Pianos for the People. From Producer to Consumer in Britain, Francesca Carnevali (University of Birmingham)

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1 Pianos for the People. From Producer to Consumer in Britain, Francesca Carnevali (University of Birmingham) and Lucy Newton (Henley Business School, University of Reading) During the second half of the nineteenth century British consumers were able to turn their homes into Aladdin s caves filled with a remarkable range of goods: carpets, rugs, linoleum, furniture made of wood and papier-mâché, drapes, beds and pianos, toys, toilets and baths, tiles, brass ornaments in all shapes and sizes, cutlery, glasses for drinking and stained glass for windows, china and pottery, wallpaper, oilcloth, light fittings, and stuffed animals. 2 Even a cursory glance through the mail order catalogues of the time cannot fail to convey the wealth of objects that the Victorians, and later the Edwardians, could purchase, 3 and despite the changes that fashion dictated to interior decoration during this period, of the items that provided the bed-rock of drawing room furnishing none could surpass the piano 4. 1 We would like to thank the staff of the Surrey History Centre, Woking; the Guildhall Library, London; the British Newspaper Library, Colindale; Harrod s Archive, London; University of Glasgow Archive, Glasgow; Westminster City Archives, London; Hackney Archives, London; Victoria&Albert Museum Archives, London; Dr. Leigh-Shaw Taylor and the Cambridge Population Group, Cambridge; and the Victoria&Albert National Art Library, London for their help during the research for this paper. 2 While it is unlikely that all these goods would find their way into all homes, contemporary photographs are visual testament to the love for ornamentation of the late-victorians. A fine selection of these photographs can be found in Cohen, Household Gods. 3 Army and Navy catalogue; Whitley s Archive, Westminster City Archives, London. 4 Jennings, Our homes and how to beautify them, 183 1

2 This new world of materiality has been amply illustrated by a rich literature on the cultural relationship between consumers and the objects they purchased, or aspired to own. 5 Much less, however, is known about the process of mediation that took place between producer, retailer and consumer. 6 There is a gap in our knowledge of the link between production and selling during this period, when: few firms or sectors of industry confronted in a systematic fashion the troublesome gap between what they produced and what people wanted. From the late nineteenth century until the Second World War, the process of mediating the consumption junction 7 was still loose and open ended. 8 Although most of these goods were not new, 9 what marked the period that followed the Great Exhibition of 1851 was their growing availability. As these goods became more affordable, more people could purchase them, while at the same time, the producers of household goods required a strong awareness of the market and of customers s desires, to compete successfully and survive. The combination of a growing, but still very segmented market, and of increasing competition meant that manufacturers had to innovate in terms of production, marketing and selling. Typically, the technologies used to make these goods tended to be established by 1850, but nevertheless between this date and 1914 these 5 See, for example: Benson, The Rise of Consumer Society in Britain; Cohen, Household Gods; Cohen, A Consumer s Republic; Hilton, Consumerism in Twentieth Century Britain; Hilton, Smoking in British Popular Culture. 6 An exception is the work of Oldenziel,, Manufacturing technology, manufacturing consumers. 7 The consumption junction is defined as the place and time at which the consumer makes choices between competing technologies. Schwartz-Cowan, Ruth, The consumption junction: a proposal for research strategies in the sociology of technology, in Bijker, W., Hughes, T., and Pinch, T., The social construction of technological systems: new directions in the sociology and history of technology (Cambridge, MA., MIT Press, 1987), Quotation from Oldenziel, Manufacturing technology, The twentieth century saw much more systematic mediation of the consumption junction and this took place through consumer organisation, governments and political organizations. 9 Berg, 'Consumption and Consumers ; Berg, 'From Imitation to Invention. 2

