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Who Bought Concertinas


Barry J
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Jones, Lachenal and Wheatstone sold thousands and thousands of boxes in the golden years.

I've read the papers on this forum about the various histories and so on.

 

It seems that the cost of a basic concertina was a couple of Pounds in the mid to late 1800's.

 

Thats an incredible cost in todays money.

 

What type of people bought concertinas at that price in poverty stricken 19th century England ?

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A really excellent answer is available to this question (and to many others), a major historical study available in full text on the web, free.

 

Ladies in the Wheatstone Ledgers:

the Gendered Concertina in Victorian England, 1835–1870

by Allan W. Atlas

Royal Musical Association Research Chronicle, vol 39 (2006)

iv + 235 pages

 

Full text of the original publication is on the web at Atlas, Ladies in the Wheatstone Ledgers

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What type of people bought concertinas at that price in poverty stricken 19th century England ?

 

Poverty stricken 19th century England?

 

I'm no historian, but In the 19th century Britain was a world economic powerhouse, centre of a huge empire and it was a time of great industrial innovation and growth. Certainly there were plenty of poor people, but there were probably more well off and wealthy people than at any previous period in history.

 

Plenty of concertina customers among the growing middle classes.

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What type of people bought concertinas at that price in poverty stricken 19th century England ?

 

Poverty stricken 19th century England?

 

I'm no historian, but In the 19th century Britain was a world economic powerhouse, centre of a huge empire and it was a time of great industrial innovation and growth. Certainly there were plenty of poor people, but there were probably more well off and wealthy people than at any previous period in history.

 

Plenty of concertina customers among the growing middle classes.

 

Theo,

 

World powerhouse, yes...but absolutely filled with poverty. The wealthy consisted of a few hundred aristocratic families, no more. The middle class---shopkeepers, clerks, clergy, and a few of the most prosperous farmers, is estimated at 15% of English population in 1837, and only 25% by 1901. That means that throughout Victorian time--the heyday of the concertina-- the working class was fully 75 to 85% of the population. That meant poverty level wages, no pensions, living hand to mouth in shabby dwellings--especially in the cities.

 

On top of that, agricultural areas were in complete crisis. The lowered cost of overseas shipping in the Steam Age plus free trade meant that Britain was swamped with cheap grain from the vast fields of the US and Canada. English farms went under by the hundreds. That coupled with the beginnings of mechanized farming at home meant that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of former farm workers had no jobs. Some left Britain, many others migrated to the cities--making up the bulk of the London poor, for example. The Artful Dodger's parents or grandparents likely came from the countryside! Street music in London at the time was a form of begging for many--who played the German concertina along with other instruments. And recall that Kimber and his Morris team in Oxfordshire were not dancing in the snow for holiday amusement on Boxing Day in 1899--they had been out of work for some time, and were looking for "a few bob."

 

Documentation for all of this, and a lengthy discussion, is to be found in my books. It is important because it underpins the whole cultural scene and types of concertinas played in Victorian England. Beyond those books, two good places to start would be London in the 19th Century by Jerry White, 2007, and for demographics quoted above, Daily Life in Victorian England, 1996, Sally White. For that matter, read London Labour and the London Poor, by Henry Mayhew, 1857--you can find it online. Many more such accounts are documented in my books (see link below).

 

Cheers,

Dan

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