Wheatstone Anglos nos. 50,000 +

23 June 2001

This note describes some information recently re-discovered about the production of Wheatstone Anglo concertinas with serial numbers above #50000.

In a nutshell: it seems that between 1938 and 1974 Wheatstone & Co. manufactured concertinas in two parallel series of serial numbers; Englishes and Duets were given numbers #3XXXX, and Anglos were given numbers #5XXXX. During these 37 years Wheatstone manufactured about 2,129 Englishes and Duets, with serial numbers from about #34955 through #37083, and some 9,498 Anglos, with serial numbers from #50001 through #59498. Yet, for unknown reasons, this vast population of late Wheatstone Anglos with #50000+ numbers are not seen nearly as often as one would expect.

I've been working on this subject with Randy Merris, Wes Williams, Doug Creighton, and Steve Dickinson. A number of other people have contributed insights and information. Not everything can be explained, and there may well be misunderstandings and mistakes in what I have written here (and I have made them all myself, since no one else has yet had a chance to review the text).

The generally-accepted story about Wheatstone concertina production has been that Wheatstone made concertinas (English, Anglo, and Duet) from serial #00001 beginning about 1830, ending with #37000 or so in the mid-1970s. In 1975 Steve Dickinson resurrected the company and re-started production with concertinas beginning at #60000. Occasionally you hear a passing reference to some Anglos with numbers in the #50000+ range, treated as some marginal aspect of the doomed post-war struggles of Boosey & Hawkes to make a go of selling cheaper concertinas. (I have also seen the theory that in the 1950s some concertinas were assigned serial numbers based on two digits of the year of manufacture--so that "#56073" would be the 73rd concertina made in 1956, for example.)

I have told parts of this story myself, and even circulated a table that I calculated, based on ledgers available at the Horniman Museum, showing the dramatic decline in concertina production after the 1930s:

              #25000       Avg/
           to #37083       Year

1910-1919      3,282        345
1920-1929      4,001        400
1930-1939      2,983        298
1940-1949        393         39
1950-1959        941         94
1960-1969        403         40
1970-1974         81         19
               -----      -----
  TOTAL       12,084        187
(These ledgers begin in mid-1910, at concertina #25000. Other ledgers at the Horniman Museum record various information about concertinas from the mid-1840s to 1891, but the period 1891-1910 has no known records.)

But then recently I started to see references to actual examples of #50000+ series Anglos, very often with associations to South Africa; there was a whole thread about them on Paul Schwartz's forum at concertina.net. So I started to look into them.

The first thing about these Anglos that I ran across was a single sheet of paper in Neil Wayne's voluminous archives at the Horniman Museum; this is actually a copy made on an old manual typewriter, which has typed upon it a rough table of the dates of concertinas from the 1-35000 sequence, similar to the usual "Nigel Pickles" list. And then hand-written at the bottom of the sheet someone has added a semi-legible table as follows:



50001 - 51134   1937-1939   A
51135 - 51432   1940-1941   A
51433 - 52216   1946-1947   C
52217 - 53688   1948-1950
53700 - 54449      1951             A = West Street
54450 - 55338      1952     B       B = Ives Street
55339 - 56390      1953             C = [blank in original]
56391 - 57084      1954             D = Duncan Terrace from 9AP 1959
57085 - 57502      1955
57503 - 57797      1956
57798 - 58084      1957
58085 - 58387     1958/9
58388 - 58485      1960     D


[note 53689 - 53699 missing]
Nearby in the archives is another sheet of paper on which this list had been retyped using a very good electric typewriter, but with a misleading heading and with some typos. Between the dim manuscript note and the clear but untrustworthy retyping, I arrived at the table above. Since this manuscript table ends with 1960, it might have been written about that time.

