Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A German Organ in Texas

This is a Wellershaus Brothers Organ with 58 keys (notes).   It has 5 bass, 12 accompaniment, 18 melody, 11 trumpets, 6 trombones, 3 drums and 2 rank controls.   It has a total of 214 pipes.   Both control and play are driven from compressed air bellows.   The Wellershaus Brothers departed from the then usual colors of black with red or gold trim, to use a bright front on their organs.   The music was happy, the facade should be happy.

How Rare Is It?

We have no way of knowing how many of this model were built, but as far as we know, this is the only one in the USA.

How Does It Work?
The music is contained in a stack of "Book Music" composed of layers of cardboard glued to a central linen sheet.   The cardboard sections are about 7" long and accordion fold with the linen as a hinge.   The punched holes "read" a series of valve fingers, which open small primary valves that in turn opens pneumatics which move push rods opening the final valves, allowing the compressed air to enter the selected pipes and play the music.   The compressed air is supplied by wood and leather bellows pumps driven by a crankshaft which is turned by the electric motor mounted on the side of the case.   The book music is connected in a continuous loop and is the music installed in 1934, when it was converted from a barrel organ.

Where Has It Been?
Built in the village of Saarn in the Ruhr Valley in Germany before 1904, as a stepped case hand cranked barrel organ.   We know the pre 1904 date, because in 1994 Saarn was annexed by Mulheim and the front of the Wellershaus Organs carried the new town name.    It was in Holland in April of 1934, where it was converted to play book music by Louis Ch. van Deventer.   It was still in Holland in 1973, when Hank Veeningen owned it.

After coming to the U.S., it was repaired in Texas.   It appears to have traveled with some sort of carnival based on the damage from lots of assembling and tear down.   While in this use, it was repaired many times with unusual patches.   The attitude must have been let's keep it playing for one more day.   Jake bought it from a dealer in Rochester, PA.   When it came to us in 1994, it was not playing.    After being declared unrepairable by professional restorers, it was put back in operation over a two year period by our volunteers.   To the best of our ability, we undid the quick and dirty repairs and put the organ back into original condition.

Background Information
The Wellerhaus Firm was founded by Wilhelm Wellershaus in Remscheid Germany in 1793.   Wilhelm built and repaired clocks and then church organs.   Wilhelm's son Frederick, started his branch  of the firm in Saarn in early 1832, building church organs for outdoor use, which slowly grew in size up to 140 key models.   Julius' sons, August and Wilhelm, organized Gebruders Wellerhaus in 1880.   With August as the driving force, they moved into big high quality fairground organs.   They built the first colorful organ fronts as opposed to others with black finish.

The factory was destroyed in WW2, but rebuilt and struggled on until 1965, when August Jr. died.

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