Thursday, August 24, 2006

Blog Guelph: Its a Bell


its a bell, originally uploaded by me.

The Bell Piano and Organ Co. has a rich history and for a lot of people put Guelph (and even Canada) on the map.

Long before Canada was ever Canada — 1864 (it was called West Canada back then) brothers William and Robert Bell, with a staff of three, produced 25 four-legged 'Diploma' melodeons (a traditional English instrument). By 1881 nearly 200 employees produced annually over 1200 melodeons and reed organs, some of which were exported as far as Australia. In 1888 The company was sold to an English firm, at which time the name was changed to the Bell Organ and Piano Co, Ltd, and the manufacture of pianos was begun. The company's production reached 600 reed organs and 200 pianos per month. Bell pianos were exported extensively, and some of the handsomer models were sent to the palaces of Queen Victoria, Queen Frederica, the kings of Italy and Spain, and a Turkish sultan.

When piano sales out-stripped organ sales and seemed likely to continue doing so, the company in 1907 changed its name to the Bell Piano and Organ Co, Ltd. Agencies were established across Canada (one of which, in Toronto, became in 1913 a separate organization - the Bell Music and Piano Co - and also sold records, phonographs, and sheet music). A trade magazine was published in the years before 1913. By 1920 the company had begun to produce player pianos, electric reproducing pianos, phonographs, piano benches, radio tables, and cabinets. Over 170,000 pianos and organs had been built by 1928, when the company was sold to a syndicate headed by John S. Dowling of Brantford, Ont. The manufacture of organs was discontinued and the company renamed Bell Pianos Ltd. In 1934 the company was sold to Lesage Pianos, which perpetuated the Bell design.

The Bell Organ and Piano Co. once occupied most of the block bounded by Wyndham, Carden and Macdonnell Streets. Please visit the City of Guelph Library to learn more about the Bell Organ and Piano Co.

Chris Iwanowski
(some content sourced from the Canadian Encyclopedia)

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