Q. I have had this organ I inherited in my basement for many years. It measures 36” wide and is 24” high. I am downsizing now and need to find a home for it. Does it have any value?
A. Your pump organ was made in Brattleboro, Vermont by the J. Estey Company between 1864 and 1882. Checking the serial number would be a way to get more specific on the year but the company made hundreds of thousands these. Estey’s went on to become the largest manufacturer of organs in the United States. They also made pipe organs (mostly for churches and large theaters) and pianos. The company existed until the early 1950’s when it was bought by another company (Rieger Organs) which is now gone too.
Your organ is a “cottage” model which was designed to be used in a home. Pump organs are technically reed organs. The keys strike metal reeds inside to produce the sounds. The foot pumps operate the bellows necessary to amplify the sound. Your pump organ cabinet is oak with some nice carved details but overall is not in the best condition. Because there were so many made and they have outdated technology, pump organs at most have historical value. Yours has little resale value and to restore it would not make sense. Many have been repurposed into works of art (using the keys and other parts) or the cabinets repurposed for another use.
There is an Estey Organ Museum in Brattleboro and a lot of information can be found on their website at esteyorganmuseum.org.
Karen Waterman is a fine art, antique furniture and decorative arts appraiser in the East Bay area and will answer as many questions about your own “hidden treasures” as possible. By sending a letter or email with a question, you give full permission for use in the column. Names, addresses or e-mail will not be published and photos will be returned if requested. Send e-mails (digital photos are encouraged) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Send snail mail to East Bay Newspapers, attn. Karen Waterman, P.O.Box 90, Bristol, RI 02809.