3 products underwent small but significant alterations in technology which modified them to suit the variety of tastes 10 ; while the new department stores, and the development of hire purchase, meant that consumers and manufacturers faced new opportunities and challenges. In this paper we examine the production, marketing and selling of the piano, to explore the connection between production and consumption. Of all the goods found in the Victorians s homes none equalled the piano as a carrier of multiple meanings. It was an object that provided entertainment and decoration, being both a musical instrument and a substantial piece of furniture. Its ownership conferred status, symbolic as it was of gentility, family life, taste and wealth. 11 As such it was rich in cultural meaning, in the same way as the grandfather clock of the eighteenth century and the valve radio of the twentieth were. For the business historian, the production and consumption of the piano is a perfect opportunity to explore the ways that manufacturers found to interpret and shape the complexity of consumers desires and how this understanding translated in the combination of skills, technologies and sales devices needed to expand production. Firstly we analyse the context in which pianos were sold the rising real incomes of the lower and middle classes in Victorian Britain and how these meant that more and more families could afford to buy ready-made clothes, furniture and ornaments, newspapers and 10 The production of household goods, moreover, made up a sizeable proportion of Britain s total manufacturing output. Data from the 1907 Census of Production reveal that the production of these goods accounted for 8 per cent of net output of total manufacturing. If finished manufactured goods alone are considered, the share of household goods goes up to 12 per cent. The numbers are similar for employment. Census of production, These figures are likely to be an underestimate as the 1907 Census did not include small establishments, those employing fewer than 10 people, and where many of these goods would have been made. 11 Testimony of this can be found in the books that provided advice on how to decorate the home, a genre that became popular after the 1880s. For examples see Edis, Decoration and furniture of town houses, Haweis, The art of decoration, Elder-Duncan, The house beautiful and useful. 3

4 books, pianos and sheet music. 12 We then detail the changes in technology in piano production during the period and examine the size of manufacturing output of pianos in the UK. Finally we consider the cultural significance of pianos and how these were sold and marketed. The sources used for this article range from individual company archives, including those of department stores, trade journals, trade directories, exhibition reports and contemporary magazines : rising incomes, domestic consumption and homemaking The 60 year period following 1850 saw higher incomes per capita (per year), lower prices and growth in the British economy, resulting in more employment and more disposable income for the middle and working classes. The economy grew faster in the second half of the nineteenth century, compared to the first half, with a higher proportion of GDP devoted to capital accumulation, and higher levels of investment in human capital through the provision of education. 13 For much of this period prices fell and per capital real income grew by about 2.1 per cent from 1860 to 1895 and 0.5 per cent from 1895 to Although these numbers look small, they were high by historical standards and represent the cumulative trend of over fifty years. 14 Real wages also increased significantly, although not at the same rate for middle and working-class families, thanks to the combined effect of rising money wages and falling prices. By the end of the century, the increase in wages was the result of a combination of two factors: a structural shift towards higher wage occupations and wage bargaining for 12 Briggs, Victorian things. 13 Crafts, Long-run growth, Supple, Income and demand,

5 those workers who remained in the same occupation. 15 Food prices declined faster than the overall cost of living and, following the building boom at the turn of the century, house prices and rents also declined. 16 Overcrowding diminished as workers moved from city centres to suburbs. As wages increased, so did salaries, together with the growth of a lower middle class of clerks, schoolteachers, shopkeepers, technicians, while the proportion of white collar workers in the labour force increased from about 3 per cent in 1861 to almost 7 per cent in ; at the same time salaries grew as a proportion of total incomes from 6.5 per cent in 1860 to almost 11 per cent on the eve of the First World War. One measure of the number and incomes of those who did not earn wages and were of modest means is provided by data on those with intermediate incomes under 160 (the lower limit for income tax liability). These rose from 11.5 per cent of total incomes in 1880 to 17 per cent in It was this group who looked to emulate the established wealthy in society, as they benefited from greater disposable incomes and more leisure time. 19 It is to these years that we can date the rise of a new literary genre, the decorator s manual, written to help middle class housewives of modest means navigate the murky waters of tasteful interior decoration. 20 Living standards did not improve for all, and regional and occupational variations persisted, with unemployment fluctuating over the period. What is significant in terms of consumption is that average and total incomes increased over this period for the families of 15 Feinstein, What really happened to real wages?; Feinstein, New Estimates of average earnings in the United Kingdom. 16 Boyer, Living standards, , 312 quoting Feinstein, Variety and volatility, Crossick, The lower middle-class in Britain Supple, Income and demand, Daunton, Wealth and Welfare, See, for example Gardiner, Furnishing and fittings for every home 5

