The Lake Country Museum’s piano is classified as a reed organ, dating back to the 1900s.
Many Canadians purchased them, through the mail order catalogue, from the T. Eaton Company, around the year 1900. The manufacturer of this instrument was Bell Piano & Organ Co. LTD., from Guelph, Ontario. These instruments were considered major exports.
The black, sharp and flat, keys are made of ebony, a dark and dense wood. Ebony is naturally black; however, it can have white traces throughout. Ethical sourcing of ebony has become more common by manufacturers, as historically it has been discarded if the ebony was not perfectly black. Today, many companies use the whole ebony tree in production. The World Resource Institute indicates only one in 10 ebony trees produce perfectly black wood.
The instrument has fancy carvings, giving a traditional look. Ornate wood and reed buttons labeled in Latin, English and Italian add to its elegance. Strange mechanics underneath the piano endorse a sense of security and control. The foot pedals are supposedly mouse proof and were used to power the instrument. An individual would continually pump both pedals, to create the airflow needed for the organ’s reeds. The buttons above the keys are pull cords, devices that provided different sound modifications for player preference. This particular organ is unique, in that there are drink coasters attached to both sides.
The reed organ is very popular in India and Pakistan, to the extent that modifications have endured.
Modifications encompass drone stops and scale-changing conformities. The popularization of reed organs in the middle-eastern region may have arisen from the exotic and elegant designs associated with them.
By Jacob Semenuik. Every week, the Lake Country Calendar will publish a column highlighting our community’s past.