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13 july 1840

"Select Committee on import duties"
- Mr. James Hanley, called in; and Examined. -

"449. Chairman] ARE you a manufacturer of musical instruments ? — Yes, of harps.

450. How long have you been in the trade ? — Twenty-five years.

451. In London all the time ? — Yes.

452. Are you well acquainted with the different musical instruments which are imported into this country, as well as those that are used here ? — Pretty generally so.

453. Are you aware of the amount of duty levied on the importation of musical instruments ? — I believe it to be a high duty; about 20 per cent.

454. How would you divide musical instruments; are there any classes Mr. J. Hanky. under which you would place them ? — Yes; I class them into four kinds. I give this as my own mode of classing rather than that adopted by the trade. I should say the tamborine, drum, and instruments to be beat upon, form one class; stringed instruments, of which there are a larger number than any other kind, is another; wind instruments I form into two classes, namely, the wooden and the brass.

455. Mr. Villiers.] The duty is 20 per cent, upon all ? — Yes.

456. Sir C. Douglas.] How is the value ascertained in calculating the duty ? — It is the value put upon them by the person importing; they do not take any particular means of ascertaining the value.

457. It has no reference to particular makers or particular countries from which it comes ? — None at all.

458. Chairman] In what class do the piano-fortes come ? — Stringed instruments.

459. Are there many of them imported ? — Very few.

460. Have these ever been imported in the way of business ?—They have never been imported in the way of business, only by a private family here and there, not in the way of trade; occasionally, when a new patent has been sought for by a foreigner, he has imported one or two.

461. Are you able to state the relative prices of piano-fortes manufactured abroad and here ? — Yes ; looking at the manufacture abroad in piano-fortes, we find that square instruments, of a class such as we charge in this country from 40 l. to 50 l. for, are sold in Vienna at from 10 l. to 12 l. English money.

462. Do you consider a duty of 20 per cent., or any duty, requisite to protect the English manufacturer, if the price is so different ?—Certainly none. We have a superiority in the manufacture itself which they have never attained, and I question whether they ever will.

463. How does this additional duty operate ? — It is not the duty that protects our manufactures; in these cases they protect themselves, being superior, and of more lasting stamina, if I may so call it; the structure is better throughout, more firm, more solid, more enduring; and we have this evidenced by the practice of private families resident in those very countries, who come here and always buy English instruments, though the prices are so very different.

464. Mr. Villiers.] The duty, then, is nugatory ? — Yes, decidedly so.

465. Chairman.] Does not the duty enable the English manufacturer to keep up the price against the consumer ? — It may appear so, but, in fact, it is not so; it is not the duty that does it, but the superiority of our work; if the duty were taken off, I certainly think we should manufacture more pianofortes than we do, because the foreign instruments, such as we import, would come in and form a class by themselves and get spread abroad among a more numerous body of consumers, and they having such instruments in use, in the same way as we now find with cheap second-hand piano-fortes, those foreign instruments, when brought here are sold to private families and introduced into their houses at prices cheaper than the English piano-fortes could be purchased under existing circumstances, would create a taste and demand for the English piano-fortes over and above what at present exists.

The secondhand piano-fortes now get among a class of persons who, in the first instance, cannot afford to buy better; they answer their purpose for a time as regards price, and having acquired a certain proficiency upon them they are enabled to buy better instruments, or rather, it creates a desire to have better instruments, and that I think would be still more the case if there was no duty on foreign piano-fortes.

466. Do you consider that foreign piano-fortes, being cheaper, are of an inferior quality, and that they would not interfere with the British manufacture of piano-fortes; but, on the contrary, would be the means of extending their use ?—Decidedly.

467. Mr. Ewart.] The importation of foreign piano-fortes would excite the taste for music, and then the English piano-fortes would afterwards be used in order to gratify that taste ? —Yes.

468. Chairman.] You consider the British piano-fortes to be decidedly the best ? — Yes.

469. And that the present duty does not protect them, but that the taking that duty off would increase their manufacture ? — Yes; there would be more foreign piano-fortes imported, which would go among a class at present who have not any instruments, and that would be a large class of persons.

13 July 1840. 470. Then this duty of 20 per cent., instead of protecting, is an injury to the extension of the English manufacture ? — Decidedly.

471. Have you well considered that ? — Yes, I have.

472. What is your opinion with regard to the duty upon harps and flutes ?— We hold the sway over all other parts of the world in those two instruments.

