“Ne Plus Ultra Accordeon” – No Greater Antique Accordion?
This post is to ask for help. What can we discover about this not very humble accordion?
I was able to score this old squeezebox online for about $50 which is pretty cool. It’s what historians call “pretty old,” and I’m willing to guess it’s from about 1900, but there must be more details somewhere. It certainly has some distinctive things that should help identify a maker or era. So I’m asking for any help readers can offer.
First of course is the huge grill-cover proclaiming there is “No Greater Accordion.” Well, that’s settled, and seems it should guarantee somebody remembers it, no? The grill also says that it’s patented, which raises the possibility of legal documentation somewhere. But where? The proclamation is in French, but the instrument seems pretty similar to German accordions of the 1900 era. Did the French patent a similar design too? I’m writing about Canadian accordion history this month and even though I bought it from a US dealer I can’t help but think it could be one of the early Canadian accordions made by Odilon Gagné in Quebec starting in about 1895? (That’d be awesome!) It couldn’t be from Louisiana, could it? Hmmm. I’m totally open to suggestions.
I hope readers help me follow some of these leads and we learn more together.
Distinctive things I’ve noted besides that audacious grill:
The single register knob is a simple square shape, attached with a screw at the top, and still works. Pushed in, one reed set sounds, pulled out, two reeds sound tuned a bit wet I think.
The darn thing is actually in decent tune to my ear. Quality work by someone 100 years ago. Have I mentioned that this thing has seen some playing! Serious amounts of music came out of this instrument over the years.
The left hand bass and air buttons are screwed into place and almost look like they could be generic drawer knobs or something.
Under the grill a textile-mesh has come loose, but still shows evidence of once being glued in place on the grill. One of the valve-pallets is missing, and they all seem to be bare metal, without any gasket, or at least none of them show evidence of gaskets now.
The bellows has been traumatized and may need extensive therapy. Sorry, I forgot to take a photo of the bellows opened. They’re not very air-tight, that’s for sure. The metal hardware is interestingly corroded and the paper decorations (just about the only decorations on the instrument) are very worn and fragile. None of the metal is engraved or decorated with any identifying designs at all.
I tried to open it up to see if there are any markings on the inside but I haven’t succeeded yet. I loosened the large screws I thought would release the ends from the bellows but that was not enough. I don’t know if some of these tacks or nails are holding it together, or maybe it’s been glued or is stuck? I’m concerned about breaking it if I don’t know what I’m doing.
Any advice for safely opening up old accordions would be welcome.
And please do leave a comment if you have any suggestions to find out more about The Greatest of All Antique Accordions!