52 Ancestors #9 – Close to Home

Music has always been an important part of my life.  My parents got a piano for me and I started lessons in the third grade.  I sang in choir in school, played clarinet through college, and dabbled in cello, oboe, bassoon and bass guitar.  The love (and talent) has passed to my children, as they also play instruments in school and tinker on the piano that my parents generously passed down to us.  So when I discovered that one of my 2nd great grand uncles worked in an organ and piano factory, I knew it was perfect for this week’s theme of “close to home”.

Oscar Lindström was born in Skåra, Sweden in 1837 and immigrated to the United States in 1866.  He settled in Mendota, La Salle County, Illinois and married another Swedish immigrant, Anna Norström in 1870.  Perhaps woodworking was in the family blood as my 2nd great grandfather, Oscar’s eldest brother, trained in cabinet making before immigrating to the United States.  In the 1870 census, Oscar was listed as a varnisher and in 1880, was listed as working in an organ factory.  Turns out, there was a burgeoning business in town known as the Western Cottage Organ Company.

The Western Cottage Piano & Organ Company was originally established as Tewksbury, Carpenter and Company in Mendota, Illinois in 1866. The firm first built a full line of reed organs and melodeons, but started adding pianos to their product line as the turn-of-the-century came close. Both pianos and organs were sold under the ‘Western Cottage Piano & Organ’ brand name. The company relocated to the larger town of Ottawa in 1887.  Shortly before 1900, the firm introduced the ‘Merrifield’ line of pianos, a good quality, medium priced piano that was modestly successful. Instruments by the firm were known to be well made and the firm enjoyed a very good reputation for building higher caliber instruments.

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Image courtesy of the antiquepianoshop.com

Oscar must have kept his position with the factory through the company’s move, as the 1900 census finds him and his family living in Ottawa, La Salle County, Illinois.  His occupation is listed as piano polisher – even more impressive when you look at the craftmanship and intricate beauty of these instruments.

western-cottage-organ

Image courtesy of pumporganrestorations.com

The Lindströms moved to La Porte, Indiana as Oscar is listed in the 1907 City Directory as a piano finisher.  La Porte was home to the Hobart M. Cable Piano Company, established in 1900.  In the 1910 census, he was still listed as a piano finisher, even at the age of 73!

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Image courtesy of the antiquepianoshop.com

As far as I can tell, Oscar and Anna lived out their lives in La Porte, Indiana.  None of their children carried on in the woodworking profession, but perhaps a love for music and the beauty of instruments was passed down to their families as it has been in mine.  I think I’ll go play the piano now.

References:

“Western Cottage Piano & Organ Company | The Antique Piano Shop.” Dedicated to the Restoration of Antique Instruments | The Antique Piano Shop. Web.

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