The name "America" is often used to refer to the United States, but until the political formation of the United States after the Revolutionary War, this designation referred to South America only. Such use of this designation is impolitic from the perspective of Canadians and Latin Americans. The United States has an Anglo majority that is politically and economically dominant. One of the defining characteristics of the country as a nation is its legacy of slavery and the persistence of economic and social inequalities based on race.
It was very popular in middle and late nineteenth century America, and was extensively played in popular and sacred music of that era. However, by the early s it had all but vanished from American popular culture, and was played thereafter mostly by newly-arrived Irish and English immigrants.
Its styles of previous use slipped from living memory without being recorded, unlike England, where small numbers of players continued to play the instrument into the early twentieth century. For this reason most current US players are unaware of its earlier American heyday, when it was far more popular than today.
Information on its former use is to be found as brief footnotes or anecdotes buried in newspaper accounts, in family histories, and in photographs in archives.
This article attempts to weave a basic history of its use in the US from these scattered and diverse sources. A musical American family, ca.
Note the anglo concertina at the center of the group as well as the Salvation Army insignia worn by several family members. Unlike the more expensive and finely built English concertina, adopted early on in smaller numbers by the upper crust, the inexpensive, mass-produced Anglo-German instrument was a working class affair from its inception.
Being relatively inexpensive and fairly ubiquitous, it was owned largely without written comment other than that found in instruction manuals, much as one would own a ukulele in the s or an electronic keyboard today. This square-ended wooden instrument was mass-produced in Germany and exported widely.
German builders soon copied the hexagonal ends used by English makers, and both countries have built and exported Anglo-German and Anglo-Chromatic instruments to the present day. Because the German-made models were less expensive and more readily available in the U.
Figure 2 is a copy of an American tintype from aboutshowing a man holding one of these inexpensive, German-made Anglo-German concertinas.
Tintype photograph of a man holding a hexagonal, German-made Anglo-German concertina, ca. Image found with the help of Jared Snyder.
The keyboard used in the first German concertinas continued to evolve in Germany on a path that diverged from that of the anglo.
This instrument was and is popular amongst members of German and Polish communities in America.
A full account of it is use is beyond the scope of this report, but has been extensively documented by James Leary. For example, the U. Advertisement for tutors for German and English concertinas, German steamships brought inexpensive German-made concertinas to America in huge numbers.
These quantities were vastly higher than the output of the main English firms Wheatstone and Lachenal, which represented the higher quality end of the concertina trade.
SS Grasbrook, a German steamship, in drydock in Newfoundland, This vessel carried large numbers of German concertinas to North America.
From the online archives of the Memorial Library, University of Newfoundland. Period newspaper advertisements show that Anglo-German concertinas flowed to all parts of the country, even to areas not yet reached by train. When mail order catalogs became popular in the late s, both German and English-made Anglo-German instruments were carried Figure 5.
Anglo concertinas in the Montgomery Ward Catalogue of From the Dover Press facsimile The anglo has retained its very large edge in popularity over the English system instrument in the US to the present day, but its early lead over the accordion was not to last.
By or so, entries for free reed instruments in mail order catalogues such as Montgomery Wards show that accordions overtook the Anglo-German concertina in overall sales and popularity in the last two decades of the nineteenth century, although the anglo still remained popular with the general public until the early decades of the twentieth century see discussion below.
Anglo vs English Concertinas: Sedgwick —Robert Thompson Spice b. In a bow to this mass popular audience, Sedgwick also published instruction manuals for the German Concertina, beginning in Figure 6.
In his introductory comments, Sedgwick commented: German concertina tutor by Alfred Sedgwick, Thus began a social divide between users of these two instruments that persisted throughout the nineteenth century in the US.
Still, we must not sneer at the thing. I believe it does give a measure of enjoyment to some of our hard working people; it is better for them to listen or to dance to a German concertina than to hear no music at all.
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