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Author Topic: Casali - accordion makers, or a merchant/importer's brand?  (Read 1230 times)

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triskel

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Casali - accordion makers, or a merchant/importer's brand?
« on: July 24, 2017, 09:10:31 PM »

A few days ago I wrote:

Casali are an enigma. They aren't even listed in Beniamino Bugiolacchi's CHRONOLOGY OF PRODUCTION OF ITALIAN ACCORDIONS, whilst Verona wasn't exactly a hotbed of accordion making either - with only two firms (both opening in 1921) listed,  but neither was called Casali. Yet many instruments survive from the 1930s, '40s, and '50s - so were they actual makers, or another famous "accordion maker" (like Saltarelle today perhaps?) who didn't actually make accordions, or a merchant/importer's brand?  ???

Whilst that list says SERENELLI BORDICCHIA & C. (est. 1906), of Castelfidardo, closed down in 1963 - so maybe?

And:

For that matter, I came across a 1936/7 model Casali PA on eBay, a few months ago, with "Made in Germany" (in small letters) below the name...  :o

Which has all set me thinking, and looking at the scarce evidence about Casali, and where they may really have been made...

Now I've known since 1972 or '73 (from a catalogue I saw then) that Casali accordions were distributed by the instrument makers and major wholesalers J. E. Dallas & Sons in London, but it's taken me until now to realise the potential significance of another make they were also distributers of in the 1930s - Scandalli in Camerano, which is close to Castelfidardo.

I think I've mentioned before that there seem to be stylistic similarities in the casework between my c.1939 dark-grey Casali button box and a dark-grey Scandalli PA of similar vintage that I bought for that reason - they're mainly in the aluminium "waterfall" grille, the projecting band of casing along the front (below the grille) and the faired-in feet on the bass end:
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triskel

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Re: Casali - accordion makers, or a merchant/importer's brand?
« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2017, 09:34:07 PM »

Whilst that list says SERENELLI BORDICCHIA & C. (est. 1906), of Castelfidardo, closed down in 1963 - so maybe?

And tonight I've found a photo of an 80-bass Serenelli PA that could be from 1942, with the same style grille as the Scandalli PLUS "the projecting band of casing along the front (below the grille)" - so they too were making that fashionable new streamlined style back then, and could have made the Casali versions of it...
« Last Edit: September 08, 2017, 01:54:41 AM by triskel »
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triskel

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Re: Casali - accordion makers, or a merchant/importer's brand?
« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2017, 10:38:21 PM »

Then you've those very ugly 1940's Scandalli button boxes, with the all-in-one craquelle-finish keyboard plate/grille, and I've got one of them that's badged Casali!

Meanwhile, Serenelli closed down in 1963 and the later Casali boxes look more like ones (also sold as Calvi) made by Busilacchio - like this example that's been for sale on DoneDeal for quite a while: Casali 3 voice B&C Accordion.

So was Casali perhaps a Dallas house brand, with the cheapest models sometimes made in Germany, and the better ones in Castelfidardo/Camerano/Osimo? (And nothing at all to do with Verona?)  ???

I don't think Casali accordions are generally found outside the UK, Ireland, and the old British Empire - which might tend to support such a hypothesis.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2017, 12:45:57 PM by triskel »
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Rees

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Re: Casali - accordion makers, or a merchant/importer's brand?
« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2017, 12:16:19 AM »

John Kirkpatrick plays a Casali button accordion as featured on the Archers Theme, etc.
It's a mighty sound ........................ just like a Scandalli
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triskel

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Re: Casali - accordion makers, or a merchant/importer's brand?
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2017, 12:41:58 AM »

John Kirkpatrick plays a Casali button accordion as featured on the Archers Theme, etc.
It's a mighty sound ........................ just like a Scandalli

I've certainly no complaints about the sound off my grey 4-voice one - "a box with b@lls" was Colm Gannon's verdict after playing it...  ;)  In fact it's the only 4-voice I've played that actually sounds even better (almost like a Baldoni) when you bring in the low reed - 4-voice Paolos tend to sound "mushy" on all four, to my ears...  :(

But I very much doubt if Scandalli made it, it doesn't have the sheer exquisite "quality" of that (ladies' model) PA. It's more that (in the late '30s/early '40s) Scandalli were the pioneers of that streamlined style that others (including Dallas, or whoever was making their button accordions?) started to copy.

