The Moses Brown Piano

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By Rev. Roland D. Sawyer, Kensington, N.H.

"History of Early Hampton"

Hampton Union, October 4, 1945

M.W. Brown Piano

Moses W. Brown of Hampton, a young man in 1886 went to Boston to learn the business of piano-making. He spent ten years in mastering every detail of the craft, and 50 years ago this summer returned to the town to set up in business. He had the wise idea that one could make a piano in a small town, away from city costs and undersell the city firms and still make a good profit.


Birdseye view of Moses W. Brown's
residence & Piano factory.

He set to work in early summer to put up his shop and by fall he was at work upon his first pianos.

His first order came from North Adams, Mass., and he had the piano completed for inspection before shipment on New Year’s Day of 1896.

An expert who examined the piano on that day described it thus:

“It is a fine instrument, an upright, seven and one-third octave, encased in mahogany with silver trimmings, the finest of ivory keys, and has three pedals. It will remain for inspection In Mr. Brown’s shop for two weeks and then be shipped to North Adams. Mr. Brown has other pianos nearly completed, his pet being another splendid instrument in a handsome rosewood case. These pianos will be completed and placed on sale without waiting orders before be builds."

No institution in New England was so generally popular in the days between 1820 and 1890 as the “sing school.” Hardworking farmers saved money to buy their girls an organ that they could sing and play, and those well-to-do bought a piano.

That young man of Hampton, who spent ten years learning his trade and then went into business for himself, was a benefactor to his day, encouraging the culture of our people, and showing great industry and the will to pursue an ideal. What a fine example he becomes to our present day pleasure- seeking, frivolous, fault finding youth.



One of his letterheads.


Hampton: A Century of Town And Beach, 1888-1988

By Peter E. Randall

Chapter 15 -- Part 11 -- Page 575 & 576

Other Early Industries

"A small industry was Moses W. Brown’s piano factory, located at 394 Winnacunnet Road. A native of Hampton, Brown first learned the mason’s trade, then worked as a farmer. He was assisted in his career by Norman Marston, a piano tuner and bandleader for whom young Brown worked for two years as a farmer. Marston, who received a patent on a piano in 1892, learned of Brown’s “fine ear” for music and in 1886 arranged for him to work at a piano company in Boston. During 10 years in the city, he learned tuning and became manager of a large piano factory. He built a large home in Hampton in 1890 but continued to work in Boston until 1895, when he began making pianos in a three-story shop behind his home. His first piano, sold to the North Adams (Massachusetts) Congregational Church, was described as “a fine instrument, an upright, seven and one-third octaves, encased in mahogany with silver trimmings, the finest of ivory keys, and has three pedals.” By 1901, the factory was producing two upright pianos a week, with the cases made of double-veneered mahogany, rosewood, Hungarian ash, or oak. Brown also repaired other makes of pianos, did furniture refinishing, and had a bicycle shop. Brown’s pianos were available for purchase at wholesale or retail. He also operated a piano rental business, delivering his instruments to various Hampton Beach hotels or cottages. One of his pianos is displayed in the Tuck Museum. Brown, who was born in 1858, continued to be listed as a piano manufacturer in town directories until 1941, although he probably had stopped making pianos in the late 1920s. He died in 1944."



Another of his letterheads.


The Piano Factory

One of the Industries of Hampton
Which is Becoming Widely Known

The Hamptons Union, Friday, December 20, 1901

Volume III -- No. 24

One of the most interesting and unique industries of Rockingham county is the piano factory of Moses W. Brown & Co., of Hampton, nicely located on the main street [now Winnacunnet Road] from the village to the beach, and passed by all electrics to and from the beach, Rye and Portsmouth, managed and controlled by Moses W. Brown and Howell M. Lamprey. Mr. Brown, though a young man, is a veteran piano maker, possessing the ability of constructing a piano entirely from beginning to end, something which probably not one in a thousand skilled piano makers can accomplish.

Mr. Brown having a natural ear for music, and great love for musical instruments, when a young man went to Boston, to learn piano tuning, and after having accomplished and overcome all difficulties of a skilled tuner, his great love for tools and his remarkable mechanical ability lead him to the desire to know something of the construction and mechanism of a piano features which all successful tuners must know. Having learned tuning in a factory where a great number of instruments were tuned out every month, an opportunity presented itself. Mr. Brown was assigned some part of the work in which, in a comparatively short time he became an expert.

In an emergency, his employer, who having great confidence in him, placed him to finish some other difficult part which he soon mastered with so much dispatch and skill, that he soon had charge of the entire factory. This position he held for fifteen years, but having a natural desire for the country and great love for his birthplace, he resigned the position and came back to Hampton building a comfortable and attractive set of buildings where he might enjoy the freedom and fresh air which only the country can give.

Being thoroughly possessed of the knowledge and skill of constructing a piano throughout, he built a small factory in which he spent his time tuning out what instruments he could without being driven, and finding ready sale for all he could complete, the remarkable quality, tone and construction being readily seen and appreciated.

In March, 1901, Howell M. Lamprey became a partner of Mr. Brown's under the firm name of M. W. Brown & Co., enlarging the factory to double its former size and increasing the capacity and output fifty per cent. This factory is now turning out several styles of upright pianos, all of the best quality, as it is the intention of the firm to make nothing but first class instruments in every respect, and to sell them at a price much lower than other manufacturers who are necessarily under great expense of supporting elegant ware rooms, high priced salesmen, and a multitude of minor expenses which are unavoidable to the makers in large towns and cities. The M. W. Brown piano is undoubtedly a well made, splendid toned and a very substantial instrument which is giving the greatest satisfaction and are being disposed of remarkably fast.

Another feature connected with this factory, is the varnishing, rubbing down and polishing antique furniture, making an old piece beautiful, ornamental and far more valuable than any modern furniture. This process requires great pains and skill and can only be successfully accomplished by those who thoroughly understand the business.

Still another connection of the establishment is the manufacture and sale of bicycles, the sale of bicycle sundries, and bicycle repair work in all its branches, the shop being equipped with all tools and implements necessary to construct an entire wheel.

An ad from an early 1900's
"The Hamptons Union".

[See more of Moses Brown's business and family here: "Never Had to Wear Glasses," Says Mildred Brown Stowe]

{Footnote: The Tuck Memorial Museum on Meeting House Green at 40 Park Avenue, Hampton, has a Moses Brown piano on display.}

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