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diatonic accordion

aerophone

In 1829 Cyrill Demian, a Viennese instrument maker, patented his accordion, the first bellows-driven free-reed instrument with melody and chord keys. In Flanders the history of the accordion began only half a century later, when Felix Callewaert (1862-1918) and his brothers established the first accordion workshop in the West Flemish village of Zwevezele. In 1890 Felix Callewaert relocated to the neighbouring village of Lichtervelde. On his death he was succeeded by his son Eugène (1894-1944). The firm soon developed into the leading Belgian accordion manufacturer. The 'Lichtervelde' accordions were much sought after, not only in Belgium and northern France, but also among the many Flemings in Detroit and elsewhere in the America and Canada. The Second World War brought about the end of the company. In 1942 Eugène Callewaert, then mayor of  Lichtervelde, was arrested for his involvement in the armed resistance movement. He was beheaded in Wolfenbüttel on June 15, 1944.

In its heyday, between 1900 and 1930, Callewaert employed six workers, who produced six or seven instruments a week.  Around 1925 a catalogue shows no fewer than 151 different models and versions. Some were nearly entirely made in the Callewaert workshop. Others were assembled from mainly German parts, or imported readymade from Italy.  Callewaert offered accordions in all price ranges, from basic diatonic squeezeboxes for the average amateur to de luxe chromatic accordions for professionals.

On diatonic, single-action or bisonoric accordions, each button or key corresponds with two different notes or chords: one when the bellows are pushed in and another when they are pulled out. On chromatic, unisonoric or double-action accordions a button or key produces the same note or chord on the pull and the push. Flemish folk musicians mainly favoured the 'tienbasser", a diatonic accordion with two rows totalling 21 treble keys and five pairs of spoon shaped brass bass keys, with one key of a pair sounding the fundamental of a chord and the other the corresponding major triad, or, rarely, a minor triad.

Around 1925 the cheapest diatonic Callewaert accordion cost 300 Belgian francs, and the most expensive chromatic model 4,275 francs. The instrument presented here was probably made in 1928. It was one of the more expensive diatonic models, costing 1,100 francs, for the average worker the equivalent of one and a half to two months' wages. In the years 1928-1930 Callewaert paid his employees about 2. 5 francs per hour.

This instrument has a three-row keyboard with 36 keys for the treble, and fourteen bass/chord spoon keys. There are three reeds for each treble note. Typical of Belgian accordions before 1940 is the peacock feather paper decorating the bellows.

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diatonic accordion
diatonic accordion
diatonic accordion
diatonic accordion
catalogue of the Callewaert company, around 1925