in pipe organs, was used in English and American instruments as also in the Orgatrons and earlier self playing pianos and reed organs. Others by manufacturers like Imperial, Rushworths, Spencer and to a great extent Stevens were built as practice instruments for players of pipe organs.

There do not appear to be any custom built large American organs of the later period, except perhaps the Aeolian, although there were many known models which retained their console configurations of just a few years before, from Estey, Mason and Hamlin, Storey and Clark, Karn, Chase, Dominion, Farrand, Goodman, Seybold, Warren and others. These differed from the accepted British pipe organ layout. Some very large instruments had been built earlier by Vocalion (Mason and Risch) and Mason and Hamlin and others and had very advanced specifications. The English ones later arguably dominated in terms of quality, style and specification - but only a very few found their way to the USA. The imaginative names of some of the English reed organ models are shown in the table below.

Name: Manufacturer: Period: Comments:
Aeolophon J. Storer c.1851 type of seraphine
Aberdeen Organ     Metzler label
Albaphon A.J. Spencer 1855-1963 sold by Albert Wagstaff
Albany Organ E. and W. Snell 1864-1907  
Angelus Organ      
Annexe piano-organ E.J. Spencer    
Apollo Organ Rushworth and Dreaper 1910-39 2MP practice organ
Balmoral Organ Wm. Sames    
Bristol Organ J.W. Punter and Co. 1883-1924  
Bristol Organ J. Jones and Co. 1884-90  
Brookley Organ Green and Savage 1878-1921  
Burlington Organ Wm. Sames    
Carpenter Organ A.R. McClure   enharmonic organ
Castle Organ Wm. Sames    
Cecilian Organ H. and R. Brastead unknown  
Chancel Organ J. Hillier up to 1903  
Chordalian Organ J. Jones and Co. 1884-90  
Chorister Organ J. Cooper and Co. 1883-1906  
Clarabella Organ F.C. Carter 1871-91 clarabella stop
Clarabella Organ C.E. Hale c.1903  
Cleveland Reed Organ E.J. Spencer    
Colonial Organ Wm. Sames    
Cottage Harmonium J. Spencer Dane c.1875  
Cottage Organ Humphreys c.1894  
Cremona Harmonium Metzler and Co.    
Cremoniene Pexton 1844 seraphine
Crown Organ J. Hillier up to 1903  
Eclipse Organ Wm. Sames    
Endsleigh Organ James Humphreys 1867-35 2MP, 3MP
Empress Organ Wm. Sames    
Euterpe Organ A.R. Downs    
Gloucester Organ      
Gothic Harmonium T. Liddiatt    
Handel Organ J.W. Punter   1M/2 1/2
Haydn Organ J.W. Punter   1M/1 1/2
Hepworth Organ Jenkinson and Co.    
Ideal Organ Wm. Sawyer   1MP-4MP
Leeds Organ Wm. Sawyer   2MP
Lichfield Organ Wm. Sames    
London Organ J.W. Punter   1M/1 1/2
Malcolm Organ J. Malcolm   1M sold by Murdoch and Murdoch
Mansion Organ      
Mechanic's Harmonium H. Smith 1867  
Melody Solo Melody Organ Co.    
Minster Organ G. and A.J. Spencer 1855-1963 1M, 2M, 2MP sold by Crane and Sons
Mozart Organ J.W. Punter   1M/2
New English Harmonium W.E. Evans c.1864 2MP
Normal Organ J. Holt   2MP, 3MP
Oberon H. Smith    
Orchestrophone J. Hillier 1878 2MP
Orgapian Whomes   combined organ and piano for silent films
Phoneon J. Malcolm 1898 self playing organ
Pioneer Organ J. Holt   2MP-4MP
Pioneer Organ Pioneer Organ Co. up to 1906  
Pianorgan Imperial Piano and Organ Co.   combined piano-organ
Premier Organ J. Malcolm    
Premier Organ Wm. Sames    
Regent Organ Wm. Bogg and Sons 1878-96  
Regent Organ Wm. Sames    
Sandringham Organ Wm. Sames    
School Harmonium W.E. Evans c.1864  
Stanley Harmonium T. Liddiatt    
University Organ G. and A.J. Spencer 1855-1963 2M, 2MP, 3MP sold by Crane and Sons
Vocalion Wm. Hill and Sons   2MP, Baille-Hamilton and Smith patent
Villa Model      
Vivatone Organ H. Smith    
Windsor Organ Greenwood, Wm. Sames    
Worcester Organ      

A 3MP University Organ under wraps is shown next (I bought this one from Charles Birkin in 2001). How many more are still waiting for new homes?


I have to admit that I am still intrigued by the very last of the American instruments which bridged the gap between reed organs and electronic organs, Everett, WurliTzer, etc. - they had great potential, being a mix of traditional suction or pressure reed organ, with high pressure player piano pneumatics and electronic amplification and sound forming circuitry. Unfortunately they just missed their niche and very few were produced, and even fewer are now in working order. They were probably too expensive to produce compared with other technology. Pete and I owned an Everett Orgatron STM-1 in 1975 which un-fortunately had been stored for a long time in a damp shed and turned out to be not restorable, at least not by us at that time.


This instrument had 5 full ranks of free reeds: Melodia 8-2-2/3 73 notes; Viola 8; Viole Celeste 8 (TC); Diapason 16 (TC)-8; Sub Bass 16-8 (pedal). The full specification is as follows:

2x 61 note manuals
32 note pedals
swell pedal
combination crescendo pedal

Pedal:                             Great:
Sub Bass 16' F                     Diapason 8'
Sub Bass 16' MF                    Melodia 8' F
Bass Flute 8' F                    Melodia 8' MP
Bass Flute 8' MF                   Viole 8' F
Great to Pedal                     Viole 8'MP
Swell to Pedal                     Flute d'Amour 4'
                                   Quint 2-2/3'
Swell:                             Chimes
Horn Diapason 16' TC               Swell to Great
Melodia 8' F                       Echo on Orgatron off
Melodia 8' MP                      Echo on Orgatron
Quintadena 8' (synthetic)
Viole 8' F
Viole 8' MP
Viole Celeste 8' F TC
Viole Celeste 8' MP TC
Flute d'Amour 4'
Nazard 2-2/3'
Oboe 8' (synthetic)

It was built by the Everett Piano Co., New Haven, Michigan USA and is believed to have been installed in a cinema in USA c.1937. It carried Pat. no.2015014 Sep'1935 and Serial no.6650 or S91005. I have lots of photos including the reference manual if anyone is interested but quality is quite poor. For description of Hallman electrostatic reed organs see Chapter 26.

