Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 9th 2014 Contents Otto, as well as the unique Victrola
talking-machine, with its wooden
turntable and signature brass speaker
horn. Unusual clockwork and tintype
toys were sold too.
Mr Strong died in 1904 and the busi-
ness went through several ownership
changes, finally landing in 1918 in the
hands of Albert Victor Stollmeyer, a
cocoa proprietor and one of the richest
men in the island.
After Strong's death, pianos remained
a primary concern, but the premises
were moved from Tragarete Road (then
known as St James Street) to more spa-
cious environs on 21 Frederick Street
to accommodate stationery, Swift bicy-
cles, Avon car tyres, photography equip-
ment, furniture and even groceries.
In the early days, sheet music was
a big seller, being musical notations to
popular songs. I suppose the equivalent
of this would be iTunes today. A sheet
of music was usually between ten cents
and a half-dollar and in the hands of
a good pianist, took little time to master.
The firm often bragged of its status
as tuner to Sir F Broome, who was
governor of the colony from 1891-97
and was known as a talented musician.
One of the more notable employees
was JW Mahabirsingh, a converted
Indian, who was for several years the
in-house tuner and piano expert until
he branched out in 1910 to operate
under his own aegis.
Strong's piano warehouse closed in
the 1950s, bringing an end to an era.
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt February 9, 2014
To Work both in Trinidad & Tobago
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Processing of the incoming and outgoing cargo and mail.
Professional and courteous Electronic, Physical and Telephone communications
with customers as required.
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and indirect customers as well as the general public.
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Duties include the airport handling of passenger baggage and Cargo both in
outdoor conditions and indoor conditions.
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(proper technique training shall be provided)
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requiring bending, crouching and kneeling is required and where pulling and
pushing of packages of varying weight and dimensions shall be required.
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Deadline for submission-February 14th 2014
In an era when even the
most humble mobile
device boasts an MP3
player capable of access-
ing global music libraries, the
time when a piano was the equiv-
alent of the home stereo seems
very distant indeed.
During the tenure of Governor
Lord Harris (1846-53), a public
primary education system known
as the Ward Schools was intro-
duced. A generation later, in the
1890s and early 1900s, the positive
effects of this progressive action
began to emerge in the establish-
ment of an educated, coloured
middle-class which was rooted
firmly in Belmont and later on, in
Woodbrook, when that former
sugar plantation was laid out for
The new middle class prided
itself on the emulation of the graces
and lifestyle of the ruling elite in
a modest way. A great deal of the
family's efforts would be concen-
trated on the education of their
boys for a clerical vocation, or else,
at great sacrifice, studies in med-
icine and law. For the girls, acqui-
sition of the trappings of ladyship
were of utmost importance and
aside from instruction in academic
subjects, needlework and music
were greatly emphasised as being
the hallmarks of a fine young lady
capable of making a good marriage.
In the elegant yet small ginger-
bread suburban homes, the lifestyle
of the rulers also reigned. The pride
of place would be given to a pol-
ished standing piano and accom-
panying stool. Anybody who
remembers a drawing-room of old
would recall the highly polished
instrument standing in a corner,
draped in lace and sporting framed
photographs of loved ones, and
possibly a small bust of Queen
In the upper classes, too, the
family piano was a centrepiece of
the house. PET O'Connor (1899-
1986), a member of the white elite,
remembers when New Year's Day
(1908) at the palatial home of his
grandfather (Gaston de Gannes),
La Chance in Arima, was charac-
terised by a lavish luncheon fol-
lowed by the young ladies' recital
of "the latest pieces of music."
The families who aspired to class
elevation would put themselves in
debt to acquire a piano and under-
went further expense to pay for
music classes for their daughters
(and to a lesser extent, sons). In
this period, there were several good
music tutors and small private
schools (such as the one run by
the Misses Cadiz) that offered
tuition. Additionally, there were
firms like the furniture store of
Monceaux which offered pianos
which were delivered in a spe-
cialised horsedrawn van that min-
imised potential damage to the
The best known name in pianos,
however, was by far H Strong's
It was founded in 1851 by an
Englishman, Harold Strong, who
was an accomplished concert
pianist and tuner, and who, not
being able to thrive in London,
came out to Trinidad in order to
establish his signature store. The
cholera epidemic of 1854 was a
severe blow to his enterprise, since
the stricken population had other
matters to engage their attention.
Nevertheless, there remained a
moderate demand for pianos which
kept Strong going.
Aside from pianos, the firm sold
almost every kind of musical
instrument and was the agent for
John Brinsmead and Sons, Carol
The piano and
An 1893 advertisement for H Strong's Piano Warehouse, which for nearly a
century was the foremost musical purveyor in Trinidad.
A piano in a typical middle-class living room in Trinidad during the 1890s.
A great deal of the family's
efforts would be
concentrated on the
education of their boys for a
clerical vocation, or else, at
great sacrifice, studies in
medicine and law. For the
girls, acquisition of the
trappings of ladyship were
of utmost importance and
aside from instruction in
needlework and music were
greatly emphasised as being
the hallmarks of a fine
young lady capable of
making a good marriage.
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