6 wage and salary earners, as noted by a contemporary observer, Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke in 1885: Unstinted food, clothes of the same pattern as the middle class, when house rents permits, a tidy parlour, with stiff, cheap furniture which, if not itself luxurious or beautiful, is a symptom of the luxury of self-respect, and an earnest of better things to come, a newspaper, a club, an occasional holiday, perhaps a musical instrument. 21. Nevertheless, expenditure on manufactured goods as a proportion of income remained stable and there was no shift towards new commodities: as late as 1910 over 50 per cent of purchases of goods and services was on perishable commodities, 9.5 per cent on semi-durables and only 4.9 per cent of durables, including furniture and furnishings. 22 However, the growth of working and middle class incomes was great enough to establish a market for goods that had previously been so limited as to make them rare luxuries. Supple gives examples of standardised production based on a small proportion of a large aggregate income: bicycles, sewing machines, newspapers, clocks and watches, wallpaper, pianos, window glass. Even the poorer households, though they continued to allocate the same proportion of income to non-food expenditure, channelled their increased purchasing power towards better quality, or more modern versions of traditional purchases, such as improved types of linoleum floor-covering, arm chairs instead of kitchen chairs, and so on. This is what Supple calls an enhancement of traditional living standards, which in turn brought 21 Quoted in Hobsbawm, Industry and empire, Supple, Income and demand,

7 an enlargement of traditional ways of making things, through the accumulation of marginal changes. 23 Urban growth in the second half of the nineteenth century was the necessary backdrop to the development of both production and consumption. Towns and cities developed as the locus of industry, and attracted workers, who themselves became the customers of new kinds of retail outlets. The spread of corner shops, the new department stores, the penny bazaars, the new shopping arcades and the Co-operative emporia, gave the skilled working classes and middle classes places to spend their money. 24 Working class and middle class suburbs developed in the 1880 and 1890s, thanks also to the passage of the Cheap Trains Act in Thanks to this process of suburbanisation, middle-class aspirations increasingly found an outlet in the growing range of housing on offer from the mid-nineteenth century. 26 The middle-classes ceased to live over the shop and moved to the new suburbs like Edgbaston in Birmingham and Victoria Park in Manchester. 27 Middle-class suburban areas, like the eight miles of houses between London Bridge and Hampton Court, were populated by households that needed the paraphernalia of gentility, and this included cultural capital in the shape of libraries, pictures, solid furniture and musical instruments, such as the piano. 28 Far from being a homogeneous group, the middleclass was made of many constituent parts and ranged from the small masters and retailers that made up the petite bourgeoisie 29, to white-collar employees, industrialists and 23 Supple, Income and Demand, Walton, Towns and consumerism, Boyer, 313; Trainor, The middle class, Thompson, The Rise of Suburbia. 27 Simpson, Taylor, Middle class housing in Britain. 28 Banks, Prosperity and Parenthood, chapter 6 29 Crossick, Haupt, The petite bourgeoisie in Europe. 7

8 professionals, fragmented into layer upon layer of subclasses, keenly aware of their subtle grades of distinction. 30 Housing, as well as work, reflected the stratification of the middle class, with a variety of urban dwellings on offer. Lower middle-class families would typically reside in a terraced house, with one reception room, while middle-middle class ones would occupy a semi-detached house, with a drawing room and a dining room and upper-middle-class families would favour detached houses that might include a music room, or library. Apart from housing, among the markers of social status nothing compared with the ownership of durable consumer goods, especially as at this time home ownership was still restricted to few, and renting was more common. From the 1870s onwards, more and more families were able to afford ready-made clothes, furniture and ornaments, cheap newspapers and books, pianos and sheet music, 31 and by the early part of the twentieth century, pianos could be found in the parlours of those workers in stable employment. 32 As the Piano, Organ and Music Trades Journal observed in 1900: People who buy pianos in this age of enlightenment embrace all well-ordered households. It is no longer a sign of wealth that a handsome piano adorns the home. 33 The drawing room, and for the less well off, the parlour, were the public rooms of the Victorian home where household goods were displayed as symbols of achievement and worldly success 34. Of these goods none was more symbolic of social mobility than the piano, considered by those two contemporary arbiters of elegance, Mrs Panton and Mrs 30 Thompson, The rise of respectable society, Briggs, Victorian things. 32 See Clementina Black s recording of the lives of Liverpool vestmakers, in Married Women s Work quoted in Walton, Towns and consumerism, Piano, Organ and Music Trades Journal, No. 219, Nov. 1900, Vol. XVII (New Series no. 186), Flanders, The Victorian House, xxix 8