473. If the 20 per cent, duty was taken off, and they were allowed to be imported, what would be the effect on that class of instruments manufactured in this country ? — The like effect would be produced on those instruments that would be produced on the piano-fortes; they are very expensive instruments to manufacture when of a good kind; they have been made in Germany at a much less price than here, but they do not, in Germany, attend to those points of perfection that the English do, and the English instruments are invariably more enduring. In matters of taste and design they have decidedly the advantage, and we learn from them; but in point of stamina and solid utility we are decidedly before them.

474. Mr. Ewart.] You are better workmen ? — Yes.

475. Mr. Villiers.] In this case, the duty is either nugatory or mischievous ?  — Yes.

476. Chairman.] Have you exported many harps to different parts of the world; can you speak of the manner in which they stand the changes of climate ? — I have not been in a large business; but, in proportion to my business, I have exported largely. I have been only nine years on my own account, and for 16 years previously I was employed in a large house: I think they stand changes of weather better than foreign harps.

477. In whose house were you employed ? — Erard's.

478. Can you explain why the price of English pianos is kept so high ? —  Yes. There are certain practices among the profession and the trade here, not existing abroad, which cause the prices to be kept so very high. One point is, that a commission, equal to 20 or 25 per cent., is given to the professor for his opinion of the instrument where a sale is effected. Messrs. Broadwood, and all the leading houses in the metropolis, pay very large sums to professors, which is a tax upon the instruments, and would not exist if there was a more general use of them in this country.

479. Mr. Ewart.] The rich manufacturers can best afford to give the premium ? — Decidedly, because that being a per centage upon the amount, they make the prices sufficient to enable them to pay that sum of money to the professor, and the professor necessarily leads the consumer to purchase the dearest instrument he can, because he gets more per centage according to the higher price of the instrument.

480. Chairman.] Would the reduction of the duty have a tendency to put an end to that practice, which you say exists in England, and nowhere else ? — Yes.

481. Sir Geo. Clerk.] Does not that practice exist in Paris ? — Yes, to a merely nominal extent.

482. Chairman.] May not individuals go to a manufacturer and buy an instrument themselves, and thus be saved the commission ? — In some cases that is done, but there are some houses will not do it, especially where they ascertain that a particular professor is teaching in a family; there is a sort of understanding between both parties.

483. Mr. Vittiers.] In what way do you think it would affect this practice if the duty was reduced ? — I think it would lead to instruments being imported and sold at a lower price. The question would naturally arise between individuals wanting instruments, why the difference of price existed; and it would very soon appear as a reason, that there was a tax to the professors equal in amount to the difference of price. And another effect is, that it has a great tendency to prevent the instrument from being used to the extent which otherwise it might be; if the instruments were sold at 20 per cent, less, they would go into a.larger class for use than at present; this practice keeps in check the extension of the trade, so that, if the present circumstances should continue, I think we shall not extend it at all; I believe we have got to the greatest extent we can under such restrictions.

484. Chairman.] Then if the duty was taken off the import of musical instruments, are the Committee to understand that not only the price would be lowered, but that the number of English instruments manufactured would be greater than now ? — Decidedly.

485. Do not the duty and the practice which you have stated tend to prevent the spread of the knowledge and use of music in this country, as compared with what it is on the Continent ? — That is in my opinion one of the principal reasons why the knowledge of music is not so spread; it is not that the English are not capable of receiving as much musical education as foreigners, and also, of acquiring practice and skill, but that the high price of instruments, and the monopoly existing under the circumstances such as I have spoken of, prevent that diffusion which would otherwise take place.

486. Are you of opinion that the practice and use of music, which you know is very general in Germany and in France, would be much increased in England if that duty was taken off and that practice of paying professors put an end to ? — That is my opinion; that by taking off the duty we should have more instruments imported; they would be cheaper and would be more generally used among a class of persons who do not touch them at present; those persons, after having gone to the extent of the foreign instruments, would require better, and they must look to the English instruments to satisfy that want.

487. Mr. Villiers.] It would extend the home trade in instruments ? — Yes; it would double it shortly.

488. Chairman.] The price to the consumer would be less, but would not the profit to the manufacturer be also less ? — On the individual instrument the profit would be less; but taking into consideration the large number they would sell under the change I suppose, I think their profits on the aggregate would be larger than at present.

489. Would not the number of hands employed in the manufacture of musical instruments in England be also greatly increased ? — Decidedly so.

