Agreed. This is a great topic and I hope that I do not bore you if I carry the discussion further.
Thank you Wes for the link to such an excellent article. The author seems to affirm my theory on the rarity if the concertina in the American Civil War when he goes on to say;
"…if all three instruments actually did make it aboard when she slipped down the Mersey on the 29th, then the Alabama had likely the only concertina in the Confederate Navy -- the instrument was almost unheard of in America before the Civil War, when it was brought to the North by Irish and German immigrants imported to help fight the war. "
Please understand that we reenactors are a bi-polar lot. One school; the hard-core authentics, say that if you can't prove it then don't do it. The more liberal minded (the ultimate unauthentics are designated as "farbs" in our parlance) say that "if they could have then they would have." I, myself, prefer the challenge for it spurs research (there is a previous thread of interest on the subject of CW musical authenticity).
Bob, for the most part your comments are right on. But I would like to comment on some of your examples as they help to make the point.
Serious researchers have concluded that cigarettes, while certainly in existence, were deemed unfashionable by North American men (they were for girls). Sales records clearly support this. And maybe this is how the epithet "fag" originated as to refer to one who is effeminate; a "faggot-smoker."
Harmonicas were reported as import items and are common relic finds. Yet they are almost never mentioned in published or private writings! The conclusion is that they were considered a novelty, a toy and not a serious musical instrument. Nor can they be found in records of stage performance or in ensemble of that period.
This was the heyday of the musical publishing business. Publishers such as Howe and Ditson were anxious to capitalize on any trend or fashion to publish. If an instrument were to have an Instructor published then you can assume that it has made it on the charts and met the public's acceptance, a good indicator of it's popularity. The earliest Harmonica instruction manual I have uncovered is late 19th c. Can anyone tell us when the first concertina book was published? When we try to apply this same level of proofs and sureties to the Mandolin, for example, we suggest that they be left at home.
New information can surface at any time and can add to and modify these findings and as such should be encouraged. Hopefully Mudcat is a good forum for such dialogue.