We still have many mysteries to solve and much more history to investigate in order to understand all about the reed organ manufacturers and the instruments they built. As a example of a possible ``lost treasure'' and how difficult it is to do the research is a note sent to me by Geoffrey Morgan I have a set of ``Musical Opinions'' running from about 1928 to the mid 1980s. When browsing through these one day, I came across the description and photograph of a very large (I think 3) manual and pedal reed organ, with handsome, modern drawstop console, and all with pneumatic action. It had many rows of reeds and was in a house. It must have been on suction, and I think it was somewhere in London, but I can remember no other details. Without trailing right through these back numbers again, I cannot locate this article, as M.O. has no index, so this could take days!
I remember alerting Pam Fluke to this organ at the time, but it was new to her too.
Has anyone else seen this article, or can shed more light on such an extraordinary instrument, which must have been a definite one off?

This may have been the Sawyer instrument illustrated on the cover page.

Some British, French and US Patents

The following table lists some patents which are mentioned elsewhere in this book.

This table takes input from a number of sources, in particular the work of Michel Dieterlen [43] whose thesis lists the results of his extensive search in the French archives including BNF, the Bibliotèque National de France and INPI, the Institut National de la Propriété Industrielle. This reference list was last updated in 1995 and the French patent number are indicated by ``F''.

Further references were sound using the IPO's Espacenet Patent Search at Other input is from source listing American patents which are indicated by ``USA''. Other places to look are as follows.

Google Patents:
European Patent Office:
Canadian Patents Office:

Concertina patents are listed here:

Mainly US Organette patents are listed here:

Those not specially indicated below are from source of UK patent lists.