Neither sheet has yet been catalogued at the Horniman, but these appear to constitute item number C1045 in Neil Wayne's finding list to his archives, which is described as "C1045. A copy of a complete dating list for Wheatstone Concertinas, compiled by Henry Minting. All numbers from 1 - 58485 are covered, with approximate dates of manufacture." ("The Concertina Museum, Archives", page 40.) Other evidence (below) allows us to confirm that the concertina #58485 was indeed made at the very end of 1960, and the list has other plausibilities. Given Neil Wayne's attribution of the list to Henry Minting, who was the last manager of the independent Wheatstone & Co. and had access to all its records, there is every reason to take the note seriously.

After Wes and Randy and I had discussed this by email, I sent email to Steve Dickinson inquiring what he knew, and he responded by inviting me up to visit his offices and workshop, and to see the records he had. So about two weeks ago I went to Stowmarket and spent most of a day with Steve. While I was there he showed to me, and then gave me to take away, a book that I'd not known existed: the Wheatstone production ledger for instruments #55492 (28 Feb 1953) through #59498 (10 Dec 1974), one hand-written line with date for each serial number. I carried this to the Horniman Museum in London the next day (where the rest of the known Wheatstone production records are held), and it will repay study there. Steve does not know anything more about the ledgers for Anglos #50001 to #55491--they were missing, along with many other records, when he acquired the company.

On the train back from Stowmarket to London, I quickly noted down the APPROXIMATE years of various serial-ranges. (The dates are actually intermixed at year-breaks, as throughout all the ledgers, so it is NOT possible from this table to positively assign an instrument to a definite year--and my assignment of breaks is not necessarily any better than that of the manuscript note.) I added at the top the dates from the manuscript note, to give myself a complete list, though very rough:

1937-39: 50001-51134       [use manuscript note for 1937-1952]
1940-41: 51135-51432
1946-47: 51433-52216
1948-50: 52217-53688       [53689 - 53699 missing?]
1951:    53700-54449
1952:    54450-55338
1953:    55339-56448       [55339-56390 note; 55492-56448 ledger]
1954:    56449-57084       [here and below from ledger only]
1955:    57085-57619
1956:    57620-57886
1957:    57887-58077       [1957, 1958, and
1958:    58078-58305       1959 are especially
1959:    58306-58387       intermingled]
1960:    58388-58489
1961:    58490-58550
1962:    58551-58584
1963:    58585-58688
1964:    58689-58819
1965:    58820-58973
1966:    58974-59055
1967:    59056-59149
1968:    59150-59198
1969:    59199-59246
1970:    59247-59334
1971:    59335-59385
1972:    59386-59425
1973:    59426-59479
1974:    59480-59498        [Total: 9,498 instruments]
This amounts to quite a substantial production, nine and a half thousand Anglos, and mostly made after World War II. In a format similar to the earlier table:
              Anglos       Avg/
             #50000+       Year

1937-1939      1,134        567
1940-1949      1,818        182
1950-1959      5,435        543
1960-1969        859         86
1970-1974        252         50
               -----      -----
  TOTAL        9,498        257
So, the standard summary of Wheatstone production, while correct as far as it goes, omits a big part of the story. The Anglos made with numbers above #50000 were not just a few odd ones each year in the 1950s, but totalled 9,498--probably more than half the Anglos that Wheatstone ever made. And they began to be made in 1937 or 1938, were resumed after the war, and were made up to 1974--so they are also the most recent Anglos, as well as the most numerous. The mystery is: why don't we see them everywhere? They should be the most common Wheatstone concertinas, there should be several being sold on eBay all the time; there is a great demand for Wheatstone Anglos, and these are generally described by their owners as being extremely serviceable. Where did they all go?

I made up some theories: (1) Perhaps they were made in a different production facility, even off-shore? That could be a reason why the serial number ledgers were split into two, because production was going on at two locations? Or, (2) perhaps the production up to #37083 was the domestic product, and the concertinas above #50000 were a special "export model" made cheaply for export only? That would very neatly explain why we never saw any of them, because they were all sold abroad, out of sight. But Steve Dickinson thought that such theories were too elaborate; he thought that, for reasons unknown, Wheatstone had decided sometime in the late 1930s to begin giving their regular Anglos a different set of serial numbers.

