Re: [Harp-L] Re: Gettysburg Harmonica-Wilhelm Thie, Vienna

I've seen the photo; the cover is stamped with the word "Patent" but
with no date, and with a couple of medallions containing the words
"Gold Medal" flanking what appears to be the double eagle of the
Hapsburgs (Austrian imperial family resident in Vienna) and the words,
"Wilhelm Thie Wien" (Wien = Vienna).

The instrument, photographed from the top and looking down on the
covers, appears to be a double-sided tremolo, as the vent holes in the
covers reveal the line running between two back-to-back reedplates, and
several reed slots whose length is within the bounds of the
front-to-back bounds of the two reedplates. Also, you can see one row
of 16 top holes in one edge of the harmonica, and covers that curve
down to meet the reedplates on both front and back edges, consistent
with a harmonica meant to be played along both long edges. So it likely
has two stacks of 16 holes on each side - 64 holes instead of the 32
described. Each side of the harmonica would have a range of two octave
if it follows the standard German tuning known to be in use since at
least the late 19th Century.

This harmonica was not found at the battlefield at all. As Garry
originally quoted from the email he received:

> We have designated it as GETT 28263, and it was purchased from an 
> auction house in 1987.

So this harmonica has no discernible link to the Battle of Gettysburg
at all. 

The rationale for the museum buying it is unknown. It is not typical of
the harmonicas featured in American instructional books of the 1870s
and 1880s, which were single-reed Richter system instruments (the
construction, not the tuning, which encompassed one or two variants on
the German Major tuning now widely used).


--- MilwHarmonica@xxxxxxx wrote:

> Hello, Gary Hodgson and Dean Knudsen. Here's some information about
> the  
> harmonica  #GETT 28263, exhibited at the Gettysburg National Military
> Park,  
> Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. 
> According to Dean's description, the harmonica is a "tremolo"
> harmonica, in  
> the "Veinnese System" of note placement. Wilhelm Anton Thie
> (1833-1905) is  
> responsible for the invention of the tremolo harmonica, Viennese
> System,  
> according to Martin Haffner and Lars Lindenmuller in their book,
> "Harmonica  Makers 
> of Germany and Austria," published by the Deutsches Harmonica Museum,
> Trossingen Germany.
> Wilhelm's father, Friedrich Wilhelm Thie (1803-1869), was a Prussian 
> immigrant to Vienna, and started making harmonicas in Vienna,
> Austria, 1834.  That 
> was 23 years before  C.A.Seydel harmonicas, and 33 years before the 
> Hohner 
> harmonica company was founded in Trossingen, Germany.
> When the first tremolo harmonica was invented is uncertain, but it
> was  
> possibly between 1853 and 1863 at the earliest. This is a guess only.
> Wilhelm  
> would have been 20 years old in 1853, but probably didn't succeed his
> father as  
> president of the company until at least 1863, when he was 30 years
> old.  
> Friedrich would have been 60 years old in 1863. 
> According to Wilhelm Koch (1873-1936), also a  harmonica
> manufacturer,  the 
> Vienna System (tremolo harmonica note placement system) was invented
> by  
> Wilhelm Anton Thie. 
> The tremolo-type harmonica has two reeds for each note, one on top of
> another, each in a separate hole.The two reeds are tuned to the same
> pitch, then  
> one is sligtly de-tuned, so that the reeds create a tremolo (wavy
> tone) effect  
> when played together, without any physical efforts by the harmonica
> player 
> other  than inhaling or exhaling into the harmonica.
> Dean, if you can read the patent dates (in the circles on the covers)
> on  the 
> brass-looking harmonica covers, you will know when your display
> harmonica  
> was patented, and this may tell harmonica historians when the tremolo
> harp was  
> invented.
> It will also tell whether your display harmonica was possibly at the
> actual  
> battle of Gettysburg, or if it was found there years after the
> battle. Please  
> let us know at
> I hope this information is helpful. John Broecker. I highly recommend
> the  
> above book.
> .
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