Date Number Patentee Comments
1802 1,530 Hopkinson organs and harmoniums
19/6/1829 5,802 Day and Münch Aeolophon and Seraphine substitution for pipes
19/6/1829 5,803 Wheatstone construction of wind instruments [the symphonium and concertina]
1833     Royal Seraphine
1836 7,154 Green and Wheatstone Improvememts to Concertinas, Seraphine
c.1836   J.F. Myers possible related to Aeolophon
20/7/1839 8,164 J.F. Myers and J. Storer Grand Double Aeolophon
1839   J.-H. Pape Seraphine ?
15/1/1840 F 10,118 Abraham Johnson Orchestron
1841 193 J.F.Myers and J.Storer Improvements to the construction of musical instruments, viz., piano-foetes, seraphines and organs
1842   T. Croger improvements to harmonium
8/2/1844 10,041 Wheatstone Improvements on the Concertina and other musical Instruments
9/11/1844 10,385 Daniel Chandler Hewit Percussion action
5/3/1845 F 631 O. Mitchell Coleman free reeds added to piano-forte
16/6/1845 F 1,403 John Rand free reeds added to piano-forte
1846   Mott Seraphine
27/6/1846   J. Storer percussion action
  4,098 Mott  
  11,180 Mott  
1846   J.-H. Pape Seraphine ?
1852   J.C. Blackwell Seraphine
    W. Dawes improvements to pianos and harmoniums
14/11/1853 2,634 H. Willis improvements to construction of organs and free reed instruements
17/7/1855 1,607 E. Barry transposing organ
1856 [1850?]   J.-H. Pape Seraphine
9/10/1856 2,370 J. and E. Shaw certain improvements in pianofortes, organs, harmoniums and other similar keyed musical instruments
30/5/1858 F 36,306 William Bentham improvements to harmoniums
5/10/1858 1,872 W.E. Evans reed starter ``improvements in harmoniums, concertinas, organs and other similar keyed instruments''
27/8/1860 2,066 R.A. Brookman on behalf of J.P. Pirsson (USA) Trylodeon
1861   E. Snell pedal point
1861   H.T. Wedlake lower wind pressure for bass reeds
27/4/1861 1,068 H.T. Wedlake improvements to harmoniums with two wind pressures
29/10/1862   W.E. Evans Improvements in apparatus for playing organs, harmoniums, pianos and other similar keyed instruments, and also improvements in reed musical instruments. (Provisional protection only)
10/12/1862 1,016 Blackwell Seraphine double action
31/7/1863   B. Johnson Combination of piano
30/9/1863   W. Clarice Combined piano and organ or harmonium
1864 2,493 H.T. Wedlake and F.J. Kitsell zinc pipes
1864   Dawes Melody attachment for reed organs
29/11/1864 1,800 Edmund Lea combined piano and harmonium
20/6/1865   W.E. Evans Organs and harmoniums, and similar keyed instruments, transposing keyboard
15/8/1865   W.E. Evans and C. Ralph Smythe (Lieutenant retired from Indian army) ``genouillerie'' to control pedal bass
7/12/1865 3,149 W.E. Evans Harmoniums, pianofortes, organs, and other similar keyed instruments
12/4/1864   R.A. Icemp Tuning the piano forte scale by means of twelve harmonium reeds
19/7/1864 1,800 E. Lea Combined piano and harmonium
15/6/1864 1,477 Wm. Dawes Soprano Coupler, air from one end (as in Casson pipe organ); 2nd edn. 8pp
1864   J. Gilmour harmonium improvements
12/5/1865 F 66,502 Ralph Smythe knee action for lowest octave
24/5/1865 F 66,601 Dawes and Ramsden expression and octave coupler
20/9/1865 F 68,384 Francis Peabody improvement to harmoniums
26/10/1865 F 68,746 John Hopkinson and John Whitelock improvement to harmoniums
11/5/1866 1,144 H.T. Wedlake improvements in the construction of harmoniums
27/2/1866 US 52,940 Wm. Dawes improvements in organs, harmoniums (soprano coupler)
1867 41 C. Kelly and C. Laurent swell action
9/11/1867 3,165 J.E. Castex combined harmonium and piano
1867 3,278 J.H. Pepper and S.F. Pichler improved apparatus and automatic figures capable of performing various gymnastic feats
10/12/1868 3,765 Wm. Dawes and E.A. Ramsden Double Bass Coupler; 5pp
26/6/1868 1,887 P. Fraye improvements to harmonium manufacturing
11/11/1869 3,251 J. Guesne combined pianoforte and harmonium
14/9/1870 2,479 S. Rolfe improvement to the construction of harmoniums
21/7/1871 1,750 J. Gilmour improvements to harmoniums and connected apparatus
18/8/1871   C. Wheatstone and J.M.A. Stroh A new musical Instrument
25/10/1871 2,857 (void) Geo. Camp improvements to the construction of harmoniums
12/12/1871 2,905 William Scantlebury improvement to harmonium mechanism
1871 3,353 James Leyster Courtice and Frank Webb improvements in that class of musical instruments called American organs
4/1/1972, 28/3/1872 UK 39, F 93,878 Charles Wheatstone and John Mathias Stroh Improvements Instruments with vibrating Tongues
1872   J. Farmer and J.B. Hamilton free reeds connected to strings
Apr'1872 UK 1,301 William George Kindred Breavington and Thomas Isaac Isaacs improvement to reed organ
15/10/1873 3,337 Wm. Dawes Practice organ; 10pp
13/1/1873 F 96,988 William George Kindred Breavington and Thomas Isaac Isaacs improvement to reed organ
11/2/1873 402 J. Thorneloe improvements to organs and harmoniums
1873 655 John Davenport Shakespear improvements applicable to harmoniums American organs and similar musical instruments
12/8/1873 F 99,185 J. Farmer and J.B. Hamilton free reeds connected to strings
1873 2,938 Auguste Théophile Rousseau and Charles Honoré Stevenot improvements in melodions or American organs
1874   Dawes Pedals
6/2/1875 452 and 453 H.C. Gouverneur improvements in reeds for harmoniums and other similar free reed instruments
1875 1755 Auguste Théophile Rousseau improvements in musical instruments known as American organs
1/12/1875 4,156 P.A. Claude improvements in the construction of harmoniums
24/12/1875 F 110,109 J.B. Hamilton, George Edward Wade and Richard William Okes Voisey free reeds connected to strings
1876 353 John Browning (an optician) improvements in the manner of connecting the action of the treadles with the bellows in harmoniums or American organs
4/5/1876 F 111,905, UK 611 Maria Procopé mechanism for tuning reeds
22/7/1876 F 112,883 Evans improvement to expression
9/8/1876 F 113,198 J. Farmer and J.B. Hamilton resonating wires on free reeds
22/8/1876 USA 181,490 H. Smith and J.B. Hamilton Improvements in Musical Instruments
7/11/1876 2,449 J. Robinson Combined piano and harmonium
6/2/1877 F 118,286 John Thom Wright (Glasgow) Combined piano and, harmonium or organ
1879 4,075 Green and Savage combined piano and American organ
3/12/1978 4,942 Hermann Smith reed for musical instruments
3/9/1879 ditto F 131,013 Hermann Smith reed for musical instruments
5/10/1980 ditto US 233,038 Hermann Smith reed for musical instruments
3/10/1879 F 131,849 James Backouse Bindloss, William Thomas Cheetham and William Lees blowing engine
21/4/1880 F 137,108 George Walter Turner and Charles Hanson Spaulding improvement to self playing instruments
13/10/1880   S. Crkaert Improvements in combination of harmonium, and similar reed instruments with pianoforte
10/3/1881   G. Green and C. Savage Improvements in combining harmonium and other similar reed instruments with pianoforte
27/12/1881 USA 251,562 W.E. Evans and R.W. Jarrett expression bellows for suction organs
30/5/1882 F 148,056 George Walter Turner mechanical harmonium
1/7/1882 GB 03,119 Joseph Mark Draper and James Bartholomew Draper Improvements to Organette
30/8/1883 F 155,392 J.B. Hamilton improvement to resonating chambres and percussion
17/5/1884 7,865 L. Pritchard Combined piano and harmonium
29/12/1883 F 155,649 J.B. Hamilton improvement to reed organs
1884 7,777 H. Smith and W.H. Riddell harmonium mechanism
14/1/1884 US 107,956 J.B. Hamilton and E.A. Ramsden reed organ
25/3/1884 US 295,868 J.B. Hamilton and E.A. Ramsden reed organ
20/8/1884 F 161,686 J.B. Hamilton improvement to free reeds, multiple tongues
7/7/1884 9,860 John Jones combined harmonium and American organ
16/12/1884 F 163,591 John Jones combined organ and harmonium
1885 2,625 H.T. Wedlake ``Eclipse'' pneumatic action
1885 2,666 H.T. Wedlake pneumatic pedal attachment
7/4/1885 4,304 John Jones combined harmonium and American organ
30/4/1885 5,043 Charles F. Cullum combination of pianoforte, harmonium and parlour organ
1885 13,069 J. Holt stop actions
1886 5,521 O. Böhmer and F. Thurmer (Germany) combined pianoforte and harmonium or American organ.
27/7/1886 GB 16,579 Alfred Maxfield organette with improved tracker bar
12/10/1886 US 350,623 J.B. Hamilton reed organ
12/10/1886 US 350,624 J.B. Hamilton reed organ
12/10/1886 US 350,739 J.B. Hamilton reed organ
24/5/1887 US 363,386 J.B. Hamilton reed organ
24/5/1887 US 363,388 J.B. Hamilton reed organ
29/7/1887   E.A. Locke pianoforte, organ, harmonium, etc.
19/9/1887 GB 12,670 Joseph Mark Draper Improvements to Mechanical Musical Instruments (Orchestral Organette)
18/10/1887 F 183,769 J.B. Hamilton improvement to resonating chambres
6/1/1888 GB 16,748 Alfred Maxfield improvements in mechanical musical instruments (Seraphone)
6/3/1891 F 209,713 J.B. Hamilton improvement to organs
2/7/1891 F 212,147 Annie Dixon neé Hull transposing keyboard
13/10/1891 US 461,242 J.B. Hamilton organ, pipe or reed organs
21/3/1892 F 218,211 J.B. Hamilton improvement to reed organs
12/4/1892 US 472,789A J.B. Hamilton improvements to reed organ
13/9/1892 GB 16,411 F. Mann, R.A. Mann and Thomas Dawkins combined reed or wind instrument and pianoforte
9/5/1893 F 227,834 Thomas Dawkins combined piano and harmonium
21/11/1893 US 509,232 F. Mann, R.A. Mann and Thomas Dawkins Musical Instrument
5/1/1895 GB 03,115 Samuel Jenkinson Improvements in or relating to Octave Couplers for Organs and Harmoniums
6/4/1895 GB 04,561 George Jones An Improvement in and connected with Portable Harmoniums
16/11/1895 GB 8,827 J. Wallis, communicated by M. Kasriel improvements in portable harmoniums
7/12/1895 GB 24,067 Robert Hope-Jones Improvements in Organs, Harmoniums, and similar Instruments
5/6/1897 GB 12,761 John Dickinson Brunton and Herman Smith Improvements in organs and like instruments in which free reeds are used
1/10/1897 GB 21,730 John Butterworth improvements in English Concertinas
27/5/1897 GB 13,021 Alfred Maxfield improvements in motors used in mechanical musical instruments
10/9/1897 US 588,067 Samuel Jenkinson Reed Organ
19/2/1898 GB 23,692 James Hillier An Improved Organ or Harmonium Attachment for Pianofortes
9/4/1898 GB 13,663 Ezra John Spence Improvements in and relating to Combined Pianofortes and Reed Organs
18/7/1899 GB 14,744 Howard melody coupler
4/5/1901 GB 09,824 John Holt Improvements in Coupler Mechanism for Organs and Harmoniums
17/8/1901 GB 18,132 James Randolphe Courtenay Gale Improved Apparatus for Controlling the Wind Supply and Pressure in Organs Harmoniums and the like
16/7/1903 GB 16,638 James Randolphe Courtenay Gale Improvements in the Construction of Free Reeds for Harmoniums and similar Musical Instruments
9/6/1904 GB 16,395 Samuel Howard An Improved Solo Attachment for Organs and other Musical Instruments
22/11/1906 GB 04,539 Samuel Howard Improvements on Melody Attachments for Pianos and Organs
21/2/1907 GB 18,262 George Taylor Improvements in connection with Reed Organ Attachments for Pianofortes
21/3/1907 GB 07,047 J.B. Hamilton Improvements in Reed Organs
1/7/1909 GB 17,136 J.B. Hamilton Improvements in Reed Organs
9/5/1912 GB 15,548 Henry Keatley Moore Indian Harmonium
18/2/1909 GB 8,989 S. Jenkinson Dawes coupler applied to suction RO
3/4/1915 GB 13,532 J.B. Hamilton Improvements to reed organs combined with pianofortes
17/1/1918 GB 112,527 J.B. Hamilton Improvements in Reed Organs
27/11/1920 F 515,637 J.B. Hamilton special reed vibrators
  358,297 Holt  
  22,378/14 Whomes and Sons  
28/5/1923 GB 215,206 Whomes and Sons Improvements in or relating to reed organs
unknown 13,611 label on rear of Malcolm Phoneon  