When I delivered Steve's latest ledger to the Horniman Museum, I looked at his other ledgers there which record the production to #37083, and it appears that Steve is right: the #50000+ Anglos seem to be the continuation of normal Anglo production, and not some different model.

I only had a few minutes, but it does appear that the last Anglo model numbers in those ledgers were in late 1937; I found a model 62 dated "20-12-37" #34959, and a model "AG" (for "Anglo-German", the usual way of referring to the instruments in the older ledgers, which is not a standard model number) with "40 keys double reeds" dated "1-3-38" #34993. But then, apparently, no more. There are lots of Anglos recorded with #3XXXX numbers earlier in 1937, and in preceding years, but none I could see from 1938-1974. I can think of various reasons why there might be isolated exceptions which would result in Anglos with serial numbers between #35000 and #37083 (errors, special orders, remaking of old instruments, ...), but from 1938 on, the standard policy seems to have been that the #3XXXX series numbers only Englishes and the relatively-few Duets (to 1974), and the #5XXXX series numbers only Anglos (also to 1974).

A few weeks previously I had discovered in the older Wheatstone production ledgers an interesting entry for #31742. This instrument was a Nickel-Plated 40-key Anglo, made 05 Jan 1928. In the ledger, the next line contains a later annotation "S.H 265 /19/12/47 No, Altered to 52462". I understand this to mean "received back second-hand (265 is some ticket or transaction?) 19 Dec 1947, refurbished and serial number altered to #52462". Wheatstone refurbished a number of second-hand concertinas during and after the war, and the new number here would fit into a resale in 1948, according to the table. What we can now explain is that the reason for changing to this number would have been that, by 1948, all Anglos were given #5XXXX numbers. Since we don't have the ledger for #52462, we can't check the other end of this operation; it would be nice to find the actual #52462 and see what was done to it.

Doug Creighton at The Button Box has been studying the construction of the #50000+ instruments, and recently he compared an Anglo numbered #50238, which would be "1937-1938" according to the manuscript note, with a Linota Anglo #34294, which would date from late 1936. As I understand his conclusions, Doug found these two instruments to be similar in appearance and design.

By contrast, he finds that later Anglos such as #52975, which would be from "1948-50" and halfway through that period (hence, from about ten years later and very definitely post-war), are constructed rather differently, e.g., with reeds clinched into frames rather than held with two screws.

So this is evidence of design continuity between Anglos around #34500 and around #50200, further support for the idea of a new numbering scheme for the same production. The design changes seem to be associated with the long interruption of the war and the post-war perception of changed market conditions, not with the serial number series.

Here are some instrument notes from Doug, to which I have added dates based on the table above. Note that only #34294 and #50238 are pre-war, the rest post-war.

