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British Industrial History

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Bell Piano and Organ Co

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of Bartholomew Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5.

  • 1833 William Bell was born in Dumfries, Scotland on 5 September. His parents and brothers Joseph and Robert later moved to Canada. William learned carpentry in Scotland and later became a contractor.
  • 1853 He moved to Toronto and then on to either New York City or Minnesota, in the United States.
  • 1860 He returned to Guelph, Ontario, to marry Isabella Christie.
  • 1861 They moved to Minnesota, following his carpentry trade.
  • 1864 The Bell Piano and Organ Co established in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, by the brothers William and Robert Bell with a staff of three. William Bell was one of the early Guelph business giants.
  • 1865 The couple returned to Guelph with son William J. Bell and daughter Edith L. Bell. He joined his brother Robert to develop the Bell Organ Company. William had sound sales and business knowledge that enabled the business to develop comprehensively. His carpentry expertise enabled his workers to produce quality items. William Bell then assumed management.
  • 1871 As W. Bell and Co they opened a factory.
  • By 1881, nearly 200 employees produced over 1200 melodeons and reed organs annually. Some were exported as far as Australia.
  • 1883 Two factories with 400 men occupied a downtown block. A lumber yard with drying kilns and stables with 200 men was across the street on the other side of the railway tracks.
  • 1884 By this time, the company claimed to have produced 26,000 instruments. Bell formed a partnership with his son W. J. Bell (1863-1925), Mrs. W. B. Kennedy, and A. W. Alexander.
  • 1888 The younger Bell sold the firm to an English syndicate, at which time the name was changed to the Bell Organ and Piano Co Ltd, and the manufacture of pianos began. The company's production reached 600 reed organs and 200 pianos per month.
  • 1897 William retired from Bell in October.
  • 1901 The first grand pianos were built. Bell pianos were exported extensively, and some of the better models were sent to the palaces of Queen Victoria, Queen Frederica, the kings of Italy and Spain, and a Turkish sultan. The instruments also enjoyed success in trade exhibitions and competitions.
  • 1907 When piano sales out-stripped organ sales and seemed likely to continue doing so, the company changed its name to the Bell Piano and Organ Co Ltd. Agencies were established across Canada.
  • When the organ and piano businesses were well established William turned to other ventures.
  • 1912 Nothing else is heard of him until his untimely and ill fated death by a railway train on September 26, 1912. He was 79.
  • 1922 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Pianos, Player-Pianos, Reed Organs. (Stand No.B. 50) [1]
  • 1928 The company was sold to John Dowling of Brantford, Ontario, Canada.
  • The head office of The Bell Company in Guelph grew into one of the largest companies in the British Empire with locations in England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. There are no figures how big the company got as employee records have been lost over time.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  • [1] The Canadian Encyclopaedia Historica
  • [2] Bell Piano Newsletter 1
  • [3] Bell Piano Newsletter 2