About Organology and this portion of the website
The field of organology is a young and growing field that contains specialists concerned with the History of Musical Instruments. The early editions of George Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians lack an entry for "organology." As a field, organology was introduced by Nicholas Bessaraboff roughly sixty years after Grove's original dictionary to help distinguish the study of the musical instruments from the broader study of music. One of the great collections of musical instruments in the world resides at the National Music Museum (NMM) in Vermillion, South Dakota, where I was most fortunate to be able to research brass instruments in their collections. My primary duty was to catalog tubas that were donated by Conn-Selmer, Inc., in 2008 after manufacturing facilities were closed in Kenosha and Elkhorn, Wisconsin. An abundant curiosity about the collection led me to study the euphoniums, then the bugles and then everything else brass I had time to get my hands on. As the senior curator and associate director is found of saying, "each instrument has its own story to tell." Often, the history of an instrument is a history of a family, of an ensemble, of an event, or of a culture. The instruments I researched help tell the story of Frank Holton & Company, founded in 1898 in a second floor apartment in Chicago, Illinois. They stretch into the history of the roaring 1920s, the struggle of survival of the 1930s, the changes in production for World War II, the great outburst of the immediate post-war era, and finally one of corporate consolidation.
I am deeply indebted to Dr. Margaret Banks, the Associate Director & Senior Curator and also Dr. Deborah Reeves, Curator of Woodwind Instruments & Educational Outreach, for their guidance on my journey through this great adventure. Further acknowledgements should be given to Micky Rasmussen, an Assistant Curator, who is still the only person I have ever met who can date a piece of paper by its feel, and also John Koster, Conservator, who taught me how to safely polish a brass instrument.
Please understand that this website is intended for research purposes only and pictures and materials should not be commercially disseminated without proper consent. In addition, please observe the integrity of Dr. John Swain's research should this material be of use to you.
The National Music Museum has become the chief repository for the history of the American musical instruments and the history of the companies that made them.