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Author Topic: C. T. Menze, A. Engelmann, H. Engelmann, and other St. Louis accordion makers  (Read 1917 times)

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pgroff

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The so-called "Steirische" box in the link I posted above (which I think is another Ploner) ...

It seems to have a lot of similarities to mine (only it isn't as fancy) including (filled) screwholes in one of the the reedblocks for the bellows lock receiver.

I don't have access to my Ploners at present, but from memory I think the bellows lock design on at least one of them works by pressing "extra deeply" on the air button (rather than the kind that work by tilting the instrument, or by a stop etc).
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triskel

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I don't have access to my Ploners at present, but from memory I think the bellows lock design on at least one of them works by pressing "extra deeply" on the air button (rather than the kind that work by tilting the instrument, or by a stop etc).

Your recollection is correct.
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triskel

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Here's something else that I'll add to the St. Louis accordion mix:
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pgroff

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Here's something else that I'll add to the St. Louis accordion mix:

Too bad the seller puts such a high value on that one!
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Psuggmog Volbenz

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Here's a C.T. Menze that just finished on ebay. In an earlier discussion I mentioned that I'd seen examples of instruments like these (the Menze / Engelmann type) that just had one row of melody keys, and this is one such:

Paul, do you know who won this auction? I had high hope for this one, but it sold for almost twice my highest bid. I would like to hear what one of these one riws sounds like.
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I'm squeezin' and they're wheezin': old junker boxes

pgroff

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Hi PV,

No, but these do have a following!

PG
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triskel

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Here's something else that I'll add to the St. Louis accordion mix:

Too bad the seller puts such a high value on that one!

Is it still for sale? :o

(There's a lot of stuff in the U.S. that no longer turns up in my eBay searches, since they changed the parameters on them. :()

Do you have anything on Mueller?
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pgroff

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No more than what you see there, but I haven't looked for more. I don't remember seeing any instruments with his name on them. A working hypothesis (to test of course, not to believe at this point) might be that he took orders for those steel reeded instruments but that they were made by one of the local makers whose instruments we've seen.

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triskel

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A working hypothesis (to test of course, not to believe at this point) might be that he took orders for those steel reeded instruments but that they were made by one of the local makers whose instruments we've seen.

I was wondering if that might be the case, but it'd be good to find an example to prove/disprove that.

The instrument shown on his card looks like a pretty typical mid-19th century German one.
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triskel

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I would like to hear what one of these [Menze / Engelmann type] one rows sounds like.

Me too - in fact I'd love to take one for a "test-drive"!  ;)
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pgroff

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A working hypothesis (to test of course, not to believe at this point) might be that he took orders for those steel reeded instruments but that they were made by one of the local makers whose instruments we've seen.

I was wondering if that might be the case, but it'd be good to find an example to prove/disprove that.

The instrument shown on his card looks like a pretty typical mid-19th century German one.

With 10/9 melody keys, 4 spoons (+ air) and 2 stops.  But of the overall shape and style that was being copied (?) by the local makers, albeit in higher quality.  On the other hand, the spoons are shown in caricatured style so it might be a mistake to look at the details too literally.

I've been on the look-out for Mueller-labeled instruments since seeing that card. Might be especially interesting if we were to find one labeled Mueller externally but with different signature internally. But none so far. Local research in the area would probably be most productive. But you're doing pretty well from your distance!

« Last Edit: January 02, 2018, 02:33:48 PM by pgroff »
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triskel

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With 10/9 melody keys, 4 spoons (+ air) and 2 stops.  But of the overall shape and style that was being copied (?) by the local makers, albeit in higher quality.

The Menze/Engelmann ones are well-made, but to a simpler design. 

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On the other hand, the spoons are shown in caricatured style so it might be a mistake to look at the details too literally.

Actually, to me, the "spoons" (shovels/butter pats?) look not at all caricatured but very typical of early German style - where the pivot pin/axle is set into the wood. I have several early ones like that.

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Local research in the area would probably be most productive. But you're doing pretty well from your distance!

Thanks, but anybody can check the U.S. Census online... (Though I'd have to upgrade my present Ancestry subscription to do so again. :-\)
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pgroff

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A comment from a collector friend of mine about the Menze and similar instruments:

"I have several early St Louis accordions (Menze , others). Maybe they are older than 1900.
One curious specialty : some have reed-plates of plumb - what produces a quite "own" sound (near zinc but different)."

I'm interpreting this to suggest that the reed plates of some of these instruments are lead (Pb).  I'm hoping to follow up, to learn more about those instruments, when that collector is less busy.

This reminds me that Stinson Behlen (R.I.P.), who was involved with accordions for many years, used to rant about some instruments that came to him, complaining about "people making their own reedplates out of lead or pot metal." I assumed Stinson was talking about rough "home-made" repairs of which we've all seen our share (I've actually seen repairs where reed tongues were installed on reedplates hand-whittled out of wood!).* But maybe Stinson had seen some boxes from this St. Louis tradition, which wouldn't surprise me.



* Long digression warning:

By the way, I myself love to see rough but passionate home-made attempts to repair or modify instruments, to keep them playing or to customize them or to explore how to make one. 

