The Uxbridge - A new experience in Restoring
Reprinted from Vol. XXIII, No. 4, Winter 2004 of the *ROS Quarterly*, journal of the Reed Organ Society, Inc., and used with permission of the editor. COPYRIGHTED with ALL OTHER RIGHTS RESERVED.
(UXBRIDGE CABINET ORGAN CO , Uxbndge, Ontario, established in 1872, later became the Uxbridge Organ Co and in 1898 the Uxbridge Piano & Organ Co. Apparently went out of business about 1909. Gellerman's International Reed Organ Atlas by Robert F Gellerman)
I think there is still a world of organs out there whose sound we have not
heard and whose cabinets we have not seen.
Every year or so I seem to find one or more ''unknown'' organs and get to be the first known restorer of that builder Being the first to do a brand gives me the feeling that I have become the expert, until someone comes along and does another one In 1998, while attending the 64th Engineers reunion in Dixon, Tennessee I discovered a strange-looking and obviously old walnut cabinet organ. I could not decipher the name, and the intriguing knee swell made me want to take it apart. I was able to influence Tommy and Anita Fuson to purchase the instrument.
Both Gellerman and Orde-Hume list the UXBRIDGE, but other than their brief listings there is no other known information in punt Since the company started in 1872 and this organ is number 322 made in 1875, the likelihood of being displaced as the Uxbridge expert appears remote In several places within the organ only the number "22" was used. With 1875 being the third year of operation, could it be that the organ is really #22? Several unusual features have been noted in the mechanics of this organ
1. Pedals are connected to the exhausters directly by a boomerang-shaped wooden board which fits into metal receptors
2. The exhausters are inverted and are in the back of the organ with the pedal connectors running underneath.
3. The reservoir is also inverted at the front of the organ. This arrangement allows the suction holes m the foundation board to be several inches nearer the center than the traditional bellows.
4. A double escape valve is the best design I have ever seen. It consists of two 2" x 2 1.2'' pieces, 3/8'' thick fitted at the center with 45-degree cuts. A single piece of leather covers both pieces and is connected at the top end to the bellows board. A valve-type spring acts on the free end.
5. The single knee swell operates directly against the front swell, which has a cam on the left end to lift the rear swell. The swell stops operate: (a) the entire rear swell, and (b) just the treble swell on the rear. The linkage is made entirely of wood.
6. All the stop linkage is made of wood, with no metal cams at all
7. The cabinet, which is much like other cabinet styles in looks, has one unique feature: there is a key grill, and then a locking board in front of the key grille allows the keyboard to be open, but not playable. The key cover does not lock. It almost looks as if someone forgot to put the hinges on this piece and it belongs to the key cover-no hinges are attached to this piece or to the key cover.
Overall, this is a superb instrument for its day-though there are no couplers. The stops are no-nonsense and functional. There appears to have been an effort to keep it simple (Mason & Hamlin used more parts in just its valves than found in this entire organ). When all stops are pulled the organ has a clear sharp sound. When the swells are closed it has a sad mournful sound.
When the swells and diapason are closed, it has a very soothing, almost lullaby-like sound.
From a quality standpoint, the bellows material was still very pliable, and may well have still been playable after 129 years.
However, due to failure in the foundation board glue joints it was impossible to pump enough to play a tune. There were no pallet leaks, and the swells were fitted with brass hinges-most of the felt was still in good condition. A few of the key tops were chipped and were replaced with matching ivory. Al1 the ivory fronts had cracked and were replaced with old genuine ivory.
The organ is now playing as it did when new-it required very little tuning. The cabinet has been hand finished using a wiping stain (Minwax) .
I would like to know if there are any other Uxbridge organs out there, and especially would like to see the photo of a later model.
This organ should have been a success, but cabinet design and lack of couplers could have contributed to its demise.