Granted in 1890 to John Oefinger and Benjamin F. Butler of Greenfield, Massachusetts, this is another patent where the primary aim of the design is to be able to change between two keys on the same instrument, not necessarily C and C#. Quoting from the patent text:
Our invention relates to certain improvements in harmonicas, and in the application of one or more auxiliary slotted plates adapted to slide over the reeds on the reed-plate, for the purpose of changing the key without reversing the instrument and thus producing an instrument that need have but one playing side that may be performed upon with greater facility than where the instrument is arranged for different keys on different sides.
Oefinger was later awarded two US Patents for pitch pipes, in partnership with his brother Elias Oefinger. Presumably, they are some relation to Jacob Oefinger who ran one of the earliest US-based harmonica companies, based in the nearby town of Shelburne Falls. Quoting from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II", by Louis H. Everts, published in 1879:
The German Harmonica Company, composed of Jacob Oefinger and H. M. Willis, was organized at Shelburne Falls by Jacob Oefinger in December, 1877. Mr. Oefinger began the manufacture of small tools, etc., at the Falls in 1874, and in 1876 removed to North Adams, Mass., where, with E. R. Tinker, he organized the American Harmonica Company for the manufacture of harmonicas. The company was dissolved in 1877, in which year Mr. Oefinger formed the present company, which is said to be the only one of its kind in America, and the only one in the world that manufactures harmonicas by other than hand-power. The present daily production is from two to three gross of instruments, and the number of employees 10, but, according to expectations, these figures will soon be increased fivefold.
If anyone has any further information regarding the Oefinger family and their businesses, I would be very interested to hear of it.
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