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Howe, Elias, 1820-1895



  • Existence: 1820 - July 6, 1895


Compiler of Quintuple Musician’s Omnibus; see section: Miscellaneous Collections

(b Framingham, MA, 1820; d Watertown, MA, 6 July 1895). American music publisher and music and instrument dealer. According to several accounts he was a farmhand and fiddler. He compiled a large collection of fiddle tunes popular at local dances and persuaded the Boston publishers Wright & Kidder to publish it as The Musician’s Companion. As a result of his success in selling this collection from door to door, he opened a music shop in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1842, and set up a similar business in Boston in 1843. His books of arrangements and instrument instruction were popular: the Complete Preceptor for the Accordeon (1843) sold over 100,000 copies, and his violin self-mastery volumes sold over 500,000 copies. In 1850 he sold his catalogue to the Boston publisher Oliver Ditson and agreed not to publish music for ten years. During that period he lived on his newly acquired estate in South Framingham, managed the South Reading Ice Company and compiled editions of dance music and dance instruction books.

In 1860 Howe re-entered the publishing business in Boston at 33 Court Street, where he also sold drums, fifes and other instruments needed for Civil War bands. His expanded catalogue included numerous arrangements for band, orchestra, solo instruments and voice. By 1871 he was collecting rare string instruments, and by the late 1880s was one of the largest dealers in rare violins, violas, cellos, viols, violas d’amore, guitars and banjos in the USA. After his death his sons William Hills Howe and Edward Frank Howe carried on the business, specializing in the sale and repair of violins, plucked string instruments and their fittings. When the company was sold in 1931, the music catalogue plates were destroyed and the rare instrument collection was dispersed.

Source: Cynthia Adams Hoover. ""Howe, Elias."" In Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, (accessed February 16, 2011).