Looking Back: Pump organs

Macomb Township Chronicle | Published March 5, 2014

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — This refurbished pump organ dates back to the early 1900s and was donated to the Macomb Township Historical Commission by township resident Elsie Manchester. It’s part of a collection of historical artifacts that includes books, farm tools, furniture, photos, oral histories and much more being preserved by the Historical Commission for future generations of township residents to enjoy.

Pump organs, or harmoniums, are a type of reed organ that produce sound using foot-pumped bellows. Their small size compared to pipe organs, their portability and sturdiness, and their resistance to heat and humidity made them very popular instruments at the turn of the 20th century.

Finer pump organs have a distinct tone, and the cabinets of those used in churches and homes of the affluent made for excellent pieces of furniture. Mason & Hamlin and Estey Organ were the most well-known pump organ manufacturers in the U.S. from the 1850s through the 1920s, selling several million units during that time.

Photo and text provided by Stan Skavery of the Macomb Township Historical Commission