9 Haweis as a drawing room essential. 35 As a symbol of gentility the piano could not be bettered and even the Pooters, the characters of the comical novel Diary of a Nobody published in 1892, owned a never-played piano, an upright cottage, bought on hire purchase. 36 As a symbol of salvation, both social and personal, the piano is imagined by Flory, in George Orwell s Burmese Days, in a future marital home. 'He saw his home as she would remake it. He saw his drawing-room, sluttish and bachelor-like no longer, with new furniture from Rangoon, and a bowl of pink balsams like rosebuds on the table, and books and watercolours and a black piano. Above all the piano! His mind lingered on the piano - symbol, perhaps because he was unmusical, of civilized and settled life. He was delivered for ever from the sub-life of the past decade - the debaucheries, the lies, the pain of exile and solitude, the dealings with whores and money lenders and pukka sahibs.' 37 Pianos also became family heirlooms, as this symbol of social status was passed down to different generations of families, but often to daughters. The bestowing of pianos to daughters reflected the social benefits that a piano could bring to a woman, clearly 35 Mrs Haweis was a regular contributor to the The Lady's Realm, and her books included The Art of Beauty (1878), The Art of Dress (1879), The Art of Decoration (1881), Beautiful Houses: being a Description of certain well-known Artistic Houses (1882), Rus in Urbe: or Flowers that thrive in London Gardens and Smoky Towns (1886) and The Art of Housekeeping: A Bridal Garland (1889). While Mrs Panton s advice manuals intended for those with modest incomes (about 200 a year) included Homes of Taste: Economical Hints (1890) 36 George and Weedon Grossmith, Diary of a Nobody, 14 quoted in Flanders, The Victorian House, Orwell, Burmese Days. 9

10 perceived to be greater than those it could bring to a man. 38 For example, in 1872 Samuel Banks, a farmer from Cromwell in Nottinghamshire, set out in his will which possessions were to be left to his children - To daughter Ann Margaret Banks, the pianoforte, while the sons received cash 39. In 1891 the innkeeper Mary Wilson of Walsall left her daughter Clara her pianoforte 40, while ten years later Benjamin Bibby, a gentleman from Muncaster, Cumberland left his five children generous trusts for life but to his only daughter he left her father s pianoforte and music books. 41 Pianos as musical instruments and essential items of furniture were important possessions for a woman, both as a symbol of (real or assumed) accomplishment and of homemaking, as the presence of the piano in the drawing room turned it into a family sitting-room, where all the members of the family would come together to share in the musical entertainment. 42 The importance of middle class women as consumers in the nineteenth century has been emphasised in work by Rappaport 43, while working class female consumers have also been considered by a number of other authors, and some of this work clearly demonstrates that sections of the British working class could not afford pianos, even after a decline in 38 The ability to play the piano was seen to be advantageous to a young woman who was in search of a husband. Burgan, Heroines at the Piano ; Loesser, Men, Women, and Pianos; Lustig, The piano s progress in, The idea of music, ed. Fuller and Losseff. 39 Will and probate of Samuel Banks of Cromwell, farmer, DD/T/118/4, 1872, 1873, Nottinghamshire Archives, Nottingham. 40 Will of Mary Wilson, 48/12/14, , Walsall Local History Centre. 41 Copy of probate of will, BD TB 42/2/1, 1892, Cumbria Record Office, Barrow. 42 Gardiner, Furnishing and fittings for every home, 85; Elder-Duncan, The house beautiful, Rappaport, Shopping for pleasure. Women in the making of London s West End. For America see Benson, Counter cultures. Saleswomen, managers and customers in American Department stores,

