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Pianos for the People: From Producer to Consumer in Britain, 1851–1914

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 February 2015


During the second half of the nineteenth century, British society experienced a rise in real incomes and a change in its composition, with the expansion of the middle classes. These two factors led to a consumer revolution, with a growing, but still segmented, demand for household goods that could express status and aspiration. At the same time technological changes and new ways of marketing and selling goods made these goods more affordable. This paper analyzes these themes and the process of mediation that took place between producers, retailers, and consumers, by looking at the most culturally symbolic of nineteenth century consumer goods, the piano.

Copyright © The Author(s) 2012. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Business History Conference. All rights reserved.

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We would like to thank the staff of the Surrey History Centre, Woking; the Guildhall Library, London; the British Newspaper Library, Colindale; Harrods Archive, London; University of Glasgow Archive, Glasgow; Westminster City Archives, London; Hackney Archives, London; Victoria & Albert Museum Archives, London; the Victoria & Albert National Art Library, London; and Dr Leigh-Shaw Taylor and the Cambridge Group for the Study of Population and Social Structure, Cambridge, for their help during the research for this paper. We also wish to thank the three anonymous referees for putting us right on a number of points. All remaining mistakes remain ours.


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