W. Bell & Co — Reed Organ # 5785 — ca 1871
I recently stumbled upon a very small reed 'pump' organ in a 2nd hand shop. (It was technically a 'harmonium' I later learned). So I read up on these instruments as they are free reeds and essentially cousins of the accordion, and then learned that a great many were built in Ontario between 1860 and 1910.
I began to look at a number of organs that were being sold on the internet. Virtually all of these were in rural settings scattered all over Ontario so transportation was a real issue and condition varied widely. I settled on one that was small enough to come up the narrow stairs in our Toronto 'semi' to my music room. This particular instrument had been played recently (tested really) and the arrangements were suitable. It was heavier than I imagined and so it resides on the main floor for the moment while I clean it up and arrange for two or three bigger, stronger, younger men to get it upstairs.
Dating the organ was an interesting exercise in deduction! The Bell brothers began to build these organs in Guelph in 1864, and used “W. Bell & Co.” from (at least) 1871, when they built a new factory, until 1888. They produced 80/year in 1867. They produced 1200 per year in 1881. In 1883 the serial #s were 22539 – 26000. Working backwards at 1500/year from 1883 — # 7560 would be about 1873. So #5785 was likely built in 1871 or perhaps 1872. (The paper decal with the SIN also sports the builder's initials). It was refurbished by 'H. Clark' in 1986 according to the penciled addition beside the SIN tag.)
The organ is made from mahogany and would have had a 'top piece' and side candle holders — all now missing.
The fabric behind the cross openings is completely ripped and disintegrated. Dominique has some lovely green silk fabric that she will replace it with.
Reeds need to be pulled and cleaned — I need to learn to pump!