I know there's a lot of concern with professionalism on this forum. I commend the perfectionism and debate about best practices, and I share those goals also. We each want to have expert help when we need repairs . . .  and now with the information revolution it's possible to avoid a lot of mistakes.

But I keep in mind that during most of free-reed history in much of the US, when instruments traveled far from professional makers or repairmen, the players were on their own. They had to do the best they could if they wanted music. So the rough or unprofessional repairs speak to me of history and love for music, under circumstances most of us struggle to understand (no recordings, limited sources of information or even literacy etc).

And makers such as Paolo Soprani, Marc Savoy and many more seem to have gotten their start (and perhaps their confidence to innovate) working in humble circumstances without much information, with improvised materials and tools. Novelty in instrument evolution might be fostered by bricolage, just as biologists often understand the origins of novelty in the evolution of organisms.

So I think we might not want to "prune the seedling" by damning the unconventional repairs we see. . . they tell a great story and might lead to some new ideas!
« Last Edit: January 02, 2018, 03:28:42 PM by pgroff »
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Doug Eisemann

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As a brand new Melodeon.net member and one who is quite new to the diatonic accordion/melodeon, I wanted to introduce myself and add to the topic of Menze and Engelmann accordions,  as this is the subject that brought me to Melodeon.net in the first place.
I must admit,  with a bit of shame that I was the winner of that very recent auction for the one row C.T. Menze box on everyone's favorite auction site.   I say shame,  as I realize my perhaps over-enthusiastic bidding kept this antique from a real musician who could give the box a better home, as I can only just about muddle my way through some Christmas tunes at the moment,  and scarcely have the skills to consider restoring it myself in the near term.
Rest assured, however,  I do intend to restore it to playability while preserving it's historic integrity!

I stumbled upon some online images of an Engelmann 2 row accordion about 6 months ago,  and as someone very interested in the history of accordion building in the USA,  I immediately wanted to know more.   Subsequent searches yielded little further information until I found the postings of Mr. Groff,  and member Triskel here on this forum. 

When time allows,  I hope to post detailed photos of the one-row Menze if there is interest, and to document it for reference.

Some brief points of interest that I have noted so far include:   

The box has 2 voices,  not in MM as I was expecting but an octave apart,  either LM or MH (pardon my ignorance, I am not sure how to differentiate) Not all voices are speaking on all notes,  and some seem grossly out of tune, so it is difficult to determine the key at the moment.  One can still get the sense of the unique and beautiful tone quality when properly working however.   I would like to keep it fairly faithful to original tuning if possible.
Reeds are steel tongues on zinc plates,  marked with a sun or 6 pointed star,  waxed to the reed pans.     
The scale starts on the 2nd button rather than the third.
Overall,  the box is noticeably heavier than the antique German models I am more familiar with,  probably due to the use of more hardwoods in construction.   
As expected, key springs are of individual leaf type under the cover beneath the finger board.   The action still feels fairly nice despite the age.

As I said,  I will post more details as time permits,  and come up with a plan for restoration and preservation. 

Thank you very much and best Regards,

Doug Eisemann
Bellefonte, Pennsylvania
USA

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triskel

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As a brand new Melodeon.net member and one who is quite new to the diatonic accordion/melodeon, I wanted to introduce myself and add to the topic of Menze and Engelmann accordions,  as this is the subject that brought me to Melodeon.net in the first place. ...

I stumbled upon some online images of an Engelmann 2 row accordion about 6 months ago,  and as someone very interested in the history of accordion building in the USA,  I immediately wanted to know more.

Hi Doug, and welcome to the fray...  ;)

As you probably know, accordion making in the USA started with James Amireaux Bazin as early as 1835, whilst the first known US Patent (and if there was an earlier one, it would have been lost in the 1836 Patent Office fire) is that of Anthony Faas of Philadelphia in 1854 - and I have a Faas with features of both that one and his 1856 Patent.

To be going on with, here are a couple of images of my 2-row C.T. Menze that I have on file (salvaged from my Photobucket account) that were originally taken for a discussion on melodeons/button accordions "with bells on":
« Last Edit: January 10, 2018, 07:53:29 AM by triskel »
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pgroff

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Welcome Doug!

Looking forward to learning from your contributions!

Best,

PG
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Doug Eisemann

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Thank you for the kind words and welcome!   
I do look forward to providing photos and details of my Menze once time permits and my workshop is in less of a state of disaster due to actual work projects.   The actual restoration to playability will only come once either I am skilled enough to do it myself,  or have the funds to have a qualified expert do it.   I know my limitations!

Triskel,  that is quite a fine looking CT Menze!  It is clear that boxes with bells were not limited to just the Saratov Garmonika.  I also notice that it has quite a nice decorative profile to the sound board frames and decorative bellows frame tape that other St. Louis built instruments lack, at least from what I have seen.
I was aware of some of the early history of accordion building in the U.S.  and had studied the Faas patents,  but I was not aware that any of his instruments had actually been built.   I am quite excited to hear that they do indeed exist.