Mind you, when I had it apart last night I was very surprised at how well designed/made the wind key lever is in that otherwise very crude red 1940's (Scandalli-like) Casali - it was the best one I've seen and works very nicely. Pity about the rest of it!  :o
« Last Edit: September 08, 2017, 01:07:08 PM by triskel »
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triskel

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Re: Casali - accordion makers, or a merchant/importer's brand?
« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2017, 10:22:51 AM »

A few days ago I wrote:

Casali are an enigma. ... were they actual makers, ... or a merchant/importer's brand?  ???

And:

For that matter, I came across a 1936/7 model Casali PA on eBay, a few months ago, with "Made in Germany" (in small letters) below the name...  :o

Speaking of which, I looked at eBay this morning and came across photos of a very similar Klingenthal-made student PA with the same Art-Deco style grille as that German Casali, only bearing the Sears Roebuck house brand "Silvertone" and for sale in Texas.

They're obviously out of the same stable:
« Last Edit: July 25, 2017, 03:12:23 PM by triskel »
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triskel

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Re: Casali - accordion makers, or a merchant/importer's brand?
« Reply #6 on: July 25, 2017, 03:03:15 PM »

I don't think Casali accordions are generally found outside the UK, Ireland, and the old British Empire ...

Does anybody know of them being sold commercially outside those regions?
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pgroff

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Re: Casali - accordion makers, or a merchant/importer's brand?
« Reply #7 on: July 25, 2017, 03:17:50 PM »

Hi Triskel,

I wasn't around in the 1920s - 1940s, and in the couple of decades that I've been interested in accordions from that period I haven't focused on the piano boxes. But from my more recent experience with old boxes, I don't have any evidence of Casali brand accordions sold new in the U.S.  General opinion: I have seen a lot of them for sale in the U.K. and agree that they seem to be mostly Italian made, from various manufacturers, and mostly seem similar to models from Castelfidardo makers. I.e., probably not made in Verona!

There are a few other brands sold in the U.S. in the 20th century that were labeled with Italian cities of supposed origin, but probably re-branded Paolo Sopranis or similar.

I remember John Kirkpatrick told me years ago that he looked into the question of Casali origins and was told (maybe by you, triskel?) that they were ordered from various manufacturers.

PG
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Malcolm Clapp

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Re: Casali - accordion makers, or a merchant/importer's brand?
« Reply #8 on: July 25, 2017, 05:25:40 PM »


There are a few other brands sold in the U.S. in the 20th century that were labeled with Italian cities of supposed origin, but probably re-branded Paolo Sopranis or similar.

PG

For instance, I used to own one of those "very ugly 1940s Scandallis" (to quote Triskel) branded "BRINDISI".

(Actually, I don't find them too painful on the eye....)
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hspeek

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Re: Casali - accordion makers, or a merchant/importer's brand?
« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2017, 05:28:48 PM »


Hi,

Now that Casalis are mentioned again, I was meaning to ask this a while ago already...
I picked one up recently, and would like to know a bit more about it. All I know is that it was bought off an elderly Irish lady who lived in the Netherlands for a long time already - and who actually played this thing. It was sold to me as a G/G#, but it turned out that the seller assumed the scale started on the 3rd button of the row. Starting from the 4th button gives a pretty ordinary C/C# tuning.

Questions are, I guess, the usual:  how old, is it worth spending money on the restoration (yes, it needs work), and also, do you think this could be reworked into a C#/D ? Or would it be better to leave it as is (which would mean sell it at some point, as I'm not into B/C fingerings) ?

Thanks,

Han.

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triskel

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Re: Casali - accordion makers, or a merchant/importer's brand?
« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2017, 12:53:32 PM »

For that matter, I came across a 1936/7 model Casali PA on eBay, a few months ago, with "Made in Germany" (in small letters) below the name...  :o

Speaking of which, I looked at eBay this morning and came across photos of a very similar Klingenthal-made student PA with the same Art-Deco style grille as that German Casali, only bearing the Sears Roebuck house brand "Silvertone" and for sale in Texas.