11 their price. 44 For the working classes, second-hand goods, as well as sharing, were important factors in their consumption patterns and behaviour, and Cohen considers the resistance of working class consumers in America to the attempts of the middles classes to influence their tastes in furnishing their homes. 45 Over time, the multiple meanings of the piano as an object may not have changed, it remained a symbol of respectability, homemaking, taste and accomplishment, but the means by which it was purchased, and the types of people that it was purchased by, did change between 1851 and The piano could not have become an affordable status object, for middle and upper working class families, without the changes that took place in its production, marketing and retail after the 1860s. To meet this rising demand for pianos, it is necessary to consider first the manufacture of these symbolic consumer goods. The production of pianos: the size and structure of the UK piano manufacturing industry The period from 1850 to 1914 was a golden era for piano production. The global production of pianos increased from 43,000 in 1850 to 600,000 in 1910, with UK production increasing from 23,000 in 1850 to 75, 000 in The main producers of pianos during this period were Britain, France, Germany and the United States. 46 This rise 44 See the work of Ross including Survival networks: women s neighbourhood sharing in London before World War I, History Workshop, No. 15, 1983, 2-27 in which she considers the working poor. For the United States see Benson, Working-class family economies in the inter-war United States 45 Cohen, Embellishing a life of labor: an interpretation of material culture of American working-class homes, Piano production in France increased from 10,000 in 1850 to 25,000 in 1910; in the USA production increased from 10,000 to 370,000 between the same dates; and in Germany production increased from approximately 15,000 in 1870 to approximately 120,000 in Ehrlich, The piano,

12 in the output of pianos was stimulated by increased demand over the period, and facilitated by changes in production and technology. 47 Broadwood & Sons (established in 1808 and one of London s largest employers) produced between seven and ten per cent of UK pianos. 48 In this respect they represented the exception in piano production, which was dominated by numerous small firms. 49 A survey of Kelly s trade directories for London reveals 178 entries under pianoforte makers in The number of piano makers in London thereafter remained stable until 1914 at around 200 and most of these were small-scale enterprises. 50 Indeed the structure of the UK piano industry remained similar throughout the period and comprised of three groups: established firms (often large) making high quality pianos (such as Broadwood, Collard, Kirkham), medium sized and medium class producers (such as Allison, Brinsmead, Challen, Chappell, Cramer and Daneman), and 200 or so small producers, making pianos on their own or employing a few people. There was a high entry and exit rate amongst small piano makers. They were badly hit by any recession but new entrants, often previously workers in existing factories, were ready to risk establishing a piano- 47 There are no entirely reliable output data on piano production. The figures quoted in the paper are from Ehrlich s but they are contradicted by other sources such as in 1900 the Evening Standard estimated that 170 factories in London alone were making pianos and that they turned out 90,000 pianos every year. See Piano, Organ and Music Trades Journal, Feb. 1900, No. 210, Vol. Xvii (New Series No. 178), February 1900, David Wainwright, Broadwood, Henry Fowler ( ), Piano Manufacturer, in Dictionary of National Business Biography, Vol. 1, A-C, ed. David Jeremy (Butterworth & Co, London, 1984), It may be expected that large firms tend to be mass producers of lower quality goods. Yet in the case of pianos, large firms were also the high end, quality producers. The same was true in the pottery industry, See Popp, Business Structure, Business Culture and the Industrial District. 50 Kelly s Post Office Directory of London. Directories were surveyed between 1851 and The directory only clearly differentiates which firms were operating as dealers only in the 1914 directory, when 44 dealers are included in the list of entries. This still left 212 enterprises that were solely makers of pianofortes. 12