Sources of Information

There are now quite a few sources of information, although details of any specific maker or instrument are still very hard to come by.

World Expositions

The World International Exhibitions were the events where leading manufacturers showed their latest inventions and products to an enthusiastic public. These took place in several countries starting with the famous Crystal Palace event in 1851. Of course manufacturers showed their best, and in most cases specially prepared examples to the highest possible quality. In addition to identifying collection specemins, this also gives fantastic insight about which companies were active and the state of the art at the time of each exhibition. The full list can be see here: and the dates of the ones to which we make reference are as follows.

April-October 1851 - The Great Exhibition, London
May-November 1855 - Exhibition Universelle, Paris
May-November 1962 - International Exhibition, London
April-November 1867 - Exposition Universelle, Paris
1872 - London ?
May-October 1873 - Weltausstellung, Vienna
May-November 1876 - Centennial Exposition, Philadelphia
1877 - South Africa ?
May-November 1878 - Exposition Universelle, Paris
October 1880 - April 1881 - International Exhibition, Melbourne
April-December 1888 - Exposición Universal, Barcelona
May-October 1889 - Exposition Universelle, Paris
May-October 1893 - World's Exposition, Chicago
May-November 1897 - International Exposition, Brussels
April-November 1900 - International Exhibition, Paris
April-December 1904 - Louisiana Purchase, St. Louis

The London Gazette

The London Gazette is one of the official journals of record of the British government, and the most important among such official journals in the United Kingdom, in which certain statutory notices are required to be published. It is particularly helpful to find old notices of bankruptcy and other changes to companies that we are investigating.


Reed Organ Society Database (ROS DB)

This is an extensive database with over 4,000 entries of individual instruments which can be searched by maker's name or instrument type. See Everyone who owns a reed organ should register its existence for historical purposes; no private details will be disclosed. Do it now! There are currently 4,263 entries in the DB.

Michael Dieterlen's Thesis

L'Harmonium et ca Voix Céleste is a doctoral thesis in four volumes published by Presses Universitaires du Septentrion in 1996 [43]. It focuses critically on the fact that the harmonium, once widespread and used in religious and other settings, is rapidly disappearing and the best examples must be conserved. Especially some of the ``monumental'' French instruments are extremely rare.

Dieterlen aimed to make clear the sophistication, diversity and complexity of these instruments and their industrial, financial and social context. He included comments on musicality, performing technique and repertoire. Whilst his scope included principally the French manufacturers (and in some sense is the French equivalent of this Web site) some others were mentioned. It is a pity that copies of this thesis (now out of print) are very hard to find and consequently very expensive. There is no on line version (yet). In his words:

Sauvegarder l'Harmonium!

Michel Dieterlen died at the age of 84 on 4/6/2011.

Gellerman's International Reed Organ Atlas

This amazing book by Robert 'Fritz' Gellerman is packed with historical information and attempts to provide a complete list of all companies associated with reed organ production throughout the world [84]. This book may be available at your local library, or can be purchased from the author. See description and ordering information elsewhere on his Web site

Gellerman's Pictorial Database


This pictorial database is intended as an aid in doing research on reed organs. The information can be searched by the maker's name, model, or by the type of case, by doing a text search for a keyword or simply browsing through the database. References to dates are intended only to indicate that a specific model was in production in that year. Some models were produced for many years, so the dates are not definitive. Additional details will be found in Gellerman's International Reed Organ Atlas.

The pictorial and textual information in this database is provided on a non-profit, volunteer basis for general reference and educational use. Every effort has been made to obtain permission for use of copyrighted material and to give credit where required. If you find duplications or errors or have additional information or pictures to contribute, please contact Joop Rodenburg.

The main difference between this and the ROS Database is that the pictures may be historical and show instruments which no longer exist. Other pictures show personalities involed in the manufacture of reed organs and the factories in which they were made.

I was sad to hear that Fritz Gellerman had died on 24/6/2011; he was the inspiration for this work and we corresponded a number of times.

Database of the Netherlands Harmonium Vereniging

Web site currently has 425 entries.

De Orgelsite Netherlands

Information about many organs and harmoniums can be found by searching De Orgelsite NL Web site: However for many entries the existence of the instrument is recorded but there are no further details. Nevertheless this is a useful record of many photographs of instruments in situ.

Frans van der Grijn's Web site

Like myself, Frans is a member of the Reed Organ Society, and has been researching the history of manufacturers and some extra-ordinary instruments, mainly in Germany and The Netherlands. His extensive Web site is at URL and he can be contacted at (replace''_at_'' with ``@'').

Major pieces of research have so far un-covered information on the following manufacturers.

J.P. Schiedmayer -
Teofil Kotykiewicz -
Alfred Rinkowski - 1920-32
Mannborg -
Bauer -

Frans has in 2015 published a comprehensive treatise on the history and instruments of the firm Schiedmayer [96]. This is available via ``print on demand'', contact Frans as above.

Reed Organ Internet Mailing List

This list was maintained by Brian Styles in Cambridge. It was not directly associated with ROS, but many members usef it.

Brian also set up a mail list for people intested in the larger reed organs with pedals - primarily for those of us living in the UK.

Union List of Reed Organ Catalogs

This Web based list, also maintained by Robert `Fritz' Gellerman, originated from a discussion on a mailing list for RO enthusiasts of the possibility of making scanned images of manufacturer's catalogues available to the public. As a first step in that ambitious project the present list, when completed, will be a compilation of all known reed organ catalogue collections throughout the world. Many of the large collections are already included. Since this list is compiled from many different sources, the individual entries appear in varying styles and even different languages. It is also possible that there are duplicate entries for a single item.

The list can be found at Web site:

Anyone owning or knowing the location of one or more catalogues, price lists or similar publications is invited to add them to this list. If you do not want the owner's name or location to be published, please request that they be kept confidential.

A snapshot of the rather limited number of entries (as of early 2004, updated 2013-4) for English manufacturers is:

MMD Technical Library

An on line library of technical information for mechanical music and reed organ enthusiasts.


