Abstract: Pianos for the People: Knowledge in Piano Production and Marketing, 1851-1914

Lucy Newton and Francesca Carnevali


Industrial Britain, from 1851 to 1914, enjoyed great success in producing and marketing consumer goods to both domestic and overseas markets. This paper examines the production of such an object for the Victorian home—the piano. Piano manufacture required craft skills and usually took place in relatively small-scale business units that were clustered in one location. Such clustering facilitated the accumulation and spread of knowledge both within and between piano manufacturers and from firms aligned to piano making. It allowed firms within the cluster to take advantage of knowledge spill-overs. Piano manufacturers required knowledge of the instruments they were making, the music that these instruments produced, and the markets that they were selling to in order to be successful and grow. The paper will analyze the production and marketing of pianos during this period, in the context of consumer income, expenditure, and tastes, and the knowledge that was required of both home and overseas markets by piano makers and dealers.