13 making enterprise on their own due to the potential profits that could be made. Moreover, from the 1870s, larger producers would contract out their work to such smaller makers. 51 Although entry and exit rates were high, survival rates were good, and worth the risk. From a survey of over 327 piano firms by Ehrlich taken from 1850 onwards, the majority lasted from 1 to 30 year (61 per cent), with most of these lasting up to 20 years (43 per cent). There would have been some very small scale producers that went in and out of business very quickly, which may have been omitted from this survey, but the survival rates from this sample looks relatively healthy, given the poor survival rates of modern small firms. There were exceptions Broadwoods lasted over 200 and Brinsmeads survived over 100 years - but most firms did not live for so long. 52 From the 1850s, Broadwood manufactured pianos under one roof in its Horseferry Road factory but this was unusual. Most workers were not employed directly by a small or medium-sized piano making firm but were employed in the many stages of piano manufacture on a casual basis and paid by the piece. 53 Only a few core workers were on the payroll of larger firms. Many factory hands were laid off in Summer and Autumn when trade was slack. 54 Piano making served a seasonal market, with low sales in Summer and higher sales in Winter (for Christmas) and Spring (for weddings) 55 and some workshops 51 Ehrlich, The piano, Figures generated from the list in Appendix 1, Ehrlich, The piano, An order book from Kemble & Co. demonstrates the variety of processes in piano production. See Piano Book, Kemble & Co., Hackney Archives, London. 54 The annual summer exodus of piano makers to hop gardens of Kent continued into 1930s. Laurence, The evolution of the grand piano, 67-74, 80, Radio production and sales in the twentieth century was also seasonal. Scott, The determinants of competitive success in the interwar British radio industry. 13

14 made cabinets, desks or even coffins when pianos were not in demand. 56 Small and medium-sized firms could construct the piano partly from materials and partly from components that had already been processed, such as keys and backs. The plethora of piano component makers, testifying to the existence of a production system of flexible specialisation, can be seen from the listings in trade directories, adversing for example for piano pedal makers, piano key makers, piano cabinet makers and inlayers, and piano string makers. Table 1 shows the numbers of people working in piano making and the making of piano parts in in total and the 297 individuals who were described as piano sellers or dealers. These are national figures, though the majority were located in London. This demonstrates the considerable number of people working in piano production in late nineteenth century, although the number would fluctuate with both the seasons and economic cycles. Table 1: Occupation in 1881 Census - Piano and piano part makers Piano makers 2725 Piano making - parts 553 Piano making processes 466 Piano makers - managers 7 piano makers - foreman 9 piano makers - workers 198 piano makers - apprentices 105 Piano makers - assistants 23 Piano tuner + makers 28 Piano makers + other wooden furniture Piano sellers and dealers Selling 39 Dealers This is made clear from the occupations provided in the 1881 census, for example pianoforte and cabinet maker. 14

15 Source: 1881 Population Census. The centre of UK piano producers in the nineteenth century was London. There were some small piano makers outside the capital but Pohlmann & Sons in Halifax was the only firm of significant size and only employed 40 people by Piano production formed clusters, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century this was in Soho, central London. This had the advantage of access, via the Thames river, to coastal shipping, an important means by which domestic freight was moved during the nineteenth century. As the century progressed, makers moved further north into Camden Town and Kentish Town, where rents were cheaper and more space was available. Camden Town also benefited from easy access to the Regent's Canal, which could be used for cheap transportation of heavy goods like pianos, either to the west and therefore on to the whole canal system to a domestic market, or east to the docks and from there to a global market. Camden and Kentish Town were also near the rail-heads of King's Cross, Euston and St Pancras. 58 Such clustering allowed access to a pool of skilled labour and a London location gave easier access to materials but, most importantly, was originated due to the dominance of demand from the country s capital. Once such a cluster formed, it was perpetuated by the clustering of makers of piano parts: piano key makers; piano pin makers; sellers of key leads; hammer coverers; piano hammer and damper cloth makers; incisors, who cut the fretted wooden fronts; truss carvers; gilders; marquetry workers; French polishers, veneer, timber and ivory suppliers; makers of piano castors; candle-sconce makers; piano-back makers. All were essential suppliers to the main piano makers. Many also supplied elements that differentiated the 57 West Yorkshire Archive Service, Pohlmann and Sons, Halifax, piano manufacturers, Catalogue, A2A. 58 Howkins, Made in St Pancras: British Pianos and their Story. 15