They're obviously out of the same stable:

And, as if to emphasise the generic nature of that model, two more popped out of eBay at me this morning bearing the pseudo-Italian brand name "Geraldo" - a gold-sparkle 80-bass Geraldo Accordion Good Condition (that also has "Made in Germany" on the front of it, like the Casali) and a grey 12-bass Geraldo Vintage Piano Accordion.

Somebody in Klingenthal must have been very busy churning them out as "house brand" models for various concerns in Britain and the United States! ("Geraldo" seems to have been a "house brand" of Selmer, London.)
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triskel

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Re: Casali - accordion makers, or a merchant/importer's brand?
« Reply #11 on: July 26, 2017, 01:09:58 PM »

I wasn't around in the 1920s - 1940s, and in the couple of decades that I've been interested in accordions from that period I haven't focused on the piano boxes.

Same here Paul, though Casali boxes were evidently still being produced in my childhood, and even into my early teens. Whilst I think the development of piano accordion styles is very relevant to dating many button boxes, and is generally better documented than the latter.

Quote
I remember John Kirkpatrick told me years ago that he looked into the question of Casali origins and was told (maybe by you, triskel?) that they were ordered from various manufacturers.

No, not me (I don't think I've ever met John) - but maybe one of the tuners who'd worked on a variety of them...
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triskel

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Re: Casali - accordion makers, or a merchant/importer's brand?
« Reply #12 on: July 26, 2017, 01:33:51 PM »

... I used to own one of those "very ugly 1940s Scandallis" (to quote Triskel) branded "BRINDISI".

(Actually, I don't find them too painful on the eye....)

I think the dark grille and bright red celluloid make that Brindisi look smarter than most of them, but don't forget you refinished the "faux croc-skin finish" one and stripped the grille of it - adding a couple more holes to the latter while you were at it too...  ;)

(Anyway, I've a serious "project" in mind for that Casali one - re-housing the reeds, reedblocks (?), (rebuilt) treble action, keyboard plate, bass mechanism and wind key, in a much better body.)
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John MacKenzie (Cugiok)

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Re: Casali - accordion makers, or a merchant/importer's brand?
« Reply #13 on: July 26, 2017, 01:40:52 PM »


Hi,

Now that Casalis are mentioned again, I was meaning to ask this a while ago already...
I picked one up recently, and would like to know a bit more about it. All I know is that it was bought off an elderly Irish lady who lived in the Netherlands for a long time already - and who actually played this thing. It was sold to me as a G/G#, but it turned out that the seller assumed the scale started on the 3rd button of the row. Starting from the 4th button gives a pretty ordinary C/C# tuning.

Questions are, I guess, the usual:  how old, is it worth spending money on the restoration (yes, it needs work), and also, do you think this could be reworked into a C#/D ? Or would it be better to leave it as is (which would mean sell it at some point, as I'm not into B/C fingerings) ?

The grille on that is almost identical to my Hagstrom Marita

Sir John



Thanks,

Han.
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triskel

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Re: Casali - accordion makers, or a merchant/importer's brand?
« Reply #15 on: July 26, 2017, 02:41:03 PM »

It was sold to me as a G/G#, but it turned out that the seller assumed the scale started on the 3rd button of the row. Starting from the 4th button gives a pretty ordinary C/C# tuning.

Most of the older ones seem to be in the old "English chromatic" C/C# tuning that George Jones invented in the early 1880s, which was generally played from the outside row in. It no doubt still made the most sense for the English market at the time, before Italy entered WW2, though the Wyper brothers had dropped it down a semitone to B/C a quarter of a century earlier in Scotland.

Quote
Questions are, I guess, the usual:  how old, is it worth spending money on the restoration (yes, it needs work), and also, do you think this could be reworked into a C#/D ? Or would it be better to leave it as is (which would mean sell it at some point, as I'm not into B/C fingerings) ?

These are the earliest style of Casali button box and my recollection (from 45 years ago) is that the Dallas catalogue I saw with them illustrated in it was from 1939, and they could still have been being imported from Italy up until Mussolini entered WW2 in June 1940. It's possible that some in this older style were also being sold in the late 1940s/early '50s, but basically you're in the same sort of era as the grey Paolo Sopranis.

