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A small keyed wind instrument, whose tones are generated by the play of wind upon metallic reeds. — Webster, 1882

A scientific writer says that “if you play on an accordion near an oyster, the bivalve will open its shell.” A young accordion player, who has caused considerable profanity (if not insanity) in this world, concluded to try the experiment, and had not squeezed more than half of “The Sweet By-and-Bye” before the oyster not only opened its crustaceous covering, but, in a fit of anger, actually threw its shell at the head of the player. And no wonder! – De Smet Leader, May 7, 1887.

The accordion is mentioned in both the existing manuscript and published Little Town on the Prairie. In Chapter 19, “The Whirl of Gaiety,” Laura writes that at one of the literaries, Pa played his fiddle while Gerald Fuller played the accordion, to roaring applause. The event was not mentioned in Laura’s handwritten Pioneer Girl memoir.

It’s unknown if Gerald Fuller played the accordion in real life. (If you’re a descendant and know for sure, please email!) Mr. Fuller did, however, play the cornet, and he was 1st alto cornet in the De Smet Cornet Band for a number of years, as recorded in the Kingsbury County newspapers.

The accordion is a wind instrument invented in the early 19th century in Europe. It employs bellows to pull air through a series of metallic reeds. The instrument is worn at the front of the body across the chest, with its weight supported by shoulder straps. At one side of the bellows there may be a keyboard and at the other is a series of buttons or keys. As the bellows are manipulated to pull air through the reeds, one hand plays notes upon the keyboard while the other can play additional notes or chords using the buttons. The pairing of accordion and fiddle was popular in the 19th century; there are many videos of accordion and fiddle players online.


accordion (LTP 9), see also Charleton Fuller / Gerald Fuller