British Institute of Organ Studies (BIOS)

BIOS have produced a magazine called BIOS Reporter since 1977. Editions of this magazine, many of which are available on line at contain useful information about the archive work of BIOS and also useful snapshots of historical information. The actual BIOS archive, (the British Organ Archive, or BOA) containing the National Pipe Organ Register (NPOR) and the Directory of British Organ Builders (DBOB), is housed on level 7 of the Birmingham Central Library and is available for research purposes by appointment subject to certain conditions. A great deal of work has gone into analysing the BOA as part of the creation of the on line NPOR and DBOB registries. Some of this material is also available and updated quarterly on CD.

National Pipe Organ Register (NOPR)

Many builders are featured on the NPOR list with historical information and descriptions of the instruments they constructed or modified. It is a very extensive list, but focusses strongly on pipe organ information collected by contributors in a number of major surveys. A huge amount of additional information is also available from primary and secondary sources, many are collections of original workbooks and records from the builders and their agents. Other contributions and corrections are welcomed. See

Database of British Organ Builders (DBOB)

Information about the builders is on DBOB, the Database of British Organ Builders. Much information in our study was taken from this Freeman-Edmonds database originally containing data up to 1950. See under link ``DBOB''. This is an extensive on line archive with references to many original sources including an analysis of available census information. It is a definitive reference for anyone researching British organ builders.

The information is heavily based on census information published for 1851-1901. The database contains a short description of each person or family involved in organ building and, if they had their own firm, details of the location over its period of activity. Sources are the various census and additional business registries (e.g. Kelly's), plus other information from the archives of contributors such as Phil and Pam Fluke.

Julian Rhodes' Dream Organs

A lot of interesting information was contained on this Web site which included extinct, existing and proposed stop lists along with ``dream organs'' which were never built. Julian Rhodes died c.2001 and the site was for a while maintained in his memory. Julian was clearly sympathetic towards free reeds and I was told by Geoffrey Morgan that he owned an Apollo organ which is currently in a church in Oxfordshire. See the chapter on pipe organs with free reeds, Chapter 30.

Note Julian's original Web site is no longer on line, but had been archived by Brian Styles at the above URL. It will also be archived here soon.

Squeezytunes Blog Site

Blog site of Ivan Armsby, accordian player with Suffolk band, ``The Doons''. Web: takes a while to load!

UK National Archives

The National Archives of England, Wales and the United Kingdom has one of the largest archival collections in the world, spanning 1000 years of British history, from the Domesday Book of 1086 to government papers recently released to the public. In addition to its document collection at Kew the Archives acts as an on line clearing house to many sources of information throughout the UK, see Importantly this includes links to the 1871, 1881, 1891 and now 1901 census records.

West Sussex Organists' Association Millenium Survey

In the year 2000, the WSOA published a comprehensive survey of organs of all types in West Sussex [236]. Data was gathered by means of a questionnaire and every questionnaire returned (whatever the instrument) will be stored in the county's archive from the end of 2000. Some of these instruments turned out to be reed organs at the following locations: St. Mary's, Barlavington; St. Mary's, Binstead; St. Mary the Virgin, Burpham; Burton Church; St. Mary's, Chithurst; Coombes Church; Baptist Church, Tilgate, Crawley; private residence in Fishbourne; St. Andrew's, Ford; private residence in Graffham; Greatham Church; St. Botolph's, Hardham; St. Peter's Racton; Chapel of Ease, Sennicotts; St. Leonard's, South Stoke; Wigginholt Church; Wiston House, Wiston.

The Rev. Tony Newnham, who was brought up in West Sussex, has read this publication and told me that it covers some 95% of the churches in that region. Unfortunately there do not seem to be any UK built reed organs listed.

Encyclopaedia of Organ Stops

Starting in March 1999, Edward L. Stauff has produced what is certainly the most compete listing of organ stop names which have been used through the ages as noted in the many historical works on pipe organ building, see This is now under the sponsorship of IPORE, the American Institute for Pipe Organ Research and Education, Inc. It is a thorough piece of reasearch which is still ongoing as new material comes to light from the literature or is contributed by readers and is fascinating to browse.

This is an interesting Web site selling reprints of American patent specifications and copies of original drawings intended to be used as artwork, see Try the easy to use category invention index and free full-text search tool that helps antique collectors, history enthusiasts, and genealogy searchers find their patent on any topic or inventor worldwide. The site lists many reprints of US patents for reed organs, harmoniums and melodeons showing details of the action, bellows, cases and sound chests.

US Patents Office

If you go to the US Patent Office Web site ( you can view, download and print any patent you wish, free of charge. There are literally hundreds of organ, reed organ and free reed patents to wade through.

You can now access this archive via Web:

You either need to know the number of the patent you want, or search through all the US patents for a particular subclass of invention. The current US classification for reed organs is 84/351, but there are a string of related subclasses you might also want to search. Documents can be downloaded in PDF format with JPEG images.

If you wish to search for patents from other countries, we highly recommend the German patent office's Web site:

The European patent classes are less specific than the American ones, G10B covering organs and reed organs, with numerous subclasses. This site displays all the documents (including US patents) in PDF format.

Pat Missin

Some notes have been taken from harmonica player Pat Missin's informative Web site: This contains a very complete history and descriptions of the mouth blown free reed instruments from Asia leading up to the Western mouth organ (harmonica) and concertina.

Reed Organ Preservation Society of Australia

A number of British instruments including a Hill Vocalion were exported to Australia and also New Zealand, so this is probably relevant.

The ROPSA was formed in Melbourne in late 1979. In 1985 the society had about 20 active members and another 30 or so "interested parties". It held occasional meetings, and produced an excellent quarterly journal of about 20-30 A5 pages. The group's activities were suspended due to lack of volunteers some time in 1986.

The largest collection of reed organs in Australia can now be found at Albert Fox's Musical Village in Darnum, about an hour to the east of Melbourne. Albert's piano and organ business has taken him all over the countryside, and over the last 50 years or so he has brought home not only pianos, organs, and all manner of musical curiosities, but also old churches, halls, and cottages in which to display them. The Musical Village is well worth a trip if anyone is visiting Melbourne.

Further information on activites in Australia can be provided by John Wolff. Melbourne, Australia. Web:

We note that there was also a Reed Organ Society of South Australia: ROSSA.

Arbeitskreis Harmonium

German Web site and publications for harmonium specialists. Publications edited by Prof.Dr. Christian Ahrens, Ulrich Averesch and Stefan Grushka.

Specialists in England (and nearby)

Phil and Pam Fluke


Phil and Pam Fluke - Harmonium Museum, The Victoria Hall, Saltaire, near Shipley, Yorks. Web: Web site; E-mail: Unfortunately for a variety of reasons the museum closed to the public in 2011, but Phil is still restoring and hiring out instruments.