16 piano, both in terms of prices and in terms of appearance, and they catered for the different tastes in ornamentation. Given the emblematic nature of this product, many consumers desired a piano that was not standardised but rather was differentiated from the instrument of a neighbour in terms of fretwork, wood and candle-holders. Such demand for changes in style stimulated consumption as the more wealthy were able to exchange and existing piano for an improved or more fashionable, newer model. Different types of piano also catered for different demands. The grand piano was the largest and most expensive type of piano, usually used by concert pianists and/or the wealthy. The boudoir grand was smaller (and more affordable). Even smaller and less expensive still was the baby grand was (less than five feet in length and a foot shorter than the boudoir grand). Square pianos were shaped like a clavichord (they were rectangle in shape) and popular in the first half of the nineteenth century in the UK, offering a cheaper alternative to the grand piano. Upright pianos contained the mechanisms of the instrument in an upright or horizontal cabinet, as opposed to the grand which was laid out horizontally, and therefore took up less space. Those instruments described as cottage were necessarily smaller and meant for more modest homes. 59 All the main technological changes to piano making had taken place before 1860 but at the mid-century piano manufacture was still a craft-based industry which did not enjoy economies of scale and employed little machinery. 60 A Broadwood grand could pass through the hands of 40 different workmen. 61 Costs tended to be high and productivity low. As a result, turnover was low but large profit margins could be achieved as retail prices in 59 Ehrlich, The piano, 9-10, For a description of these technological developments see: Ehrlich. The Piano; Good, Giraffes, black dragons, and other pianos; Parakilas, Piano roles; Loesser, Men, Women, and Pianos. 61 Lardner, The Great Exhibition. 16

17 at mid-century remained relatively high. 62 As well as a lack of machinery, the industry was also characterised by a lack of standardisation in production. A large firm would produce a range of different types of piano and even smaller firms could differentiate their finished products in terms of ornamentation or type of wood. A contemporary estimated that Broadwood could only produce about seven pianos per workman per annum, little different from the productivity of a small firm. 63 Yet between 1850 and 1914, the number of pianos being produced increased substantially. Germany and America led the way in producing greater numbers of pianos more cheaply but of a decent quality, and from the 1880s, imports from these countries into the UK forced British manufacturers to do the same. It was the fragmented structure of the trade that allowed innovation to take place. Manufactures assembled pre-manufactured parts, rather than buying and seasoning wood then assembling the piano from scratch. The number of companies supplying these parts (and supplying them on credit) increased. In addition, mass production of pre-cast iron frames and mass produced, standardised but good quality actions simplified the production process. Thus, the system of buying out parts of the piano allowed manufacturers to purchase parts that were cheaper but also better than those that could have been produced in their workshops. Suppliers could also add the advantage of economies of scale to production and price upon sale to purchasers. Mechanization of production increased, with the United States leading the way as a result of its shortage of skilled labour but abundance of wood. Machines were introduced for example in wood-working, hammer covering, and 62 Ehrlich, The piano, Also, before construction could begin, wood had to be left to season before it could be utilised. Ehrlich, The piano,

18 winding strings. 64 This pattern of production that developed in piano making in the nineteenth century, batch production and production in clusters resourced by specialist labour, is similar to that of the flexible specialisation found in industrial districts of Northern Italy by Piore and Sable and in New England by Scranton and gave London s piano makers the ability to adapt quickly to changes in volume and type of demand. 65 Improvements were made in manufacturing processes, and many individual details of the instrument continued to receive attention as trade journals listed the latest patents taken out relating to piano manufacturing technology. 66 Following the major changes in piano technology before 1860, after this date there were thousands of small, incremental changes to this instrument, many tailored to suit the changing tastes of consumers. This leads us to consider how the piano was taken to market. Where did people buy pianos, how much did they cost and what were the variations in price over the period under consideration? Retailing the piano In 1850, pianos were still expensive and purchasing one was beyond the financial means of the majority of the British population. In 1849, a piano from Broadwood & Sons cost from 45 for a mahogany cottage upright and 160 for a rosewood grand. 67 Instruments produced by less famous makers were much cheaper, some selling for as little as about 64 Ehrlich, The piano, 81; Good, 199, , Flexible specialization Piore and Sabel, The second industrial divide; Scranton, Endless Novelty. 66 For example, The Piano, Organ and Music Trades Journal, Jan. 1891, No. 102, Vol. VIII, John Broadwood & Sons Archive, Surrey History Centre, 2185/JB/76/14, Wholesale and retail price list, In current prices 45 would be approximately 2,500 and 160 would be just over 9,000. National Archives currency converter, No comparable prices are available from department stores until later in the century. 18

