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Pump My Organ April 25, 2007

Posted by Mitchell in Art, Science & Technology.

Ha!  That title ought to get a few hits! 

I’m referring of course to the Old Family Heirloom that I aquired recently:  the reed pump organ.

Reed Organ

Click the pic to get it a little bigger sized pic.

More detailed shots below

Here’s a closer shot with the case open, showing the keys.  Those white circles above the keys are actually labels for the pegs you pull out to turn on and affect the sounds of ranges of keys.  The four on the left work with the bass range keys, the middle four with the middle range and the right with the treble keys.


See the red stuff?  That’s red velvet fabric and it’s where the sound comes out.  That and the smell of OLD.

The whole thing is powered by alternating foot presses to the pedals below.  The harder you press, the louder the sound.

Foot Pedals

As I mentioned earlier, this organ is at least 100 years old (there’s a manufacturing date inside the back panel and a service document from the 1930’s).  It’s been renovated since my parents first aquired it.  Originally, the whole thing was painted in black lacquer which had dulled over the years.  The velvet was faded and torn, showing gaping black holes that contributed to an overall gothicy, sinister and scary looking structure.  And so it remaind for many years after we aquired it.  My mother had been needling my dad to restore it and “get that black gunk off of it” for most of those years, until she threatened to do it herself.  Dad knew that he could put it off no longer so he went to work. 

After several months of cleaning off black gunk with many, many, many rags and q-tips you see what was underneath it all.  He also replaced the velvet, fixed some broken things, and tightened up some of the internal workings (he didn’t mess around much inside though).   So there it is – not sinister or creepy at all anymore.  It’s just like grandma all decked out in her Sunday Finest sitting in my dining room.


1. Elzbth - April 25, 2007

Gorgeous. The candlestick and the hurricane lamp are a nice touch. So is the cat. Can you keep her in that position?

2. Pummeled Ennui - April 25, 2007

I like the sound setup – left channel, right channel, and center surround channel. All in velvet. And a little door at the bottom where the midget guy goes. Cool. But – pretty as the thing is – I’d be hesitent to put my feet on those neat pedals.

Is that a badger on the floor?

3. Pupster - April 26, 2007

Very handsome. Do you play keyboards? Because I’m thinking you could yank out all the “old organ guts” and turn it into a kick-ass entertainment center or sideboard bar.

4. Enas Yorl - April 26, 2007

Elzbth, yes the cat has been hot-glued to the floor in that position. She complains, but it’s really for the best I think.

PE – the pedals are very solid and will stand up for another century’s use I reckon. The black decorative bits are solid cast-iron. And, no that’s a cat. I don’t have any badgers.

Pupster, I don’t play, and that is the fate of many of these old organs – but it will not be its fate while mine. In fact I’m going to see if I can get someone to come out and service the inside works and get it back to tip-top shape. I wonder if that guy from the 30’s is still around.

5. Pummeled Ennui - April 26, 2007

E-Y…by god, that’s not a badger.

And now I will have that stupid badger song running thru my head for the rest of the day, as I subconsciously bob my head to the beat. So you are avenged, sir.

Yeah – don’t gut that beautiful piece of antiquity. Let your heirs do it after you kick the bucket. Watch out for the repairman. Some practice the “learn at the coustomers’ expense” method.

6. Enas Yorl - April 26, 2007

Ha! “Badger” is the Secret Word around here and its use triggers the Badger Bomb. Thanks for playing Mr. Ennui!

As for the repairs, we live in the wonderous age of THE INTERNETS! There’s good stuff over at the Reed Organ Society and elsewhere I’m sure. I’m going to register my organ with the ROS.

7. kevlarchick - April 27, 2007

I play piano Enas. Next time I’m in Vegas, we’ll jam.

8. Badger, badger, badger, badger « Absolute Moral Authority - April 27, 2007

[…] blame me. It’s this guys […]

9. S. Weasel - April 27, 2007

Oh, man, that’s a beaut!

For a brief period in the ’60s, my father’s passion was buying up pump organs from old Appalachian churches. We had about four of them in the house at one time. Tasteful thing to do, right? Eh. Only if you ignore the geek gene. First thing he did was install a vacuum cleaner in each one so he wouldn’t have to pump it. Then he put a big switch under the keyboard. Flip it, and whreeeeeee!!!!! the vacuum would whine to life. There’s one of them left, a pretty little oak thing. Please god my little brother inherits it.

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