490. Sir Geo. Clerk.] Do your answers apply to piano-fortes alone ? — No, to musical instruments generally. The reducing the duty would have a general effect, and would necessarily affect all those instruments.

491. Mr. Ewart.] You stated that 25 per cent, given to professors was one element which caused the high price; what other element causes the high price ?—The very great difference in the amount of rent and wages. In Vienna ,  for example, a man for 10 s. English money does as much work as we in England have to pay 3 l , for; and rent and food bear a like proportion. In some parts of Germany, where they manufacture these instruments, they can get a house for 50 l. equal for manufacturing purposes to one in this country for 200 l. Those are ingredients which enter into the price of an instrument very largely.

492. Mr. Williams.] It appears that the duty now paid is about the same as the amount allowed to professors. Supposing the duty were taken off, and foreign competition increased in consequence, would it not have the effect of reducing the allowance made to professors rather than diminishing the profits derived by manufacturers ? — My opinion is that it would have that effect on single instruments, but not on the aggregate.

493. Mr. Villiers.] Would the consumer benefit by that ?—Yes, and the manufacturer also, because the manufacturer would sell more instruments, the price being lower.

494. Mr. Gore.] You spoke of piano-fortes; do you say that if an instrument were chosen by a professor for which Messrs. Broad wood would charge 200 guineas; and that if the consumer himself were to go they would charge him only 160 guineas ? — There are  s ome houses where they will relax to the extent of the commission; but they generally ask the full price, because the professor would otherwise go to other houses.

495. If I was going to purchase an instrument, and I do not choose to employ a professor, will they let me have it at 25 per cent, less ?—Not in general, unless they know the person, and then they will not let the professor know it, because they consider it rather mean.

496. Sir G. Clerk.] Does the same practice exist in the harp trade ? — It does.

497. Do you make an allowance to professors to the same amount ? —Decidedly I do.

Mr. J. Hanky. 498. Can you state what the price of a harp is in Paris ? — No, I cannot; — I have not made myself acquainted with the prices in Paris; they are however 13 July 1840. much lower than here.

499. You cannot state whether they are 25 per cent, cheaper ? — Yes; I should state that in general terms, they are 30 per cent, cheaper.

500. Do you know what the price charged by piano-forte manufacturers in the country is ? — Yes; their prices are much less than the prices of the manufacturers in London.

501. Do you apprehend that their trade might be injured if the protecting duty was taken off ? — I do not think it would be; the great reason at present why the musical instrument trade does not extend is the very high price which is kept up by the monopoly; it confines the sale of instruments to a very limited class; it also keeps the professors of music to a small class, and they will turn up their noses to the best maker of instruments if he does not belong to one of those large established houses who make the greatest allowance; consequently a little maker can very rarely go far.

502. You are inclined to think that the preference which is given to large houses, such as Broadwood's, is a prejudice, and that their instruments have not a superiority ? — We can prove that that frequently is the case, because we may take the same hands with equally good materials, and all their experience, and where they should have the same means to manufacture, and if you put a different name upon the instrument to that of Broadwood, it will not be received as a good one; whilst by putting Broadwood's name on an instrument really not so good, which is done by many people fraudulently, they sell as Broadwood's, and they often give perfect satisfaction.

503. Mr. Villiers.] When you said the wages were much less abroad than here, had you reference to the scale of wages, or the cost of living ? — To both, wages and the cost of living.

504. Sir G. Clerk.] You confined yourself to the artizans in London ? — Yes.

505. Chairman.] Are there many piano-fortes made except in London ? — Not very many; in some of our large towns there are a few made, and those only of late years.

506. Sir George Clerk.] In Edinburgh and Dublin are they not made ? —  Yes; in those large towns there are a few manufactured. There are no country manufacturers of harps in all England that I know of.

507. Chairman.] Can you state whether in England we have an equal opportunity of obtaining the proper and best materials for the manufacture of musical instruments as manufacturers in Germany have ? — Certainly; we necessarily require foreign wood, as they do, for the sound boards.

508. What kind of wood ? — The Swiss deal, for all stringed instruments, is essentially necessary in order to have them good, and we import very largely of that for the fine piano-fortes, for harps, violins and violoncellos, and for all other stringed instruments.

509. What is the duty on that wood ?—I do not know the exact duty, but it is a high duty, because it comes in in a wrought state; that is to say, it is cut into boards, and planed.

510. Is that the best material you can obtain for those instruments ? —  Decidedly the best; there are manufacturers who use American pine in lieu of it; but the American pine wants that enduring- quality which is only to be found in Swiss deal; so that if you want a good instrument you must use Swiss deal.

