Wheatstone 12-Sided Duete

            The 12-sided Wheatstone, No. 35074
      donated to the Horniman Museum by Robert Gaskins
                        May 2000

       A Report on its origin, condition and provenance
                       Neil Wayne
   sometime owner & curator, The Wayne Concertina Collection
        Editor, "Free Reed - The Concertina Newsletter "

             Concertina Research and Resources
    The Cedars, Belper, Derbyshire DE56 1DD, United Kingdom
 Tel: 01773 824157   Fax: 01773 825573   Cellnet: 0802 708389

Neil Wayne and Robert Gaskins with Wheatstone 35074


1. In November 1999, an unusual Wheatstone Concertina, serial number 35074, was offered for sale on the eBay Internet Auction site.

2. It attracted much attention, from private bidders, from collectors, from museums and from concertina experts and enthusiasts because of its unique 12-sided shape (hitherto thought to be only ever used by Lachenal & Co for their premier range of 'Edeophone' concertinas), and for its unusual fingering system.

3. On-line discussions and comments amongst the concertina fraternity considered that the instrument may perhaps be a 're-badged' Lachenal instrument, having received later replacement ends with Wheatstone label and numbers, or to be a 'post-Lachenal-closure-stock' instrument, completed and labelled by the Wheatstone firm, but being made from parts or partially completely instruments acquired by Wheatstones' when that firm took over and bought out the closed Lachenal & Co stocks in the mid 1930s.

4. Thanks to the generosity of Dr Robert Gaskins of San Francisco, the instrument was purchased for donation to the Horniman Museum, London.

5. On receipt of the instrument here in Derbyshire, it appeared, apart from its 12-side 'Edeophone' shape, to be of totally Wheatstone construction and labelling, and was within an apparently original 'Wheatstone-West Street' labelled square hide case (black).

6. A detailed examination of the instrument was carried out by Steve Dickinson at the Workshops of his company, C Wheatstone & Co. On comparison of the instrument with Mr Dickinson's large quantity of original concertina-making tools, jigs and machinery, it was clearly apparent that the entire instrument had been made within the 1930-period Wheatstone workshops, using the same jigs and tools acquired in the 1970s on Mr Dickinson's acquisition of the C Wheatstone firm, and now still used by him in the manufacture of Wheatstone Concertinas.

7. Mr Dickinson showed that the historic Wheatstone jigs enabled 6-sided, 8-sided (the "aeola" patent style) and 12-sided "Edeophone" concertina ends and action boards to be constructed on the same tools, and provided further such evidence showing that by the mid-1930s, Wheatstones' were tooled up to make Edeophone-pattern instruments.

8. The Horniman Museum then consulted the C Wheatstone & Co sales and manufacturing ledgers from 1900, (placed on permanent loan to the Museum by C Wheatstone & Co.), and found that both No 35074 and many other instruments were made during 1938, and their Ledger Entries were annotated 'Edeo', indicating further that the Instrument was 100% Wheatstone-made, to Lachenals' patterns, but using purpose-built Wheatstone tools.

Neil Wayne with the concertina opened up

A Report on its origin, condition and provenance

External Appearance and characteristics of Wheatstone No 35,074

The Instrument was a large 12-sided concertina, 10 inches/25.4cm in diameter, with raised chromium-plated metal ends having Wheatstone-pattern fretwork with red fabric backing, again in the Wheatstone style.

The right hand end's label was the typical two-rivet scalloped-edge printed-metal badge, embossed "Manufacturers C Wheatstone & Co London".

The left hand end's label was the typical two-rivet scalloped-edge printed-metal badge, embossed "Wheatstone" and "Made in England" above and below the rectangular serial number cartouche, wherein was stamped "35074".

The inset areas into which these scalloped end-labels were riveted showed no signs of any alteration of a previous Lachenal-style label cartouche, nor any 'welding-in' of a new label recess area.

The chromed end-plates were inset into the stained black-stained wooden end-frames, and showed areas of severe palm-wear, revealing two further levels of nickel plating beneath the final chromed-plate finish. The six eight screws per end had gently domed heads with a flattish level of countersinking.

The eight-fold leather bellows were of rough-grained black leather.

The instument retained original thick-hide leather hand-straps, deeply stamped with "C Wheatstone & Co Manufacturers London", and retaining some original gilding to the lettering. The straps were secured to the hand-bar with two screws through rectangular blocks of pearl, and each had the usual nickel Wheatstone adjustment buckle to the lower end of the hand-bar.

Internal details & characteristics of Wheatstone No 35074

The inner face of each action boards was stamped with an inked rubber-stamp mark "Wheatstone 35074", and both the top-most inner face of each end's bellows frame and the top-most outer reed chambers of each reed-pan was stamped with an inked and impressed mark "74". It was standard practice to so mark the parts of each concertina, with the final two numbers of the instrument's serial number, so as to enable parts to be re-united at the assembly stage.

The centre hole of each reed-pan was markedly offset from centre, and the larger, deeper reeds on the inner faces of the reed pans were markedly inset towards the centre of their pan.

