Ornate pump organs from the Victorian period, the late 1800s and into the early 1900s, were a common fixture in many household parlors. According to the 1897-1909 Sears, Roebucks and Montgomery Wards catalogues, they ranged in price from $21.50 to almost $65.00 depending on the type of wood and the extra features such as beveled mirrors or fretwork.The Mazomanie Historical Society Museum has two such organs on display this season with one of them newly acquired this year. Stenciled on the organs are BESTOR BROS. MAZOMANIE, WIS and D.L. BESTOR, CROWN, MAZOMANIE, WIS., which at first would leave one to believe that the organs were manufactured in Mazomanie. Just as today’s car and truck dealer’s have their dealer name and address affixed to the vehicles, Bestor Brothers and D.L. Bestor did the same with the pump organs and sewing machines they sold, first in Black Earth and then later in Mazomanie. A treadle sewing machine with the Bestor name on it is included in the display.
Excerpts from the Mazomanie Sickle are as follows:
March 5, 1892: Black Earth: Bestor Bros. seem to be doing quite a good business in sewing machines and organs. Sever Lee has invested in a new $350 piano.
December 6, 1895: Bestor Bros. have dissolved partnership. D.L. Bestor and family have moved to this place. Mr. Bestor will start a music store here. Hugo Welsch’s store building has been partitioned off so as to make three separate stores. One being used by himself, one has been rented by D.L. Bestor and the third by Knapp Bros. D.L. Bestor has opened a general store. 37 Crescent St. (Mazomanie)
January 10, 1896: D.L. Bestor has disposed of about two carloads of pianos or organs since December.
Further research indicates that the Geo. P. Bent Piano Co. was established in Kentucky in 1879 and moved to Chicago in 1889 when it added the name CROWN to its pianos and organs. As the economy started to get bad in the late 1920s the company was sold to the Winter Piano Co. in 1927. Winter immediately discontinued the Geo. Bent name in 1927 and added the CROWN name to its line of instruments.
Also from the Sickle is the obituary for David L. Bestor, 1860-1929, which included the following. “Mr. Bestor was engaged in the farm implement business at Black Earth for a number of years before coming to Mazomanie in 1897. After five years in the retail business, he organized the Mazomanie Telephone Co. which he managed successfully until his 1916, when he retired from active business”.
The museum which is located at 118 Brodhead Street is open summer Sundays and holidays from 1-4 p.m. and by appointment. For more information or an appointment call 795-2992.
–Rita Frakes, Curator