Opus 1, Portative Organ

1974 (see ivory plate inside chest front cover or bung board)


The Historical Society of Trappe, College, Perkiomen Valley is extremely grateful for the gift of the Portative Pipe Organ built by John Kaye Gottschall. The organ is similar to instruments in use during the 18th century and currently resides in the parlor of the Muhlenberg’s home in Trappe.

This beautifully constructed instrument  is given in Loving Memory of Sally Thomas, nee Smith Kepler, born February 20, 1858, who lived in the Dewees House at the corner of Rt. 113 and Main Street in Trappe circa 1920. The house currently serves as the headquarters of the Society under a long term lease with St. Luke’s United Church of Christ, Trappe.

Mr. Gottschall recalls that his mother, Theresa Poley, nee Keyser, a granddaughter of Sally Thomas, remembers visiting and playing ball in the graveyard in the back yard, circa 1922. Sally Thomas is buried in the graveyard behind the house which she rented for $10 a month. Mrs. Poley remembers her grandmother keeping food in the cave or cold cellar which is still to be found in the backyard of the house. Steps still lead down to this area behind the house along Route 113. The maternal grandmother of Sally Thomas was Sarah Levy, mother of Edward Kepler who was the father of Sally Thomas. Any information which is known concerning Sarah Levy would be appreciated.

The Portative Pipe Organ is built so that no electricity is necessary for it to be played.  The stand, seat, front and back of chest, and small reservoir are made of solid cherry wood, with the top of the reservoir of cherry plywood. The top, bottom, and sides of the chest are made of Philippine mahogany.

The keyboard is made to the scale of the pipes, in the manner of many small
organs of the Renaissance period. The action of the organ is the simplestmechanical action possible; i.e., as you push down on the key, a dowel calleda “sticker” pushes on the end of a wooden “pallet” inside the chest which is covered by felt and leather.  As the pallet is opened, it allows the compressed air inside the chest to go into the pipe directly behind the key.The pallets were made by the Felgemacher Company of poplar, and have been adapted for use in this organ.  The keys are solid cherry wood naturals
and walnut sharps.

The top of the rack holding the pipes is of basswood, favored by pipe organbuilders for its softness and durability. The pipes were originally constructed by the Felgemacher Organ Company of Erie, Pennsylvania. In the revoicing of the pipes for low wind pressure, the screws for the caps of the pipes were removed, padauk (Pterocarpus soyauxii) inserts made, and the caps reglued to the block of the pipes. New Honduras mahogany fronts of the pipes were made during the revoicing.

The two bellows at the back of the organ are made of solid cherry wood, covered
by fleece rubbercloth to provide air-tight performance.  The pumping rod of solidcherry wood is supported by a rail of cherry wood, and a lignum vitae wheel.

The scaling and voicing of this instrument make it perfect for inclusion with achest of recorders for elegant music making!

Reviewed 11-21-2013