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Wagner Piano Badge

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Subject :Wagner Piano Badge
Published By :
Location : Ipoh
Estimated Year : 1960
Media Type : Artifact
Source : Mr Thong, Ipoh
Remark :

The picture shows a badge from Wagner Piano - a company which deals with sales and maintenance of pianos. Wagner Piano was set up in Malaysia at Batu Road (now Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman) by A.C. Hoe and his wife. More history can be found at the Wagner Piano website.

Our blog reader - Ipoh Remembered - shared some information regarding the Wagner Piano business in Malaysia.

The year 1920 is said to be when the father, Hoe Fook Ling, arrived from China.

Ningbo, not far from Shanghai, was famous for the skill of its carpenters and furniture-makers. From there to Singapore in the early 1900s came several enterprising individuals, particularly from the Chiu, Wong, and Hoe families.

Initially Fook Ling may not even have made pianos; several Malayan piano-makers, all from Ningbo, began as makers of lacquered furniture. But by the mid-1920s, certainly, he had set up a piano dealership (it was located near the original Singapore railway terminus that Ed Spooner had built in 1903). Fook Ling’s health was not good, however, and by the late ’20s he had returned to China. The original firm was replaced at the same location by a successor firm, managed for a time by his relatives.

His son, Hoe Ah Choy, meanwhile, worked for a piano-maker in Shanghai. In the mid-’30s his employer sent him to work in Malaya. In 1951, in KL, he started his own business, called Wagner Piano.

Ipoh Remembered also provided some background information on Moutrie, on Robinson, and on the interaction between them:

In 1875, Syd Moutrie, coming from a family of innovative London piano-makers, sailed out to join the staff of a large British department store in Shanghai. He soon struck out on his own, forming S. Moutrie & Co. with a shop on Nanking Road. A few years later, the business having grown, he moved down the street into larger premises.

It was in 1890 that he acquired an experienced partner, Walter Robinson. Their new firm was called Moutrie, Robinson & Co. — but the partnership lasted only three years. Upon dissolution, the original firm, S. Moutrie & Co., re-appeared solo in Shanghai (as did Robinson’s own firm in Hong Kong).

In 1895, Moutrie, until then primarily an importer, retailer, repairer, and tuner of pianos, started building them in a factory on Nanking Road. Many of his workers were skilled craftsmen from Ningbo, not far away. In 1899, the company was re-structured and became S. Moutrie & Co., Limited. Success brought more success and soon a new and larger factory was built. In 1905, Moutrie even opened a branch in Hong Kong, where his old partner Walter Robinson’s piano manufacture was based.

Robinson, meanwhile, had already opened a branch in Malaya in 1895, selling pianos made in London by, among others, Moutrie’s family and Moutrie’s old employer. Moutrie’s business did not reach Malaya until a decade later, via an agent.

Syd Moutrie died in 1907. In 1909 his firm began growing its own branches in Malaya, beginning in Singapore. The Ipoh branch survived into the late 1960s, at least, but I do not know how many pianos they were selling by that point, nor what became of the firm subsequently.

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