Founded in 1985, there were a lage number of instruments in the collection, including quite a lot of English ones. We do not show any photographs of them in these notes for copyright reasons, unless they have appeared elsewhere. Phil has an intimate knowledge of the history and workings of all the instruments in his collection. A short description of the museum was given by David Baker in The Organ number 326.

Phil Fluke is a serious collector and has a number of unique or very rare instruments. Some have changed hands since I started this Web site and no doubt more will do so now. Saltaire is still worth visiting for many other reasons if you are interested in industrial history. Note that the Saltaire museum is currently closed.

The Flukes made contact with R.F. Stevens, the last remaining UK reed organ builder in 1974. They met Charles Foster, then Director, many times. He was their guide and mentor in the early years as they developed their collection. When he finally closed up the factory, he gave them many things from the company, including a large amount of paper work, catalogues, advertising sheets and photos for the archive.

We are sad to report that the Saltaire collection was closed to the public as of 1/12/2011 and most of the larger instruments have since been sold and re-located. Restoration and hiring work has continued, see Phil can still be contacted via e-Mail:

Phil and Pam are now operating Harmonium Service, a musical instrument rental service. Mantra House, South Street, Keighley BD21 1SX; 07976 535980; e-Mail

Charles Birkin

Charles Birkin - Ruthin, North Wales. Web: Charles had restored and maintained reed organs in his spare time for many years. Despite selling most of his collection and spares, he still had an active Web site for sales of Harmoniums and American reed organs in 2005. This site was later sold to Paul and Chris Hampson and has been for sale again.

Paul and Chris Hampson

They now own and maintain the Web site at Information about any reed organs or harmoniums for sale or wanted should be forwarded to Please help continue this venture.

David Frostick

David is a pipe organ voicer with an interest in reed organs.

Mr. David Frostick,
8 Fairview Avenue, Stanford le Hope, Essex SS17 0DW

Brian Styles noted: David has voiced most of Birmingham Town Hall and St Paul's Cathedral, for instance. But he's latterly got quite keen on reed organs. I sold him a couple of Mustels as well as the Bauer. One was number 357 - a superlative black sloping top and the other another black sloping top but 2-man in a poor way. He's almost through doing a glorious restoration on that. His talents and his craft standards are wonderful with about 30 years in the trade as an organ builder.

Mark Jefford

A keen reed organ enthusiast and collector based in Lincolnshire. Mark is UK area representative for the Reed Organ Society and can be contacted by e-mail: Many thanks to Mark for his numerous contributions to this work.

John Sinclair Willis

John Sinclair Willis - formerly The Reed Organ and Harmonium Workshop, Smithy Steads, Cragg Vale, Hebden Bridge HX7 5SQ, W. Yorks. Tel: 01422 885846 Web: E-Mail: John was Managing Director of Conacher and Co., organ builders established in 1854, Web: They were famous for the Conacher theatre organs build in the 1930s. The firm were in their 30th year of harmonium and reed organ restoration and work on all makes of reed organ and harmonium. Clients included The National Trust, Museums, Private Collectors, Churches and Chapels and a University in central England.

John Sinclair Willis is a direct descendent of the famous Willis firm of Organ Builders which began with ``Father'' Henry Willis (b.1821-d.1901). The full story is told by Laurence Elvin in his fine book describing the history of organ building in England Pipes and Actions [60].

JSW sold his property which is now being re-designed for flats in early 2006. He has retired and moved with his wife Ruth to Bokkapuram in India.

Dr. Bruce Dracott


Bruce Dracott - formerley Cambridge Reed Organs, Newmarket, Suffolk. Web site:

Until 2005, Cambridge Reed Organs was an active business specialising in restoration of any type of free reed instrument. They had taken on some large and challenging projects for private customers, including full restoration of the ex. Marmaduke Conway 3MP Holt number 1554. This was previously in Phil Fluke's Saltaire collection. Bruce has saved some important instruments and brought them back into use.

Bruce is now retired and living in France. He told me: We are keeping for the time being, really just as a record of some of the stuff we've done, and we will occasionally add more pics, short articles etc.

Photos and sound recordings featuring Bruce's work are now archived here:

Rushworth and Dreaper

Rushworth and Dreaper - St. Anne Street, Liverpool L3 3DY. Web:; E-Mail: Rushworths ceased trading in early Nov'2002 and we were saddened to learn that Alastair Rushworth, 5th generation to head the firm after his father James Rushworth OBE retired in 1990, died in Australia on 23/2/2016.

What remains of Rushworths' business (and Willis, another famous pipe organ maker) was taken over by David Wyld. He can now be contacted at:

Henry Willis and Sons Ltd.,
Rotunda Organ Works, 72, St. Anne Street, Liverpool L3 3DY

Tel: +44 151 298 1845; Fax: + 44 151 207 5252; e-Mail:

John M. Page

John Page - has been working with pipe organs since 1976. Church organs were his first passion, but he soon got interested in mechanical organs and is happy working with either. Using traditional tools and materials, he is equally at home cone tuning metal pipes in a dusty organ loft, threading phosphor bronze wire for intricate pneumatic actions, or making pipes and actions for new organs. He can be contacted by e-Mail:

John is currently restoring an harmonium with the Cramer label.

Louis Huivenaar


Louis - is not in England, but an expert on many historical and technical aspects of pipe and reed organs, especially Dutch but also English ones:

Louis Huivenaar
Industrielaan 16a, 6951 KG Dieren, Netherlands
Member Federation TMV
Certified and Registered Valuer-Appraiser for Harmoniums and Reedorgans in Europe
Harmonium and reed Organ restorer, Pipe organ builder and restorer

Tel/ Fax: +31 313 412133;
Mobile: +31 653 117697;
Web: e-Mail:

Dominik Gückel


Dominik is an architect living in Stuttgart. He has a collection of musical instruments, now including several large English reed organs.

Dominik Gückel
Freier Architekt,
Siegloch und Partner,
Architekten und Ingenieure,
Schmidener Strasse 192,
70374 Stuttgart, Germany

W.N. Blakey and Sons

This firm of Neville Blakey in Brierfield near Burnley was mentioned to me by Francis Dunstan and also Brian Styles. They were involved in house clearances and had an interest in musical instruments. They had 5 or six Apollo's in stock some years ago and a large pipe organ across the end wall of their showroom. Blakey also took over a lot of stock from R.F. Stevens when they went out of business, including thousands of suction reeds. I learned that Neville Blakey died in 2009 and the remaining reed organs and stock have been sold to new owners.

Ivan Furlanis

Ivan works as a composer and organist in Italy and is interested in the history of the harmonium. I discovered Ivan's Web site in Oct'2013. It has some information about British built instruments. See I have since corresponded with Ivan who lives in Italy. In addition to collecting information, he gives recitals and composes for the organ (some compositions on the Web site).

