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Late Victorian Advertising Print for John Broadwood & Sons Piano Forte Makers, London


A late Victorian advertising print for John Broadwood & Sons Piano forte makers, London and manufactured by Waterlow & Sons Limited.

This superbly decorative advertising sign makes great mileage from the company’s long association with the Royal Family stating their warrants of appointment to HM Queen Victoria, TRH The Prince & Princess of Wales, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and makers to TRH The Duke & Duchess of York.

According to the advertisement, the company of Broadwood was established in 1732 although the founder, Burkat Shudi had already manufactured a harpsichord for Handel in 1729. The name of Broadwood was introduced to the company when the Scotsman John Broadwood moved to London and married Shudi’s daughter Barbara and upon his death, the company was left to Shudi’s son Burkat and his son in law. By the late eighteenth century, the development of the piano was such that it began to outsell the harpsichord and Broadwood having been involved in numerous developments, was at the forefront of the industry in this relatively new instrument. He is known to have been visited by Thomas Jefferson during this period. By the turn of the century, Broadwood (now John Broadwood & Sons) ended their production of harpsichords to concentrate solely on the manufacture of pianos.

The sons continued to develop the company following the death of the founder and following the cessation of war with France, they toured Europe and a meeting with Beethoven in Vienna resulted in them sending a grand piano for his use. Shortly after in England they delivered a commission for George IV to be installed in the Brighton Pavilion.

In 1840, the company supplied a square piano for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, for use at Buckingham Palace and their production of pianos increased to 2500 pianos a year during this period even supplying Chopin with three instruments for his British tour. By the 1860’s, the square piano had been surpassed by the upright piano and production ended for these early instruments. The company however, continued to gain success and were presented a gold medal at the Paris Exhibition of 1867 by The Emperor Napoleon II. The following decade, saw the beginning of an association with the early Pre-Raphaelite and Arts & Crafts movements with special Broadwood pianos being manufactured for Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris, a similar commission was requested in the 1890s for leading members of the movement such as CR Ashbee and Hugh Baillie Scott. Their fame continued through the turn of the Twentieth Century and up to the Great War with a Broadwood piano even being included in the cargo for Captain Scott’s Antarctic Expedition. 

During the Great War, like many other companies during the period, Broadwood & Sons production was turned to the war effort and the manufacture of aircraft. Like many, both World Wars took its toll on the company and a short era of diversification began with the company also manufacturing gramophones, however pianos remained their main focus and their relationship with the Royal Family remained strong throughout. The company equipped many of the Royal ships with pianos throughout the 1950s and a silver framed grand piano was given to the Queen at Balmoral in 1977 as part of the Silver Jubilee celebrations, a year before the companies own 250th anniversary. Four years later, the company gifted another grand piano to the Prince & Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace to mark the occasion of their marriage.

For the first time in 2008, the company moved outside of family ownership and is now owned by the Laurence family, however the connection with the Broadwood’s and the Laurence’s stretch back to the late Eighteenth Century and the company continues to this day with premises both in England and small production factory based in Norway. They still hold their Royal Appointment and are one of the longest and continuous holders of the Appointment by a company.

 The print is marked to the base with the printer’s detail of Waterlow & Sons Limited, London Wall, London. The company were one of the largest printing manufacturers in the nineteenth century and were responsible for printing bank notes, stamps as well as commercial print. Their work is also heavily represented at The London Transport Museum as they undertook numerous commissions for rail, bus and underground advertising and are now highly sought after examples. The company itself was established in 1810 and was finally acquired by De La Rue in the 1960’s. It was incorporated as a limited company upon the death of the founder James Waterlow in 1876. Given the marking on the advert, it can be sensibly dated to between 1876 and the death of Queen Victoria in 1901.

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