Silvertone Orgamonica and Vintage Italians Update

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  • #11338
    AvatarAlan Brinton
    Participant

    In earlier postings on two Silvertone Orgamonica models (34 and 25 key) I have identified them as Italian instruments.

    Silvertone Orgamonica

    I have now discovered that I was mistaken. These models were manufactured in the United States by Silvertone (earlier Harmony), a subsidiary of Sears Roebuck & Company. I knew that Sears had used the “Silvertone” brand label but only recently have confirmed that the Orgamonica label refers to one and the same manufacturer. The confirming evidence shows that the Silvertone Orgamonicas are to be dated earlier than I suspected. They are early 1960s instruments. Here are images from (1) a January 1965 Silvertone brochure and (2) the 1966 Sears Christmas Wishbook.


    This finding has significant further implications for the dating of the generation of vintage Italian melodicas that we have been discussing in the forum. I have lumped these Italian models together on account of how similar they are to one another in design and construction, and I have guessed at a late 1960s through 1970s time frame. My guess has been late 1960s or 1970s. The 34 key Orgamonica is clearly a poor man’s imitation of the 1958 Italian La Clavietta. This should be clear to anyone who has, as I have, worked on these instruments, taken them apart and made comparisons.

    But close examination and comparisons between a variety of vintage small Italian melodicas(Chordiana, Pianino, etc.) and the 25 key Orgamonica (Sears listing mistakenly says 26 key) show that the design and materials are remarkably similar (except for the location of the mouthpiece hole on the Orgamonica), so similar as to suggest common origin, shared parts and/or imitation. But the small Orgamonica is inferior in sound and construction to the Italians, as the big Orgamonica is to the Clavietta. These considerations and the history of Sears-Silvertone’s marketing of inexpensive imitations of musical instruments (notably, ukuleles) seems to me to inescapably lead to the conclusion that the small Orgamonica is an imitation of the small Italians. It’s possible that some of its parts were imported from Italy, reeds perhaps and more.

    A further implication is that the small Italian vintage melodicas should be dated as early 1960s, which also helps to explain why the soft materials of these models have broken down and crumbled, rendering most unplayable without some refurbishment. This seems to me to be the most significant “finding.”

    #11339
    Daren BanarsëDaren Banarsë
    Keymaster

    Great detective work Alan!

    #11341
    AvatarAlan Brinton
    Participant

    Thanks. Here’s a little more.

    I was concerned after posting the above that the Silvertone Orgamonicas might have been imported from Italy. I’m still not certain, but I did find the following posted at the Ukulele Hall of Fame in response to a question about where the inquirer’s vintage Harmony ukulele was made: “Your ukulele was made by The Harmony Company of Chicago Illinois. Harmony was owned by Sears, and manufactured many instruments for Sears under the Supertone (and later, Silvertone) brand names.”

    The Harmony Company, founded in 1892 was purchased by Sears Roebuck in 1916. That’s the same year in which Sears introduced the Silvertone brand, which started out including phonographs and electronics, later adding musical instruments. Silvertone continued through 1972, and Samick (Korea) purchased the rights to the name, under which it started selling guitars.

    Harmony was an actual musical instrument manufacturing company; Silvertone was just a brand name. Harmony did make the ukuleles. Harmony manufacturing continued until 1975. It may be that the Orgamonicas were imported to be sold under the Silvertone brand name.

    In any case, the Silvertone Orgamonicas occupy an interesting spot in the history of Italian melodicas, whether they were actually made in italy or not.

    #11342
    AvatarAlan Brinton
    Participant

    Aw shucks. In reviewing earlier posts, I’m reminded that the Silvertone Organica 34 also appeared as the Implisonic Claviata, which was marketed by Miazzi, an Italian company. To complicate matters further, Miazzi didn’t make its own instruments. So the Silvertone Orgamonicas must have been imported to the U.S. after all from Italy. Sorry for posting out loud. But this doesn’t change the implications for dating this generation of Italian melodicas. Miazzi also marketed small models that are familiar under other brand or model names such as Chordiana.

    #11343
    AvatarAlan Brinton
    Participant

    The small Orgamonica appears in the big Sears 1964 Fall-Winter 1964 catalog. I’ve been searching through Sears, JC Penney’s and Montgomery Ward catalogs from the 1960s find no earlier appearance. The 1965 Penny Christmas Book has the first Hohner Piano 26 (HM-926). It’s interesting that the Orgamonicas are referred to by Sears as keyboard harmonicas.

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