He told me: I thought to write something about Italian harmoniums and reed organs, exactly because I was inspired by your web site, but two problems stopped me to start with this work. First, I don't have informations or catalogues about Italian builders. Second, the quality of those instruments is usually quite low: cheap wood, reeds just tuned without any kind of voicing process, small sizes (I think 90% of Italian instruments have just 1-1/2 rank). Hopefully one day...

A YouTube video with Ivan showing the Vocalion in the Chiesa Valdesa, Pisa, Italy is here:

Ivan's Virtual Organ Museum is here:

Dr. Brian Styles

Brian was very active in the RO world, and maintained an international mailing list. Web: expertly aided by his cat, Oscar (see later).


Brian has been retired now for a long time and is unable to answer questions.

Dr. Rob Allan

Myself - Web:; E-mail: (disguised to avoid spam). I have a few reed organs and have been interested in playing and repairing them since 1971. I can do simple repairs to reed organs, harmoniums and pipe organs plus other free reed instruments, but have never carried out a full restoration. I am a member of the Reed Organ Society and am currently collecting information for this Web site. Information is shared with the other ROS historians.

This is me at the early 3MP/6 Wurlitzer in Burton on Trent Town Hall, aged 17, c.1974. Think another 40-50 years...


P.S. if you can't work out how to use the ``disguised'' e-mail addresses given, please phone me on +44 (0) 1925 267084 (early evenings).

Bernie Brown

Mechanical musical and unusual instrument collector and restorer, West Hay, Somerset.

BBC interview:

Vocalion Group

Founded by Paul Carey in 2005. The Web site seems to have disappeared.

Reed Organs in Ireland

Fr. Darragh Connolly, a Catholic priest from Kilmore in Ireland, has a strong interst in reed organs and has created a Web site to document ones he has seen, owned or restored. See

Rodney Jantzi

Rodney is our Reed Organ Society's main contact in Canada, his Web site is here: ``Sharing the Forgotten Sounds of the Reed Organ.''


Rodney first became interested in organs when he was 5 years old, after his parents purchased a small plastic chord organ. At the age of 15 time, he entered a classical organ competition hosted by Baldwin Organs and won 1st prize, and then was awarded 3rd prize at the Central Canada semi-finals. He studied piano, theory and harmony for the next 5 years.

When he was 17, he accepted the position at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Petersburg, Ontario as their full time organist, and still holds this position today. His reed organ interests began in 1994, when he visited Zion Lutheran Church in Northern Ontario, a small rural church where his wife's family lived for many years.

Rodney continues to play pipe organ, piano and reed organ for church and for fun - but the reed organ has become his passion. He has made a number of recordings which can be purchased on CD and has restored a number of significant instruments, such as the 2M Dominion in the van above, many from Canadian makers.

Jaakko Järvelä

For information about reed organs made in Finland and Sweden, see Jaakko's Web ste and pictures from his collection

The Piano History Centre

The Piano History Centre is run by Bill Kibby, an acknowledged expert and historian on the subject. We often exchange information. Contact details are as follows (replace ``_at_'' with ``@'':

Web site:
Skype: pianohistorycentre
Twitter: @pianohistory
Tel: 01493 658732
Text: 07969 778428

The Centre can be visited by appointment and is located at 271 Southtown Road, Great Yarmouth NR31 0JB.

Holmes and Swift

Organ builders in Fakenham, Norfolk, offer repair or full restoration of reed organs and harmoniums. See

Tel: 01328 863400

Carl Heslop

In Melton Mowbray, contact Carl on Plays and restores reed and pipe organs and is particularly interested in self playing instruments.

Carl restored the Sunday School folding organ I sold to Rev. Tony Newnham. He told me on 23/4/2021: The organ was restored by Carl Heslop, who is trained organ builder, and who recently started up in business on his own account (part time at present). He's done a good job of this instrument, and is nearing completion of a restoration of my Alexandre harmonium. UK owners who need work done on a reed (or indeed pipe) organ can find him on FaceBook, or contact me and I'll pass on the information. He is also involved in setting up a mainly mechanical music museum in the Midlands, including 2 theatre organs and a range of other instruments, including some reed organs

This was the basis of the East Midlands Cinema Organ Association collection and Reed Organ Museum:

Vox Humane

Robin Morris-Haynes, harmonium restoration and repair in Devizes.

Robin began restoring reed organs (pump organs) and harmoniums as a hobbyist and later trained with a professional restorer. In addition to this he also holds a diploma in violin making and restoration having attended the prestigious College of Violin making in Newark-on-Trent during which time he also gained an NVQ in component Engineering.

For the past ten years he has restored numerous reed organs and harmoniums from all over the country, you can find testimonials from his various clients over the years on my testimonials page along with pictures and descriptions of the restoration process. Many of the instruments he has restored have been played in major concerts and recorded for commercial advertising and radio.

Address: formerly 4 Harold Street, Nottingham NG2 4QJ; now Renelec House, 46 New Park Street, Devizes SN10 1DS

Tel: 07375 124403


Orgel- und Harmoniumwerkstatt Reilich

This is the company of Thomas and Claudia Reilich in Oberschweinbach, Bavaria.

After lengthy apprenticieship to various organ builders Thomas started the company around 2004 and specialises in Harmonium and Reed Organ restorations as well as small pipe organs including new builds.

Contact: Orgel- und Harmoniumwerkstatt Reilich, Am Eichenschlag 18, D-82294 Oberschweinbach, Germany.
Tel. +49 (0)8145 809005;

M.A.M. Fisharmonie i Organy

Company of Marcin Amadeusz Majak and Jakub Wszołek from ul. Żuławska 94, 80-059 Gdańsk, Poland. Restoration of harmoniums and organs. See and also

Translated by Google: Marcin Amadeusz Majak - organist, organ builder, harmonium restorer: his scope of competences includes works from carpentry to intonation. He started working with SLJ Budowa Organów in 2017 on the project of reconstructing the organ in the church of St. John Bosko in Gdańsk, which he initiated. He attended the Secondary Music School in Gdynia, where he learned to play the organ with Karol Hill. He gained experience in intonation under the supervision of Janis Kalnins at the Rococo style organ in the church of St. John in Gdańsk and the romantic Walcker organ in the church of St. Peter and Saint Siegfried in Stockholm. He runs his own business. Privately, he is a music enthusiast and listener, especially organ and harmonium improvisation. Mechanic and driver of a two-stroke Wartburg 353 from 1986.

Other Sources of Information

Recommended Research Websites for Archives

Where to see and hear Reed Organs in the UK

East Midlands Cinema Organ Association

The East Midlands Cinema Organ Association was founded to preserve, promote, and present the Cinema Organ in the East Midlands. They are based at The New Forum Centre in Melton Mowbray.



Mobile: 07704464938

Twitter: @EMCOA_News

Horniman Museum

The Horniman Public Museum and Public Park Trust: 100 London Road, Forest Hill, London SE23 3PQ. Tel: 020 8699 1872. Web: and

Unique to the Horniman Museum is the collection of over 600 concertinas and related European free reed instruments. This was purchased from Neil Wayne, who's concertina museum I had first visited in Duffield in the 1972. He has remained an inspiration ever since. The museum received generous support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the MGC and Science Museum PRISM Fund to preserve this large and important collection.

