Johan Richter double harmonica from about 1875

Johan Richter double harmonica, from my collection

This Johan Richter harmonica is one of my oldest and most valuable harmonicas. It is not per se a chromatic harmonica as I will explain below.

I was very fortunate to acquire a double harmonica by Johan Richter from about 1875. The first time I saw a similar instrument was on a German television show where somebody presented a complete set of two single and a double harmonica:

A set of 3 Johan Richter harmonicas shown in a German TV show

I can narrow down the date of the harmonica to around 1875 based on the ribbon that is attached to the top of the accompanying quiver.
It says Gebrüder Hug (Hug brothers). Hug was/is the biggest music store in Switzerland until today. The ribbon lists all store locations at that time. The latest store branch to open was in Lucerne (Luzern) in 1874-75.

Ribbon on the accompanying quiver

This double harmonica comes with a pair of top and bottom covers, which can either block the top or the button reeds, depending on pushing one of the lower covers towards the reed plate.
This interaction automatically lifts the top cover up and blocks the lower one. By releasing the lower covers the opposite occurs.

Cover lifted up to show the reeds below
Opposite cover attached to a spring
Video demo of Johan Richter movable covers, courtesy Joel Andersson

In theory, it would have been possible to use that exact mechanism to play chromatically similar to today’s chromatic harmonicas. But instead of pushing a slide button, one could just push or release one of the lower covers.
Besides, I was assuming that Johan Richter knew about the Joseph Richter Tuning. Based on his name it is likely that he is a relative or even Joseph Richter’s son. Unfortunately, I was not able to verify that assumption.

After some examination of all reeds and tuning, I got somehow confused.
The tuning is definitely not even remotely chromatic and not very coherent. It is possible some of the reeds are out of tune, but I think I could in most cases detect that.

Below, you can find two tables. The first one lists all the notes of the left-sided harmonica; the second one of the right-sided harmonica. Maybe one of you has a theory why Johan Richter chose this tuning:

BN UR = blow notes upper reed plate
BN LR = blow notes lower reed plate

DN UR = draw notes upper reed plate
DN LR = draw notes lower reed plate

Left-sided harmonica
Right-sided harmonica

I took this description of a similar Johan Richter harmonica from the harmonica museum in Trossingen. It talks about the harmonica maker Johan Richter and his possible link to Johan Richter (inventor of the 10 hole Richter tuning), the functionality of the harmonica (see description above) and mentioned that the accompanying quiver has the names of the scales A flat, F, D flat and G flat written on it.




In the meanwhile I was in contact with some other collectors. Some of them sent additional pictures of similar harmonicas:

Franz Sandner harmonica (date unknown, courtesy of Rick Nielsen)
The text on the photo states: approx. 1850 in Weiterglashütte (courtesy Isabella Krapf)

Weiterglashütte is in Eibenstock, Germany about 50 km distance to Klingenthal. Klingenthal is one of the major locations for harmonica manufacturing in Germany.
What is interesting about this harmonica is the fact that the reeds were actually attached by rivets. Most harmonicas at that time had the reeds soldered to the reed plates

The harmonica in the photo below is based on a similar concept. It is a prototype from the old Hohner museum and shown in a video produced by the Norwegian television (starts at about 6:42). By pushing the left button down, the top cover gets pushed onto the top reed plate simultaneously lifting the bottom cover (same principle as described above).

Johan Richter Harmonica from the old Hohner museum in Trossingen
Johan Richter Harmonica (same harmonica in color) form today’s harmonica museum in Trossingen

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