Pianos were once widely advertised:
Music lovers could pick and choose
from multi-page catalogues of pianos

If the trial in your home wasn’t satisfactory,
the piano could be returned at no cost to the purchaser!

Gathering around the piano was a popular pastime

Gathering around the piano was a very popular pastime when people had to entertain themselves

Harper’s Mag­a­zine of 1890 car­ried numer­ous adver­tise­ments for pianos

Steck Pianos offered great pow­er, even­ness of scale, rich singing qual­i­ty and absolute dura­bil­i­ty. Steck had been in busi­ness for 33 years and offered endorse­ments — from pianists who cer­tain­ly knew pianos. Wag­n­er: “ Ever­where acknowl­edged to be excel­lent.”  Liszt: “They give the liveli­est satisfaction.”

Oth­er music lovers endorsered the Steck as unpar­al­leled, a real­ly per­fect piano, the very best piano made, ranked high­er than all oth­er instru­ments now manufacturered.

Oth­er piano adver­tis­ers offered their own claims. The Everett piano claimed to be unex­celled in pre­ci­sion and del­i­ca­cy of touch and dura­bil­i­ty. Vose & Sons, estab­lished in 1851 claimed to have sold 25,000 pianos that com­bined sym­pa­thet­ic, pure and rich tone.

four quarter-page advertisements for pianos
Who would have thought
that owning a piano
could save a marriage!

The dis­traught hus­band and the dis­tressed wife was a com­mon theme in advertisements.

This adver­tise­ment by Ivers and Pond Piano Co of Boston, Mass, fea­tures a draw­ing of an ele­gant cou­ple by a piano. The draw­ing car­ries the line: If music be the food of love, play on.

The body copy links
card-play­ing hus­bands with
piano-play­ing wives.

Marriage is Not a Failure!

It was decid­ed that way before time was, and in accor­dance with the order of things you will mar­ry and be hap­py, if you are wise, and by the same token you will fur­nish your house with an Ivers and Pond Piano; not for­get­ting that our SOFT STOP will be worth more to you than the whole price of any piano, for you can keep up your music with­out dis­turb­ing the baby’s naps, and with­out detri­ment to your husband’s qui­et game of whist. De you pre­fer that he should do his card play­ing at home? Then you want of our Soft Stop.

And when a piano did­n’t meet your needs
there was always…

The Vocalion

Described in the adver­tise­ment as “the only effec­tive sub­sti­tute of the pipe organ” for  “church­es, chapels, lodges, assem­bly rooms, draw­ing rooms” it claimed to be undis­tin­guish­able in tone from a fine Pipe Organ, unaf­fect­ed by changes in tem­per­a­ture and hard­ly affect­ed by damp­ness. (there’s a buy­er ben­e­fit that will sure­ly sell!)

Music lovers could buy the Wing Piano by mail.

No advance payment or deposit

The piano is shipped to you at no cost.

You don’t like it? Send it back.

And it won’t cost a cent!

Wing & Son did it that way and they claimed in 1903
to have sold over 36,000 pianos in 35 years.

Here is how Wing & Son adver­tised their pianos in McCall’s Mag­a­zine, August 1903. It’s a full page, 2nd cov­er (that’s the inside front cov­er). It’s a well designed, well writ­ten adver­tise­ment with very lengthy copy made more read­able through infor­ma­tive paragraphing.

The head­line hop­per learns very quick­ly that the piano was shipped from the Fac­to­ry at a Whole­sale Price: It was sent on tri­al: No Oth­er piano had so many improve­ments and spe­cial fea­tures: It came with an Instru­men­tal Attach­ment: Promi­nent Pur­chasers were iden­ti­fied and, final­ly, prospec­tive buy­ers need­ed a book when they intend­ed to buy a piano.

Read­ers who want­ed to learn more might begin at the next-to-final para­graph that tells why You Need This Book — “The Book of Com­plete Infor­ma­tion About Pianos.” Appar­ent­ly, if you read it care­ful­ly you’ll be a judge of tone, action, work­man­ship and finish.

Promi­nent pur­chasers includ­ed US Sen­a­tors and State Gov­er­nors and even a Supreme Court Justice.

That patent­ed Instru­men­tal Attach­ment, we under­stand, was an option­al five ped­al mech­a­nism that mim­ic­ked the tones of var­i­ous string instru­ments like the man­dolin, gui­tar, harp, zither and ban­jo. The five ped­als were labeled from left to right: Man­dolin, Orches­tra, Expres­sion, Soft, and Forte (the Forte ped­al was the stan­dard damper sus­tain ped­al). The five ped­als are shown in the illustration.
We apol­o­gize for dis­tor­tions evi­dent in some of the scans on the web­site; par­tic­u­lar­ly those above. We could cut the adver­tise­ments out of the pub­li­ca­tions and scan them flat but who wants to cut pages from a mag­a­zine that is 130 years old!