511. Mr. Villiers.] Then the American pine is not superior to the Swiss deal, as regards the instrument ? — No, certainly not.

512. Chairman.] You know that of your own knowledge ? — Certainly.

513. Sir George Clerk.] What proportion does the price of the sounding board of the harp bear to the whole price of the instrument ? — Not any large proportion; the whole material necessary to manufacture a harp only amounts to 15 per cent, of the cost price of the article; the cost is in labour: we must have the best deal, and the best of everything, and then it amounts only to 15 per cent.

514. The Swiss deal is one of the most inconsiderable items, in point of quantity ? — Yes; but piano-fortes require a much larger sounding-board.


551. Sir George Clerk.] Are you aware whether there are more piano-fortes used in France and Germany than in England ?—More in Germany than in England, two to one, and also of other instruments generally; there is hardly a Mr. Hartley. man among the Germans but can play some instrument or other.

552. Sir C. Douglas.] You have stated that if there was no duty imposed upon piano-fortes imported from Vienna, you are of opinion they would be more largely imported, and a musical taste throughout the country be induced; what, in that case, would become of those piano-fortes which are now sold second-hand; would not piano-fortes costing only 10 l. or 12 l. which come over from Vienna, interfere with the sale of those f—They would interfere with the sale of them to a certain extent only.

553. How could they be disposed of at all ? — They would sell at a lower price, because a person would prefer an instrument with additional keys, though it might be inferior in make, or considered such; of course it would bear a lower price.

554. Then the duty being taken off would interfere with the sale of our own manufacture ? — The second-hand piano-fortes would fetch low prices; they would be used by another class of persons, and when once they had begun to use instruments, however low the price might be, they would rise to others. I have often known instances where parties have bought an instrument at a sale for 2 l. or 3 l. who never would have thought of purchasing it but for the price being so low; they have acquired proficiency with that, and then they have bought a new instrument of an established maker.

555. But you might now get a piano-forte for a pound or two ? — Not always.

556. Mr. Villiers.] If so, the foreign piano would not interfere with them ? —No.

557. Mr. Williams.] Do you not think that if a good price is obtained for a second-hand piano-forte it is an inducement to a party to sell his old piano-forte and to buy a new one ? — Yes.

558. Mr. O. Gore.] You stated that the sale of foreign gut-strings was often fictitious; that parties purchased English strings under a supposition that they were foreign ? — Yes.

559. If that is the case, your opinion is not borne out by instrument-makers, according to your statement, because, if that is a prejudice to the sale of instruments, by tending to check the taste for music, they would certainly sell strings at the lowest at which they could afford to sell them ? — Yes; but there are very few manufacturers of gut-strings at present, and the strings themselves being perishable articles, they manufacture only according to their orders; they wait for orders generally; such being the case, they never go on increasing in stock; they are not things that they can keep for a length of time with any advantage; they keep but a small store beyond their immediate orders, and if the orders do not come in they do not manufacture.

560. You suggested as one means of making instruments cheaper, the duty being taken off the foreign strings; that that would tend to the use of instruments, and thereby lead to a more extended taste ? — Yes.

561. That does not appear to be the opinion of other manufacturers, otherwise they would lower the price ? — It does not always happen that manufacturers look strictly into the way in which general business is done; they go on in a systematic routine, to make and to sell their articles, as their fathers have done before them; and I believe that professors of whom I have spoken, who now receive a large secret commission, would greatly benefit if they received a small open commission fairly between the buyer and the seller, even if it were only five per cent.

562. But your opinion is, that it would lead to a more extended taste; the opinion of your brethren in the trade does not coincide in that ? — No ; they go on in the same way as they have been accustomed to. Certain houses are benefited by this system, but the manufacture of instruments generally is depressed materially by it.

563. Mr. Blake.] Do you know whether the other manufacturers, generally, would object to foreign strings being admitted ? — I should say, generally, they would not object, for we manufacture English strings much better than the foreign strings are made.

564. Sir George Clerk.] What would be the difference of expense of a set of harp-strings, English manufacture, and foreign ? — A set of harp-strings abroad can be retailed at one guinea, and the lowest price at any house in London, either of English or foreign make, would be two guineas, and the leading houses charge three guineas for a set of gut-strings alone.
" The Sessional Papers printed by order of the house of Lords, ..., 1841, p. 36-40

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