#34294 30B anglo, C/G, mahogany ends, PB, 5-fold bellows (not original), steel reeds in brass frames dovetailed into reed pan, hook action. Coarse fretwork [c. 1936--for comparison]
#5023830B anglo, C/G, hex. flat ME, MB, ebony frames, 6 fold new bellows, hook action, steel reeds in a mixture of alum. and brass frames. Fretwork more closely resembles older models. [c. 1938]
#5297530B anglo, C/G, hex. flat WE, MB, 6 fold rexine bellows, hook action, steel reeds clinched into alum. frames and screwed into reed pan. Coarse fretwork. [c. 1949]
#5417620B anglo, flat mahogany ends, plastic buttons, 5-fold brown bellows [c. 1951]
#5420640B anglo, C/G, hex. flat EE, MB, 6-fold rexine bellows, hook action, steel reeds in alum. frames. [c. 1951]
#5462430B anglo, CG, mahogany ends, PB, 5F, hook action [c. 1952]
#5464830B anglo, C/G, metal ends (replacement), metal buttons, steel reeds, 8-fold bellows, hook-style action [c. 1952]
#5484640B anglo, D/A piccolo, AEola, EE, MB [c. 1952]
#5569130B anglo, C/G, hex. flat ME, PB, mahogany frames, 6-fold brown bellows, hook action, steel reeds clinched into alum. frames and screwed into reedpan [c. 1953]
#5598330B anglo, C/G, hex. flat ME, MB, ebony frames, 8 fold bellows (replacement), hook action, steel reeds clinched into alum.
#5620640B anglo, C/G, hex. flat EE, MB, 6-fold rexine bellows, hook action, steel reeds in alum. frames. [c. 1953]
#5621540B anglo, C/G, hex. flat EE, MB, 8-fold bellows, hook action, steel reeds in alum. frames. [c. 1953]
#5640936B anglo, CG flat ME, ebony frames, MB, new 6-fold bellows, steel reeds in alum. frames dovetailed into reed pan [c. 1953]
#5741430B model 2A (?) anglo, C/G, hex. flat ME, MB, ebony frames, 6 fold rexine bellows, hook action, steel reeds clinched into alum. frames. Very coarse fretwork. [c. 1955]
#5757530B anglo, C/G, hex. flat ME, MB, ebony frames, 6 fold rexine bellows, hook action, steel reeds clinched into alum. frames. Very coarse fretwork. [c. 1955]
#5766830B anglo, C/G, hex. flat ME, MB, ebony frames, 6 fold rexine bellows, hook action, steel reeds clinched into alum. frames. Coarse fretwork. [c. 1956]
#5769430B anglo, C/G, hex. flat ME, MB, ebony frames, 6 fold rexine bellows, hook action, steel reeds clinched into alum. frames. Coarse fretwork. [c. 1956]
#5806630B anglo, C/G, hex. flat ME, PB, mahogany frames, 6-fold brown bellows, hook action, steel reeds clinched into alum. frames and screwed into reedpan [c. 1957]
#5828630B anglo, C/G, hex. flat EE, MB, 6-fold bellows, hook action, steel reeds in alum. frames. [c. 1958]
#5837340B anglo, C/G, hex. flat ME, MB, ebony frames, 8-fold rexine bellows, hook action, steel reeds in alum. frames. [c. 1959]
#5941640B anglo AEola, C/G, ME, MB, steel reeds in alum. frames, 8-fold bellows, hook action [c. 1972]

Although the idea of an "export model" seems to be wrong, it does appear that many--but definitely not all--of the #50000+ Anglos were exported to South Africa.

Steve Dickinson tells me that--by the late 1960s and early 1970s, the period when he has first-hand knowledge--virtually all of Wheatstone's Anglo production went to South Africa. Specifically, he remembers that the instruments were sold to a company called "Goode, Durrant & Murray" who had offices in London as well as in Johannesburg. There apparently was a large imperial trading company of that name, with interests in Australia and in South Africa, and they would have had a London office. But they might have been only an intermediary, with distribution in South Africa handled by another firm.

The recent thread on the forum at concertina.net started as a discussion of "South African Wheatstones", and it turned out that they all had #50000+ serial numbers:

