© 2005 P. Missin - Details

US Patent 574625

Granted in 1897 to Hugh Paris "a subject of the Queen of Great Britain, residing at Rat Portage, in the district of Rainy River, and Province of Ontario, Canada", this is the earliest patent for a button operated key change harmonica that specifically mentions the possibility of chromatic playing:

My invention relates to harmonicas or mouth organs, and has for its object to provide means for controlling the admission of air to the cells or chambers in which the reeds are located, whereby a succession of sounds at intervals of a semitone, as in playing a chromatic scale, may be produced from the oppositely-located "inhaling" and "exhaling" reeds without transferring the blast of air backward or in opposite directions along the mouthpiece.

Rather than placing the "white notes" on one reedplate and the sharps and flats on another reedplate, the accidentals are placed next to the naturals - ie the blow reeds are C C# E F G G# C C#, etc and the draw reeds are B D Eb F F# A Bb B, etc. Each reed is mounted in a narrow chamber and the slide in the mouthpiece allows alternate chambers to be opened.

As with the modern chromatic, in the C major scale is available in the "open" position, the accidentals with the buttons pushed in, a spring returning the slide to the "open" position when the button is released.

This invention was also covered by British Patent 4061, issued in 1897 and German Patent 96206, issued the following year.

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