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miniature harmonica

aerophone

With a length of only 3.5 cm this is the smallest playable series manufactured harmonica in the world. The German firm Hohner in Trossingen (Baden-Württemberg) put it on the market in 1923. It is still available in different versions, and it is also known as the Little Lady. The instrument has four wind channels, each with two brass reeds, one blow and one draw reed. Together the eight reeds form a diatonic octave (c-d-e-f-g-a-b-c).

On 16th December1965, the Little Lady was the very first musical instrument played in space. The American astronaut Walter 'Wally' Schirra had smuggled it on board Gemini VI-A. On 16th December Gemini VI-A and its sister Gemini VII moved as close as 30 cm, demonstrating that linking two vehicles in space wouldn't be a problem. Later on that day, just before they were to re-enter the atmosphere, co-pilot Thomas 'Tom' Stafford caused some stir among ground controllers when he reported they had spotted a UFO: 'Gemini VII, this is Gemini VI. We have an object, looks like a satellite going from north to south, up in a polar orbit. He's in a very low trajectory traveling from north to south and has a very high climbing ratio. It looks like it might even be a ... Very low. Looks like he might be going to re-enter soon. Stand by one ... You might just let me try to pick up that thing ... I see a command module and eight smaller modules in front. The pilot of the command module is wearing a red suit.' Then Walter Schirra fetched his Little Lady and played Jingle Bells, accompanied by Tom Stafford's miniature sleigh bells. The original instruments are on display in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.

This miniature harmonica looks exactly the same as the instrument Walter Schirra played in space. It was donated to the mim in 2014 by Mrs Lydia Gijsberghs from Leopoldsburg (Limburg). She told us quite a moving story about her little 'mouth music'. In 1949 - she was nineteen then - she accompanied her sister and German brother-in-law, with their two little children, on their first visit to their relatives in Berlin. As a prisoner of war Lydia's later brother-in-law had been put to work in the coalmine of Beringen (Limburg). Their attempt to cross the border into the Soviet occupation zone without a permit failed, and, after some anxious hours in a Russian shed, the little party stranded in the city of Braunschweig. There Lydia, who was a keen dancer,  went to a dance-hall that was very popular with American servicemen. She got to know a handsome dance partner.  When, after a couple of days, she had to return to Belgium, the American gave her this little harmonica as a farewell present.

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miniature harmonica
miniature harmonica
miniature harmonica
miniature harmonica
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