SS Stewarts

1898 was a good year

... except Samuel S Stewart was not a well man. He had led the progress of the 5 string banjo to its peak, both as a piece of well-developed engineering and a work of art, which was also accepted across the social spectrum as a versatile instrument.

He had replaced the paddle peg head with a design that was to be copied by all the best makers from Washburn and Luscomb in the US to Dallas and Essex in the UK.

The art of heel carving had reached its peak reflecting the developing art nouveau style of the period without being superfluous, and the quality of inlay work perhaps bettered in Boston, but marginally, were his legacy .. as after he died the quality could not be maintained and the business faltered.

The Stewart Clan of 1898 included the 20th Century, Special Thoroughbred and Banjeaurine.

.. and so was 1215

Robinson
Kohler & Chase

Well built in Philadelphia (note the rosewood pot) around 1886 this 130 year old Samuel Stewart Piccolo travelled the world and ended up in the year of the 800th anniversary of the Signing of the Magna Carta, in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, UK.

Time for a bit of timely UK history .. Magna Carta was the first statement of human rights in World History and the document was signed at Runnymede on the River Thames on 15th June 1215. Only 4 towns are specifically mentioned in Magna Cart (as being excluded from the rights it imparted) all were places that were strategically important to King John in 1215. Lancaster controlling the crossing of the River Ribble going North up the West coast of England, Nottingham crossing the River Trent going North up the East coast, Boulogne for crossing to Normandy (France) and Wallingford controlling access over the River Thames to London from the South.
Wallingford was also the home of Agatha Christie for 40 years and she is buried in a local churchyard in the Village of Cholsey.

Lastly of interest to those on the newer side of the pond is that Judge William Blackstone wrote his “Commentaries on the Laws of England” while living in Wallingford, completed and published in 1769. The “Commentaries” played their part in the drafting of the American Constitution.
Back to the Piccolo .. it left Philadelphia and travelled west to Kohler and Chase in San Francisco, a large retailer and distributor of quality musical instruments. Kohler and Chase started as a toy and music shop opened by Andrew Kohler in 1850. Quincy Chase was born in 1830 in Maine but the attraction of the Gold Rush saw him take the six month boat trip round the Horn to San Francisco in 1853 where he joined Andrew Kohler’s business as a clerk. He soon became a partner and by 1860 business was booming such that they had to move to bigger and bigger premises three times, over the next 20 years.

Kohler and Chase were large distributors of pianos and organs and The Robinson Piano Company had set up in China and Hong Kong. Walter Robinson was born in Liverpool UK in 1860 and became a merchant plying his interest in musical instruments between the UK, US , Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore. Interestingly though the first record of the Robinson Piano Company occurs in jury records in 1899 a full 13 years after our Piccolo was made. .... and then it travelled by what ever route 25,000 miles or more, who knows, and ends being sold in the UK.

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