19 Yet this lower price was still out of reach of most ordinary consumers. Even by 1881 a full-time cotton worker was only earning 38 per annum and the average annual wage for all sectors was 48.2 per annum. 69 A lack of competition maintained high prices during the 1850s and 1860s and pianos remained a very expensive type of consumer good. Accessibility was increased to some extent through the hiring of pianos, typically at 1 per month, often offered with the opportunity to purchase the instrument after six months at a discount price. 70 As quantities of pianos being produced increased from the 1870s due to standardisation and improvements in production technology, so the range of pianos manufactured increased, especially those at the cheaper end of the market. Greater choice and cheaper prices meant more opportunity for more people to own pianos. From the 1870s, as imports stimulated competition, agreements with English manufacturers loosened and dealers sold a variety of national makes. Competition amongst dealers brought down prices and led to improvements in credit terms for customers. 71 Dealers offered hire purchase arrangements for customers on new and second hand pianos 72 and the effect was to push down prices at the bottom, mid and high end of the market Ehrlich, The piano, Boyer, Living standards, , Elder-Duncan,The house beautiful, 163; Ehrlich, The piano, ; Laurence, The evolution of the grand piano, Ehrlich, The piano, In 1911 Kay Pearson, a 15 year old from Hull was allowed a piano on what is now called hire purchase, my mother signing on my behalf in case of any default. It was a second-hand Scheidmayer with a beautiful tone - cost 15 guineas. One pound deposit and 1-/- per month. Pearson, Life in Hull, Piano, Organ and Music Trades Journal, No. 149, Jan. 1895, Vol. XIII (New Series no. 117), p

20 From the 1890s department stores also began to sell pianos and to compete directly with specialist dealers. Harrods in London opened its piano department in Army and Navy began retailing pianos in the late nineteenth century, through its department store in London and also through its mail order catalogue. 75 Another London department store, Whiteleys, sold pianos from the late nineteenth century 76 ; as did Selfridges, opened in These department stores were innovative in their style of retailing. They were large, operated with low profit margins and high turnover and were attractive to the public and played a key role in creating a new form of consumer society. 77 Dealers opposed the sale of musical instruments in department stores as they argued that such outlets lacked expertise, but obviously dealers were interested in protecting their retail position. 78 For the consumer, the piano had gone from exclusive distributions channels (specialised dealerships), which enhanced the prestige and exclusivity of the piano as a good, to greater availability through department stores, even mail order catalogues. Despite the loss of such exclusivity in distribution, the consumer would be more likely to buy a piano when it was available in a greater number of stores as they were offered the product where and when they wanted it. 79 Department stores were highly visible and very popular with members of 74 Harrod s Archive, London: The Harrods s Stores Catalogue 1895, p Pianoforte and Musical Instrument Dept. 75 Army & Navy Co-Operative Society, Yesterday s shopping. The Army & Navy Co-Operative Society 1907 issue of Rules of the Society and Price List of Articles Sold at the Stores. (Facsimile edition 1969, Newton abbot: David & Charles). 76 Westminster City Archive, London. 77 Jeffereys, Retailing in Britain; Lancaster, The department store; Lomax, The department store and the creation of the spectacle ; Moss, Turton, A legend of retailing, House of Fraser ; Pasdermadjian, The Department store. 78 Piano, Organ and Music Trades Journal, No. 149, Jan. 1895, Vol. XIII (New Series no. 117), p Farris, Oliver, de Kluyver, Cornelis. The relationship between Distribution and Market Share,

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