Estey Junior Organ

Unless otherwise noted, words are Sandra Dodd's

I'll tell what I know and add to it as I learn more.

In late 1999 or early 2000, I bought an organ at a thrift store in Albuquerque.

Below is the angle from which I first saw this, at the thrift store. I thought maybe it was a sewing machine, or a storage cabinet.

I opened it slightly, and closed it quietly, and bought it.

When I got it out of there and could look, here was the excitement:

(Click for a gallery of 17 larger images)

It does say "Estey," so I started looking for information as soon as I had it. The Reed Organ Society gave me a registration number, and a sticker which is up inside the organ. If you know someone with a reed organ, they can register online or by mail with The Reed Organ Society. Their site has a growing body of information.

There is an Estey Organ Museum in Brattleboro, Vermont with information about that particular manufacturer. After my first inquiries I was told mine was probably a Chaplain's Organ.

After I made this page, I wrote again and received the following response:


What you have is the Estey Junior organ. See number 0353 in the database on my website The serial number dates to between 1941 (457999) and 1950 (493343). If you find a date on the instrument it would help a lot because we don't have any dated serial numbers between 1041 and 1950. Probably yours is post-WW2, say 1947-48.

I have forwarded your message to Lonnie Kuhn, who takes care of organ registration for the Reed Organ Society.

Robert Gellerman

Here are a few things I wrote earlier. I wish I had documented better! On March 28, 2002 I wrote to my in-laws:
We've been playing music weekly with Jeff Cunico and Mike Fine (who rents the Princess Jeanne house). It's mostly instrumental. Mike plays cello, the rest of us recorder, and sometimes Jeff or I will play the little pump organ we got at the thrift store. It's a chaplain's organ from maybe WWI, maybe WWII. There's a guy trying to reconstruct the history of the Estey Organ inventory, and mine is registered. It cost $83 and is about the size of a treadle sewing machine. It looks like a wooden box with a hinged top, so it even looks potentially like an old sewing machine case. It's a reed organ, so kind of a mechanical harmonica, in a way. Four octaves, enough to play hymns. It has two knee paddles you can press out on while you pump. One doubles each note (opens a second set of reeds) and the other increases the volume somehow. I knew how, but I've forgotten.

Tomorrow/Saturday, we're playing music at a small SCA equestrian event. People will be riding horses and we'll just be playing background music in a wooden reviewing stand. The organ fits in the back of the mini-van, but the van's still in the shop, so Keith's trying to arrange for someone else to take it to Los Lunas . . .

Note received April 1, 2008:
Hi Sandra!

I found your site a few minutes ago; thanks very much for the information you've provided there!

I'm sorry that I can't provide any additional information, only an anecdote: In 1980-1981 I was a freshman at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, NY. I took a two-term music theory sequence called "Basic Tonal Materials I & II" --- what a name for a music course at an engineering school!

Anyways, the music department had a set, maybe four or five, of these Estey Juniors for loan; they were described as "Army field organs" and were olive drab in color. We used them for practicing our keyboard technique in our dorm rooms; I had mine for the entire freshman year.

I found your site after telling my daughter this story; she is in college, is taking a similar course, has a similar keyboarding requirement but is using her house's piano for practice! ;)

Have a GREAT day!

John Erickson
Norwich, Vermont

An unschooling mom sent a note on Facebook, early 2010:

September 2010:
Hi, saw your page and just had to send a quick email. I was raised in an old fashioned Pentecostal church. In the day we had "street meetings". Yeah, it's just what it says! LOL My grandma Bess was the organist. They had one of these small Esteys on which they had installed wheels....And yes, we pulled the little organ down to the corner, near the bar....Grandma would have her little chair and she'd pump and play...we'd sing and shout....the preacher would I longed to sit on that seat and be grandma Bess...the important organist!! LOL....Now I am and I'm wondering where in the heck did my 98 pound grandma get the stamina to pump that sucker for an hour or so at a time!! ...and we sang fast!!!

Thanks for letting me remember.....

January 2012:
Sandra- I have my grandmothers old organ, it looks a lot like the one you have. My mom said she used to carry it to tent revivals all over the south.

Estey Organ Museum site

Photo Gallery of Reed Organs of the Reed Organ Society

(one of the images the Reed Organ Society has collected)

Information on Chaplains' Organs is here, but what's below is of interest either way:
Estey Folding Chaplain's Harmonium Photos and description by Jef Raskin whose site also links to this song performed on such an organ, uncredited (I'd love to credit whoever created the file)That site is gone, so I've linked bio info that mentions the organ. Listen in a separate window you can downsize