The core of the collection consists of 127 instruments created by Sir Charles Wheatstone (1802-1875), the inventor of the concertina. Wheatstone's prototype concertinas which he was producing by the 1830s, and his patent models, are featured in the collection. The work of other British and continental makers of free reed instruments is also represented here. The collection includes an extensive archive, with the Wheatstone factory day books and diary, souvenir postcards of performers, and 78 rpm vinyl recordings of celebrated early concertina players.

There are also a large number of Asian free reed instruments housed in the Horniman Museum. A lacquered sho or mouth organ, made for the court orchestra of a named 18th century Japanese nobleman is one of the most elaborately decorated free reed instruments in the collection.

For the history of concertinas and documentation on many instruments in the collection, see

Cotton Mechanical Music Museum

The Cotton Mechanical Music Museum is in the village of Cotton, near Stowmarket in Suffolk. The museum has a large selection of mainly mechanical musical instruments, ranging from tiny music boxes to a large Decap Café organ.

Among the collection are a significant number of reed organs, ranging from organettes to an Aeolian Orchestrelle and a 2MP Estey. Among the instruments are several examples of self playing reed organs.

They have a Waeb site here:

Anne Page


Anne Page - a solo organist, is also one of the world's few professional harmonium players. Anne is well known to audiences in the UK and abroad as an organist of great virtuosity, integrity and musicianship. Born and educated in Perth, Western Australia, she subsequently studied in Europe with Marie-Claire Alain and Peter Hurford, giving her London debut at the Royal Festival Hall in 1988. Now based in Cambridge, she directed the Cambridge Summer Recitals for eight years, presenting many world and UK first performances and bringing major artists from the organ world to Britain for the first time.

Her commitment to music by living composers has led to commissions and premieres of new works as well as invitations to make recordings, most recently of organ music by Swiss composer Carl Rutti. Also an enthusiast for early music, she has studied performance practice with Jacques van Oortmerssen in Amsterdam and has performed many times on historic instruments in Holland and Belgium. She appears regularly in recitals for trumpet and organ with Crispian Steele-Perkins, virtuoso of the Baroque trumpet.

Acknowledged as one of the UK's leading exponents of the Art Harmonium, Anne has appeared as soloist at the Edinburgh Festival, the Three Choirs Festival and the Southern Cathedrals Festival. The foundation of Pandemonium, a duo for piano and harmonium with pianist Margaret Copestake is bringing this delightful and typically 19th century chamber ensemble to present day audiences. Some information about Anne's work was published in The Organ number 310. In this article she is noted as saying: people don't seem to realise how important the Art Harmonium was as a solo instrument and how many composers wrote for it. It is such a pity that the image of the harmonium as a dusty instrument stuck in the corner of an abandoned church still seems to hold sway. For many composers it was an essential part of their orchestration. Rossini used it in the `Petite Messe'. It was and still is a highly developed instrument with a specific repertoire. In ensembles it bridges the timbres and textures between the string and wind sections. It is a really sophisticated instrument which has no equivalent.

Anne has helped to win converts to the harmonium through her recordings and performances, including at the Three Choirs and Edinburgh Festivals. She performs works by composers such as Franck, Guilmant, Widor, Karg-Elert and others. Her Web site is

See also Royal Academy of Music Web site:

Karg-Elert Society

The Karg-Elert Society was founded in West London in 1987. They publish information about recitals as well as maintaining an archive of his music and recordings. There is also the Karg-Elert Gemeinschaft bv. The works of Sigfried Karg-Elert have featured a number of times in The Organ.

Liestal Museum

Also not in England, but since it is mentioned later in the notes, here are the coordinates of the Liestal Harmonium Museum: Harmonium-Museum Liestal, c/o Dieter Stalder, Widmannstrasse 9a, CH-4410 Liestal, Switzerland, Tel: 061/921 64 10 (19.00-20.00 hours local time only please). Web:

Harmonium Collection Averesch

Ulrich Averesch, Wuppertal, Germany.

Simon Buser collection

In Switzerland, see

Interview in Bern 2016 with Artis Wodehouse:

Playing an 1845 Achille Muller instrument:

Brentford Musical Museum, London

This museum specialises in automatic self playing instruments and has a collection of Orchestrelles among other interesting exhibits. The museum was re-opened in its new location: 399 High Street, Brentford, Middx. TW8 0DU in November 2007 thanks to National Lottery heritage funding. Web:

Kent Arnold


Harmonium Collection Averesch

The Harmonium Museum is the collection of Ulrich Averesch, Bad Krozingen, Germany. See There are a large number of high quality and early instruments, some by English manufacturers.

Olthof Collection

This is the private collection of Wim Olthof of The Netherlands exhibited at the St. Nicolaas Bovenkerk in Kampen. He has a large number of rare instruments including the Isaac Mott piano-organ. He also has historical information. Wim can be contacted via the Harmonium Vereniging Nederland Web site:

Harmonium Museum Nederland

A large collection featuring a number of English built instruments is housed in a modern building in the Veenpark, Barger-Compascuum, Drenthe, The Netherlands. There is a regular series of events with recitals. Web:

Address: Berkenrode 4, Barger-Compascuum 7884 TR, Netherlands


Woodville Organ Museum

This one is in New Zealand. The full address is Woodville Organ Museum, 50 Tay Street, Woodville, Wairarapa, New Zealand 4920. Rosalie Wainwright is the proprietor, and they house two large Holt organs listed in the separate chapter among other English made ones. The museum is basically a private collection which is open for visits from members of the public. Web:


Paul D.

Short MP3 recordings of harmonium music are available on a Web site of Paul D.:

Jason Fisher

Jason Fisher posted a few short MP3 recordings of music he plays on his Apollo organ on his excellent Web site: These were good recordings and illustrated the subtlety of the timbres and combinations possible on this late model English reed organ. Unfortunately, owing to AOL changing its hosting policy, they are no longer available, but the rest of the information is being temporarily hosted here:

Jason has some videos on YouTube which are referenced in different sections.

Commercial Recordings

There are a great many commercially available recordings featuring harmoniums and reed organs, either solo or with other instruments and voices. These are listed on the Reed Organ Society Web site.

Phillippe's Blog

This Blog and a discussion group at is maintained by Phillippe, a French enthusiast of the harmonium. His Blog contains information about on-line sources of literature, including scores of original compositions for the instruments. We hope that this will expand over time.


A number of people post photos on Flickr. I've picked Dean's set because they are exceptional in showing how to build a modern harmonium (using old reeds). Dean is in Canada. See

Essex Organ Museum

I don't know if they actually have any, but there is a Web site here: A lot of the information is from Rodney Jantzi and it also connects through to this, my own Web site. Now I know I'm famous! There are also some good links to YouTube videos.

Rob Allan