Since no fingering was required to get specific notes to sound, the harmonica could be (and is) a hands-free device. By simply rigging up a wire to hold the harmonica around one’s neck, the hands are free to play another instrument such as the washboard, snare drum, banjo, piano or, of course, the guitar. This was realized fairly early on and commercially–made harmonica holders were soon in production. The 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalog offered up a harmonica holder for 34 cents. If that was too expensive, the “best cheap harmonica holder” could be yours for just 9 cents! The harmonica itself could be had for about 50 cents back then: quite a bargain for an imported, finely crafted musical instrument.
Any archaeologist knows that nothing gives a better picture of how vanished civilizations lived, loved and fought than the utensils, ornaments and weapons that were left behind in successive layers of kitchen midden. For this reason alone, this hardback facsimile of an 1897 Sears Roebuck catalogue is a dazzling trove for students of Americana. It certainly is one of the happiest publishing ideas in years.