As an aside,   for as great a resource the internet is,  I find trying to find reliable information on such a specific subject quite difficult.
I have seen a number of references to Flynn's book The Golden Age of the Accordion in relation to American accordion builders and was considering purchasing it.   My main concern is that it would pertain more to the musicians and not have much relevant historical content regarding the manufacturers.   Is it a worthwhile read given my area of interest?

Thank you again and best regards,
Doug



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triskel

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Triskel,  that is quite a fine looking CT Menze!  It is clear that boxes with bells were not limited to just the Saratov Garmonika.  I also notice that it has quite a nice decorative profile to the sound board frames and decorative bellows frame tape that other St. Louis built instruments lack, at least from what I have seen.

Thanks Doug!

So, having been reminded what it looks like by my photos, I dug out my "C. T. Menze" today to check it out.

When I bought it off eBay (from the USA) I had no idea where it was made, and thought I was buying yet another old German accordion with bell (a not-so-very-unusual feature, especially in the 1870s) to add to my collection - but when it arrived I realised it was somewhat different to any I've seen that were made in Germany, and then I saw similarities between it and a Menze (the soundbox is missing, so there is no maker's name stamped on it) and attributed it to him, but maybe it could be an Engelmann, or a Mueller, or are they all of the same manufacture anyway? :-\

The only name it bears is Ferdinand Lang, and the date 17 Feb 1900, written in pencil inside it - perhaps the owner?

But interestingly it does look more like the one illustrated on Mueller's trade card than the usual Menze/Engelmann models, and though it has 11 + 10 buttons, the longplates for the reeds have evidently been extended from 10 + 9, which is how the Mueller one is shown. The only significant difference seems to be that the Mueller has stop knobs on top of it, which I've never seen on a St. Louis accordion - but maybe you or Paul have? (You'd get to see more of a sampling of them than I ever would, here on the other side of the Atlantic.)

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I was aware of some of the early history of accordion building in the U.S.  and had studied the Faas patents,  but I was not aware that any of his instruments had actually been built.   I am quite excited to hear that they do indeed exist.

Well, at least one still exists anyway - I haven't heard of any others...

They were very advanced for their time, switching between C/F and C/B, and with a mute in the grille of the soundbox, etc.

Quote
As an aside,   for as great a resource the internet is,  I find trying to find reliable information on such a specific subject quite difficult.
I have seen a number of references to Flynn's book The Golden Age of the Accordion in relation to American accordion builders and was considering purchasing it.   My main concern is that it would pertain more to the musicians and not have much relevant historical content regarding the manufacturers.   Is it a worthwhile read given my area of interest?

Basically we're doing the research as we speak, and compare notes.

The book you mention has it's uses for later times, but (apart from makers/dealers in San Francisco) it doesn't cover diatonic accordions or 19th century history.
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Doug Eisemann

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Thank you, Triskel,  for taking the time to take a peek and provide additional information!
Unfortunately,  I was trying to insert quote portions from your response,  and it was not working for me.   It is getting late and I am much too tired to figure out how to do it properly so I will wait until tomorrow!

Cheers,
Doug
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Doug Eisemann

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Thanks Doug!

So, having been reminded what it looks like by my photos, I dug out my "C. T. Menze" today to check it out.

When I bought it off eBay (from the USA) I had no idea where it was made, and thought I was buying yet another old German accordion with bell (a not-so-very-unusual feature, especially in the 1870s) to add to my collection - but when it arrived I realised it was somewhat different to any I've seen that were made in Germany, and then I saw similarities between it and a Menze (the soundbox is missing, so there is no maker's name stamped on it) and attributed it to him, but maybe it could be an Engelmann, or a Mueller, or are they all of the same manufacture anyway? :-\

The only name it bears is Ferdinand Lang, and the date 17 Feb 1900, written in pencil inside it - perhaps the owner?

But interestingly it does look more like the one illustrated on Mueller's trade card than the usual Menze/Engelmann models, and though it has 11 + 10 buttons, the longplates for the reeds have evidently been extended from 10 + 9, which is how the Mueller one is shown. The only significant difference seems to be that the Mueller has stop knobs on top of it, which I've never seen on a St. Louis accordion - but maybe you or Paul have? (You'd get to see more of a sampling of them than I ever would, here on the other side of the Atlantic.)


Now that I am in a better frame of mind, I just wanted to thank you again for taking the time to give some more details of your Menze (perhaps) box.
Some of the additional decorative flourishes do seem to be in line with the Mueller advertisement illustration, but certainly in line with some of the Menze/Engelmann boxes I have seen photos of.    It is interesting that yours has long-plate reeds, and I wonder if this was normal practice, or otherwise.   Any signs of the reed maker? 
Unfortunately,  my one-row Menze so far has not offered any more clues as far as date,  addresses or otherwise inside, but perhaps more clues will be discovered when I do some more careful examination.

You were very fortunate to find that Faas accordion indeed!   I had always assumed it was another case of being a very interesting patent that never actually saw production,  or at least not beyond a few samples made by the inventor.    Then again,  perhaps this was the case and you have the sole surviving example!

Thank you again for your time,  and I hope to be back with detailed interior and exterior photos of the 1 row Menze  once things calm down a bit around here.

Best Regards,
Doug






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