> Posted by: Mark Davies, May 14, 2001

> Having recently acquired a 30 key metal ended anglo manufactured
> in the 1950's/60's that originated in South Africa I would like to
> give my opinion as to the playability of these instruments.
> [S/N is 57773, c. 1956.]
> I've been playing the english and anglo concertina for about twenty
> five years. I play all types of traditional music, but now more
> Irish Dance music than anything else. I have fifteen instruments,
> including a late 40 key metal ended chromatic anglo in C/G, a 19th
> Century 38 key metal ended Crabb Bf/F anglo, a 40 key metal ended
> Wheatstone C/G anglo made in the 1920's and a 40 key metal ended
> Dipper made to my own specification about fifteen years ago. I have
> also had through my hands over the years many other Lachenals, Crabb
> and Jeffries anglo's (both wooden and metal ended). I thus feel in a
> reasonable position to make a judgement.
> The South African sourced instrument needed some adjustment when I
> got it to suit me. I lowered the action and replaced the heavier
> springs with lighter gauge ones. The reeds are screwed to the reed
> pan in aluminium frames. The tone for that reason is not as good as
> older instruments but the action and response is perfectly
> acceptable for average players like myself. You are going to
> struggle to get a vintage anglo for anything other than serious
> money and I consider that South African sourced Wheatstone anglos
> are therefore worth considering at the right price.
> I knew Harry Minting the last Manager of Wheatstones and he always
> said for a long time after the Second World War most of the better
> quality anglos went to South Africa. I have a number of Wheatstone
> catalogues from the 1950's and 1960's. The 1950's catalogue shows
> the Model 4A anglo 30 key metal ends, i.e. as per most of the South
> African Wheastones, to be priced at 40 and 3 shillings (I'll let
> you convert that to dollars). A photograph also shows a lot of the
> same model "being packed ready for export to world markets". The
> instrument I have acquired clearly was manufactured during the
> Boosey & Hawkes days. I've also got a Dickinson Wheatstone 40 key
> Aeola anglo on order and a Suttner, so I hope to have tried all
> makes eventually.
> Mark Davies
> Sheffield
> South Yorkshire

Another posting:

> Posted by: John Burton, Jun 7, 2001
> Mark: Is there any chance I might get an image of the catalog page
> for the South African (or not) model 4A? My S/N is 59078 and is
> dated 2/28/67 (according to Wheatstone).
> My instrument is everything you have said. I got it from Sean Minnie
> in South Africa and have been very pleased.
> John
Separately, Johannes Bosch, a South African who has lived in England and now lives in the United States, recently wrote in email:
> Over the past few months I purchased a few Wheatstones in S.A. at
> reasonable prices compared to the U.S. market.  I'm awaiting the
> arrival of several Wheatstones at this time. ... Most of these have
> been 50000 boxes.  ... unfortunately most South Africans still do
> not have access to the internet or email.  ... None of the people
> from whom I bought concertinas had email access -- including the
> latest source.
But not all the Wheatstone Anglos in the later years went to South Africa; Randy Merris owns #59262, c. 1970, and found that inside is the handwritten label "O.S.C.B L'pool", apparently standing for the "Old Swan Concertina Band, Liverpool", an Orange marching band.

Once we add back the 9,498 Anglos in their proper decades, we get a rather different profile of the old Wheatstone & Co.:

         Concertinas         Concertinas         Concertinas
              #25000    Avg/      Anglos    Avg/         All    Avg/
           to #37083    Year     #50000+    Year  Production    Year

1910-1919      3,282     345          --      --       3,282     345
1920-1929      4,001     400          --      --       4,001     400
1930-1939      2,983     298       1,134     113       4,117     412
1940-1949        393      39       1,818     182       2,211     221
1950-1959        941      94       5,435     543       6,376     638
1960-1969        403      40         859      86       1,262     126
1970-1974         81      19         252      50         333      33
              ------   -----      ------   -----      ------   -----
  TOTALS      12,084     187       9,498     257      21,582     335
It seems still to be true that Wheatstone & Co. experienced declining fortunes in the early 1930s and recovered somewhat after absorbing Lachenal in 1935, then suffered mightily from the ten-year interruption caused by World War II, and ultimately failed to turn things around after the war with production of less-expensive instruments. But the numbers in the last two columns show a different particular version of that general story.

I would be interested to have additional information and insight into the Wheatstone #50000+ Anglos, and I think that many other people would. I suggest that postings might be made to the discussion forum at www.concertina.net, since that site focuses on Anglos and there has already been discussion on the topic there.

Bob Gaskins

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