I was very fortunate in that my (very rare) 4-voice one was in virtually mint condition when I got it, and still playable, but in C/C# too. I should, perhaps, have left it that way and just had a minor service done to it, some C#/D players (such as Brendan Begley, and Conor Connolly) like to play a C# box sometimes, but I got John Brosnan to convert it to C#/D for me instead.

The big downside with these is the wide spacing of both the treble and bass buttons, which puts most people off, but I'm used to it now - and I'd be very happy to give a 3-voice one a home, should you ever decide to sell it...  ;)
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triskel

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Re: Casali - accordion makers, or a merchant/importer's brand?
« Reply #16 on: July 26, 2017, 02:59:29 PM »

The grille on that is almost identical to my Hagstrom Marita

I've got a blue Hagstrom myself Sir John, and close-up their nickel-plated grille is crude in comparison and only superficially resembles the Scandalli/Casali aluminium ones. Those metal "waterfall grilles" became fashionable in 1939/40 and were adopted by numerous makers, though not until 1955 by Hohner for their "Erica" etc.
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Malcolm Clapp

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Re: Casali - accordion makers, or a merchant/importer's brand?
« Reply #17 on: July 26, 2017, 03:18:06 PM »

... I used to own one of those "very ugly 1940s Scandallis" (to quote Triskel) branded "BRINDISI".

(Actually, I don't find them too painful on the eye....)

I think the dark grille and bright red celluloid make that Brindisi look smarter than most of them, but don't forget you refinished the "faux croc-skin finish" one and stripped the grille of it - adding a couple more holes to the latter while you were at it too...  ;)


Yes, the Brindisi ended up as a D/D# iirc. Can't recall what the original pitch was.

And the former "faux croc-skin" job (at the time referred to by a friend as "croc's foreskin") had comparatively poor volume of the inside row reeds directly below the centre of the grill, hence the added extra holes. Whilst it had the desired effect of giving a better volume balance, in hindsight, two half length vertical slots may have looked better than the two horizontal ones.... Can't recall quite why I did it that way. SAGIATT, I suppose.
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Re: Casali - accordion makers, or a merchant/importer's brand?
« Reply #18 on: July 26, 2017, 03:49:20 PM »

Hi all,

Just remembered, I have a wrecked example of that "crackle finish" 2 voice model with heavy metal grille and large plastic washers in the melody action. Mine is a blonde one (yellowish-white pearloid) with a "FISA" label. Basically the same model as some of those labeled Scandalli, etc. This one is in A/D and 21 melody keys, 8 basses (seems like the BC and CC# ones had 23 keys). Reeds are very nice, TAM quality with hammered rivets. This was found in the US.

PG
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triskel

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Re: Casali - accordion makers, or a merchant/importer's brand?
« Reply #19 on: July 27, 2017, 03:03:02 AM »

For that matter, I came across a 1936/7 model Casali PA on eBay, a few months ago, with "Made in Germany" (in small letters) below the name...  :o

Speaking of which, I looked at eBay this morning and came across photos of a very similar Klingenthal-made student PA with the same Art-Deco style grille as that German Casali, only bearing the Sears Roebuck house brand "Silvertone" and for sale in Texas.

They're obviously out of the same stable:

And, as if to emphasise the generic nature of that model, two more popped out of eBay at me this morning bearing the pseudo-Italian brand name "Geraldo" - a gold-sparkle 80-bass Geraldo Accordion Good Condition (that also has "Made in Germany" on the front of it, like the Casali) and a grey 12-bass Geraldo Vintage Piano Accordion.

Somebody in Klingenthal must have been very busy churning them out as "house brand" models for various concerns in Britain and the United States! ("Geraldo" seems to have been a "house brand" of Selmer, London.)

And another one turned up yesterday afternoon on eBay, badged "Pietro" this time - the pseudo-Italian house brand of J. & A. Margolin, with "Made in Germany" on it too: Pietro Accordion...  ::)

So I've gone looking and found one with another such (J. E. Dallas) brand, "Alvari", on it: Alvari accordion, in a cloth case.

Also "Carloti" - which appears to have been Lafleur's house brand: Lot 405: A CARLOTTI ACCORDION

Just how "generic" can a model be, and did nobody notice they were all the same?  :o
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