Walk through Millbrook Meadow today and it is hard to believe this quiet, bucolic place was once the location of a large, steam-powered factory. Built in 1871, the factory originally housed the American Hide Seat Company. In 1874, the factory was transferred to William N. Manning and became the Manning Organ Company, a manufacturer of “parlor cabinet, church cabinet, and parlor orchestral organs.” The organ company closed in 1876 and the factory went on to be occupied by a series of other businesses, including a glue company and the isinglass company owned by L.M. Haskins. The factory remained there until July 1, 1932, when it was destroyed by fire.
A melodeon is a type of organ popular in the 19th century that used a foot-operated bellows. Over his lifetime, Manning obtained several U.S. patents for a variety of inventions, including several related to his melodeon designs. In fact, the first patent of his I could find was from 1856, when he was just 22 years old. By then, he had already been playing the organ since he was 12 and had been learning watchmaking since he was 14. Two years later, he and George W. Lane obtained a patent together for a melodeon pedal case.
The card pictured here was, I have to assume, related to the Manning Organ Company, which means it is from the period 1874 to 1876. Its actual size is smaller than a postcard but larger than a business card.
One could write pages about Manning, and that is exactly what Deb, a piano technician in Rockport, has done at her blog Harmony Club. (Search her site for “manning” to find all her posts about him.) In fact, later this year, she will be giving a presentation about Manning to the Sandy Bay Historical Society. She has done a phenomenal job of researching Manning and compiling information on his shops, residences and family. Be sure to check out her blog.