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Ragtime Music in Canada

 

Chapter 4: Piano Manufacturing in Canada

 

By Ted Tjaden

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Canada had a strong history in the manufacturing of quality pianos. Dr Carmelle Bégin in Opus: The Making of Musical Instruments in Canada describes the early history of piano-making in the "history" chapter:

Piano making began in Québec, thanks mostly to artisans of German and British origins. Frederick Hund was the first piano maker to carry on his trade in the city, in 1816. A number of other piano makers, including Thomas D Hood, achieved success in the first half of the nineteenth century. In 1851, there were four piano makers in Toronto, ten in Montreal and three in Québec. From the time of Confederation to the turn of the century, several piano manufacturers prospered, including Heintzman, Mason & Risch, RS Williams, Willis, and Lesage. However, few of the firms survived the 1930s depression. By 1980, only Heintzman and Lesage pianos were manufactured in Canada.

In Downright Upright: A History of the Canadian Piano Industry (Kelly:1991), Wayne Kelly paints a vivid picture of the early days of the industry, with there being over 220 individual organ and piano manufacturers in the past 175 years (Kelly, 1991:13), with most of them long since out of business. But these Canadian-made pianos, many of them exported to the United States or Europe, were well made and remain playable and valuable as antiques. Many Canadian piano players are familiar with the famous Canadian piano brands, including Bell, Doherty, Dominion, Heintzman, Lesage, Mason & Risch, Nordheimer and Sherlock-Manning. Picture of Book Cover of
                                  "Downright Upright: A History of
                                  the Canadian Piano Industry" by
                                  Wayne Kelly

Kelly (1991:14) describes the importance of pianos in these terms:

The piano was the first and only form of creative expression most households would know. Many hours each week were spent in the presence of the keyboard .... "Mail order" brides moving to the Canadian west often insisted that log cabins and sod huts be equipped with a piano. In schools, lodges, church basements, community halls, and public buildings in every corner of the province, the piano was a piece of standard equipment.

An advertisement for Mason & Risch pianos in the December 21, 1910, The Gazette (from Montreal) boasts that the "advent of Mason & Risch in the piano field was practically the renaissance of the piano in Canada."

Many of the Canadian piano manufacturers would provide customers or prospective customers with a copy of free sheet music, with the cover often providing some advertising for the company. Most of these compositions, some of which are set out below, were not of high quality.

Samples of Piano Company Sheet Music

The Newcombe March and Two-Step
                                Sheet Music Cover

Adams, Frederick. The Newcombe March and Two-Step. Toronto, ON: Newcombe Piano Co, 1901 or 2.

[view sheet music]

Source:  Library and Archives Canada   [top]

Mason & Risch Two Step Sheet
                                Music Cover

Berger, HL. Mason and Risch Two Step. Toronto, ON: Imperial Music Publishing House, 1900?

[view sheet music]

Source: Library and Archives Canada   [top]

The Derby: Two-Step Sheet Music
                                Cover

Carkeek, William. The Derby: Two-Step. Toronto, ON: Frank Stanley Piano, 191-?

[view sheet music]

Source: Library and Archives Canada   [top]

The Ennis: March and Two-Step Sheet
                                Music Cover

Duganne, Mahlon  The Ennis: March and Two-Step. Hamilton, ON: Ennis & Co, sd.

[view sheet music]

Source: Library and Archives Canada   [top]

Karn Piano Intermezzo

Fritz, Carl. Karn Piano Intermezzo. Woodstock, ON: DW Karn Co, 19??

[view sheet music]

Source: University of Toronto Music Library   [top]

Silver Bell: Two-Step Sheet Music
                                Cover

Havermeyer, Theodore. Silver Bell: Two-Step. Guelph, ON: Bell Organ & Piano Co, sd.

[view sheet music]

Source:  Library and Archives Canada   [top]

Dominion March: Two-Step Sheet
                                Music Cover

Gustin, Louise. Dominion March: Two-Step. Toronto, ON: Imperial Music Publishers, 1899.

[view sheet music]

Source: Library and Archives Canada   [top]

The W-R Two Step Sheet Music Cover

Glionna, James. The W-R: Two Step. Toronto, ON: Whaley, Royce & Co, 1895.

[view sheet music]

Source: Library and Archives Canada  [top]

Heintzman & Co. Waltz Sheet
                                Music Cover

Hulme, D'Arcy. Heintzman & Co Waltz. Toronto, ON: Heintzman & Co, 1899.

[view sheet music]

Source: Library and Archives Canada  [top]

Ever Ready: March Two-Step Sheet
                                Music Cover

Léon, Paul. Ever Ready: March Two-Step. Toronto, ON: Whaley Royce, sd.

[view sheet music]

Source: University of Toronto Music Library   [top]

Toronto Exhibition March Sheet
                                Music Cover

Sekinger, Louis. Toronto Exposition March. Toronto, ON: Whaley, Royce & Co, 1899.

[view sheet music]

Source: Library and Archives Canada  [top]

Doherty Rag Sheet Music Cover

Stephenson, Harry. Doherty Rag. Clinton, ON: W Doherty Piano & Organ Co Ltd, 1913.

[view sheet music]

Source: Library and Archives Canada  [top]

The Berlin Polka Sheet Music Cover

Tapley, Byron. The Berlin Polka. St John, NB: GR Davis, 1901.

[view sheet music]

Source: Library and Archives Canada  [top]

The Bell Waltzes Sheet Music Cover

Tarbox, Charles Smith. The Bell Waltzes. Toronto, ON: Imperial Music Pub House, sd.

[view sheet music]

Source: Library and Archives Canada  [top]

 


In the next chapter, I discuss the ragtime revival in Canada that started in the late 1950's.

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This site created by Ted Tjaden. Page last updated: February 2017.