Wheatstones & Lachenals - from competition to co-operation.

The genesis of the early and continuing competition between Wheatstone & Co and Lachenal & Co may result from the 1850s defection of Louis Lachenal from his position as manager of Wheatstone & Co (together with a set of tools, all his expertise and some key personnel) to set up his own firm. (This is well-documented elsewhere, in Neil Wayne's paper in the Galpin Society, in the published interviews with Lachenal craftsman Tommy Williams, and in The George Jones Memoir).

Both firms flourished in the period 1850 - 1925, with Lachenals developing mass-production techniques, and concentrating on a large output of simple 20- and 30-key Anglo concertinas, together with a 'flagship' model, 'The Edeophone'. This was their Registered Design for a 12-sided instrument, usually with raised metal or ebony ends, which was made in English, MacCann Duet and Crane Duet fingering systems. The Edeophone captured much of the 1900-1920s market for band instruments bought by concertina band movement in the industrial north of England. Lachenals would produce large quantities of their cheaper instruments labelled with their dealers names and addresses, even labels indicating that the dealers were the 'manufacturers' of the instruments, a marketing ploy now apparently termed 're-badging'.

Wheatstone & Co made a generally higher quality range of instruments, with little mass-production, and their 'flagship' model was their "aeola"(introduced about 1894, and which soon faced with direct competition as Lachenal's promptly introduced their Edeophone). This was a high quality 8-sided instrument, with raised ebony or chromed ends, also available in tortoiseshell, Amboyna wood and other exotic end-materials. What 're-badging' there was, always mentioned Wheatstones as the manufacturers, as on the label "made to the order of Misqith & Co, Bombay, by C Wheatstone & Co, London", which appears on Wheatstone Baritone No 20,950, Museum No C33.

By the mid-1930s, concertina sales were in severe decline, due to competition from the piano-accordion and cheap continental melodeon, and due to the declining numbers of players. The First World War had wiped out a generation of players, and killed the younger men who would have become players, and rising prices coupled with declining sales led to the closure of Lachenals in 1935.

Prior to this period, (according to Steve Dickinson's researches) the once-rival firms had begun to co-operate, sharing craftsmen, and to some extent pooling their manufacturing resources: since much concertina making work remained on an 'out-work' basis, with tuners and other craftsmen doing their work at home on a piecework basis, craftsmen could do work for both firm, and did.

Co-operation - and absorption

In spite of this cross co-operation, the weaker management of Lachenals (possibly Messrs Ballinger & Sanders mentioned critically by Tommy Williams, who was employed by them as a tuner) led to the closure of the workshops in 1935. Tommy Williams recalls 'barrow-loads of parts and unfinished instruments being taken 'round to Wheatstones'.

Steve Dickinson's research on the tools and materials he acquired when he bought Wheatstones' from Boosey & Hawkes in 1974, and his interviews with Sid Green, the last surviving Wheatstone craftsman from the pre-war period, at last throws light on the origins of No 35, 074.

Steve's current concertina-making tools and jigs are those that were in use in the mid and late 1930s, and an examination of these reed-frame fly-press tools used for 1930s Wheatstone reeds show that they were the self-same tools used to make the reeds for No 35,074.

Steve Dickinson's action board and reed-pan routing tools offer a fascinating pointer to the output of the 1930s factory, for there are three clearly-numbered settings on the jig, namely for 6-sided, 8-sided and for 12-sided instruments!!

Steve Dickinson's further comments emphasise that:

Finally - the Sales Ledger information

At the suggestion of Mr Dickinson, I studied a copy of the Sales Ledger entries for the late 1930s, sent by Margaret Birley from The Wheatstone/Dickinson ledgers in the Horniman.

These show that the entry for No 35,074 reads:

22.9 38 - 40 Spl - NP Turned in Metals - 72 keys - 10" Edeo -
26.9.38 - 35,074

Thus, the instrument was commenced on September 22nd 1938, was a model 40 'Special', Nickel Plate 'NP' ends, had 72 keys, was 10" diameter with inset metal ends, and was made, by Wheatstones', in the Edeophone format! The instrument was completed on September 26th 1938, numbered 35,074.

The Ledger also shows that another 'Edeophone' was made just a week prior to 35,074, entered as No 35,075 and described as an ebony-ended 50 key 7 and one-half inch diameter 'Edeo'.

In Conclusion

Wheatstone No 35,074 reveals much new information about the declining concertina trade in the pre-war years; thanks to information made available by Steve Dickinson of Wheatstone & Co, we find that co-operation and part-amalgamation was in the air between the last two great concertina-making firms, and that Wheatstones' had by 1935 already tooled up to make the popular 'Edeophone' style of quality concertina, though to their own specifications.

Robert Gaskins is to be heartily thanked for his diligence, foresight and generosity in securing this instrument for The Horniman Museum's Wayne Concertina Collection, and thanks are also due to Steve Dickinson, for generously throwing open his workshops and his Archives for this brief research.