© 2005 P. Missin - Details

German Patent 204093

Issued in 1908 to the firm of Andreas Koch, this is for a fascinating invention - the Glockenmundharmonika. This is a harmonica which has no reeds. Instead, each hole leads to a chamber with a small spring-loaded shuttle in it, attached to a hammer which protrudes outside the body of the instrument. Blowing pushes the shuttle and causes the hammer to strike a bell towards the back of the instrument; drawing pulls the shuttle back and causes the hammer to strike a bell towards the front of the instrument. When the player stops blowing, the springs cause the shuttle to return to a central position.

The pairs of bells were tuned like the blow and draw reeds of the harmonica and the patent diagram shows an instrument with five holes and ten bells, which would be enough to give a diatonic scale of one octave, with a couple of additional notes. US Patent 887402, issued earlier that same year, shows a version with 22 bells in a staggered arrangement.

The US patent named Ernst Koch as the inventor, describing him as a German citizen residing in New Jersey. The Koch company was Hohner's biggest rival in the late 1800s and early 1900s, finally being bought out by Hohner in the late 1920s. Ernst Koch, son of the founder of the company, has been blamed for the downfall of the Koch dynasty. Several lawsuits were issued between the German and American offices and finally Ernst left the harmonica business to seek his fortune in real estate, dying shortly afterwards in 1932.

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