During the late 19th century and early 20th century, Uxbridge was a hub for musical instrument production. Pianos and organs from the town were sold and shipped across all of Canada. With the abundance of skilled carpenters in the town, companies in Uxbridge started specializing in crafting these beautiful keyboard instruments. One of the most notable companies was the Uxbridge Piano and Organ Company.
The Uxbridge Cabinet Organ Manufacturing Company (later known as the Uxbridge Piano and Organ Company in 1898) was formed in 1872 as a joint stock company by a group of local businessmen. The company was founded by John and William McGuire, who were Irish immigrants that owned a sawmill to produce lumber and a factory where they supplied furniture to and cabinets to Uxbridge and towns surrounding the area. John went on to manage the Uxbridge Organ Manufacturing Company factory until 1891. In the beginning years of the 1970s Uxbridge opened its railway route, this allowed for businesses in Uxbridge to expand their market beyond local areas. Because of this, the group of local businessmen gathered $20,000 in capital, equipment, machinery, 300,000 feet of lumber, water privilege and the Sandy Hook sawmill which was owned by John and William McGuire.
A three-storey factory at the southeast corner of Brock and Franklin Street was built and with it the Uxbridge Cabinet Organ Manufacturing Company was almost operational. The factory was soon used to manufacture coffins, furniture, and organs. By the mid 1870s around thirty organs were made a month and would have around eighty to ninety factory workers as opposed to around forty when the company started out a few years earlier.
Organs made by the company typically sold for around $200 to $350. Because of the high demand and the rate at which they were manufactured, the company built a warehouse in 1877 to store organs and pianos. In 1889, a new brick factory was built on Franklin Street and production was moved to it. However, by the fall of 1894 the factory was operating poorly. Long-time employees tried to continue manufacturing organs, but in April of 1895 it went into liquidation. The constructive supervisor, Mr. Small, bought it. He eventually got it running well again and in 1897 pianos were even being shipped internationally.
An organ and detail images made by the Uxbridge Cabinet Organ Manufacturing Company on display in the Fifth Line United Church at the UHC.
In 1905 the factory closed again due to financial difficulties and the business was sold to the John McGuire’s five sons. The brothers had success for a while as they sold hundreds of instruments across Canada, but the business was set back when in the original factory was lost in a fire in August 1907. Many partly constructed instruments were burned and the financial loss was placed between $30,000 to $40,000.
When John McGuire passed away in 1982, his wife and son in law, William Low, continued operating the business. In fact, both the original coffin and furniture portions of the original Uxbridge Cabinet Organ Manufacturing Company remain active today as Low's Furniture store on Brock Street and Low & Low Funeral Home on Main Street. Low's Furniture is now one of Uxbridge's longest running family owned business.
McGillivray, Allan. “Tales from the Uxbridge Valley.” The Uxbridge Millennium Committee, 2000. Pg. 90-94.