© 2005 P. Missin - Details

US Patent 870207

Awarded in 1907 to Christian Weiss, this patent is for a truly unique harmonica - the Pipeolion. Unlike the Hohner Trumpet Call and similar instruments, the horns of the Pipeolion are not merely decorative. The Pipeolion has no comb or reedplates in any conventional sense, consisting of a simple wooden block that serves as mouthpiece, into the rear of which are fastened a row of trumpets. Each trumpet contains a pair of reeds, one blow reed and one draw reed:

The patent diagram shows a Pipeolion with eight horns, but until recently all the examples I have seen had ten. However, I am extremely grateful to harmonica collector Doug Dawson for sharing this photograph of a recent find:

The name Pipeolion doesn't appear anywhere on this instrument, but it is quite clearly the harmonica pictured in the patent document and is presumably a precursor to the ten horn version. As it features the claim "patent applied for" this means that this instrument presumably dates from somewhere between mid 1906 and late 1907. There was a later patent granted to Weiss, German Patent 198848 (granted in 1908, although the original application was made around the same time as the application for the above mentioned US patent), which shows a rather different style of the instrument to both the eight and ten horned versions:

At the risk of seeming overly fussy, I can't help but note that the diagram shows 12 holes in the mouthpiece, but only 11 trumpets...

Sadly, the Pipeolion seems to have been a commercial failure. They were only made for a few years and very few of them seem to have survived, making it an extremely attractive instrument for harmonica collectors. Pipeolions in mint condition regularly fetch more than US$2000 at auction.

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