© 2005 P.Missin - Details

Magnus plastic harmonicas

Pictured above, from top to bottom, are a Magnus chromatic, a Magnus 10-hole diatonic, a Magnus Duo-Tone (two 10-holers in one instrument - one in the key of C, the other in the key of Bb) and a Harmotone 10-hole diatonic (made by the Harmonic Reed Co. of Philadelphia, but to all intents and purposes identical to the Magnus version, even boasting the same patent number) complete with its tongue training device. Except for the spring and a few other very minor parts in the chromatic, every component in the above harmonicas is made of plastic.

In his 1960 autobiography The Finn Magnus Story, Magnus tells of how he arrived in the US from Denmark with just $25 in his pocket and went on to make his first million by making plastic harmonicas, as well as plastic accordions, plastic reed organs and plastic bagpipes. His book also details the secrets of his success and tell how you too can reach your own goals by following his example...

However, it is his harmonica inventiveness that concerns us here. In the years immediately before WWII, brass was in very short supply because of its usefulness in making ammunition. Also, German-made harmonicas were no longer being imported. In stepped Finn Haakon Magnus with the idea of making harmonicas entirely of plastic, to keep American servicemen entertained whilst away from home fighting in the war. Magnus came up with a way of injection molding reeds and reedplate all in one piece, making a harmonica with just five parts mass-assembled in seven operations, as contrasted with a Marine Band type harmonica consisting of about 80 parts, hand-assembled in 150 operations. Magnus probably held more harmonica-related patents than any other individual and later branched out into making other types of free reed instruments and musical toys, most notably the Magnus chord organs that turn up at almost every garage sale across America!

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