Piano Manufacturers

Sumner & Breber Piano Manufacturers

Among the most prosperous and substantial of Ingersoll’s manybusy industries stands the piano factory giving employment to about fifty men and boys, and producing about 400 high grade pianos annually.  The industry was established here in 1887, having been moved from London. The factory is a large brick building four stories high, 80 x 60, with power house, lumberyard, dry kilns, etc., at the rear. It is well equipped with modern machinery requisite for the business.  The fame of the Evans piano extends from Halifax to Vancouver, and for quality of tone, durability and capacity for keeping in tune it is equalled by few and excelled by none. Skilful mechanics, the best grade of material, careful construction, artistic design and superiorfinish are all combined to produce an instrument that sells well, wears well and looks well. The Evans piano has been brought to such a high degree of perfection that its reputation for beauty of design, finish, durability and sweetness of tone makes it a great favourite. Several styles, all uprights, are made, style M beingthe most expensive grade, and the most popular instrument for domestic use, but all the Evans pianos are competent to stand the test of comparison with any other pianos made in Canada.The office and warerooms are located in a fine new brick block on the north side of the factory. M. J. Comiskey is office manager, Miss Card is stenographer and typewriter, and Kenneth Watterworth is general superintendent.Sumner & Brebner Piano Manufacturers

In 1906, S. C. Sumner and James Brebner began the manufacture of pianos in the brick block on the corner of King and Hall Streets. They are both expert workmen of extensive experience, and they produce a very fine class of instrument which sells readily on its merits. They use the very best material and no pains are spared to produce a high grade piano

above, Old Boys Reunion, August 15, 16, 17, 1909. Factory formerly located on the south side of Victoria Street, 2 lots west of Thames Street at the south end of John Street. reverse of photograph

Photograph by Frank Kiborn
The Evans Brothers Piano Factory

Two brothers, John and William Evans, opened the doors of a small piano workshop in London in 1872. Producing only a couple of square pianos a month, the modest business managed to survive its first dozen years, but in 1885 E.B.Littler was brought in as a partner. The operation was renamed Evans Bros. and Littler; however, the new partner seemingly did not please John and William Evans. By 1887 Littler was bought out and the Evans boys decided to move the business to the small town of Ingersoll, thirty miles east of London. While high hopes accompanied the move to larger quarters in a smaller town, Evans Bros. began to fail within the year. By 1889, with several dozen Ingersoll jobs on the line, a consortium of local businessmen ‑ William Watterworth, T. Seldon, Joseph Gibson, W B. Nelles, the Miller brothers, and David White ‑ stepped in with a rescue package and bought the troubled firm. By 1891 Watterworth was the sole owner, having bought out the other interests. William Watterworth was born in Ekfrid Township (Middlesex County) on 21 July 1835. A contractor and talented builder by trade, he moved to Ingersoll in 1866 to take up the whole‑ sale lumber business. By 1871 Watterworth, who had also become very active in local politics and served as a justice of the peace, had established a thriving furniture manufactory. Later, as president and general manager of the Evans Bros. Piano Manufacturing Company Ltd., Watterworth was responsible for the construction of a large 80′ x 60′ building at the corner of Thames and St Andrew streets. Always conscious of the opportunity for business growth, Watterworth had expanded the factory by 1905, adding a fourth floor, additional wings, and a power house, lumber-yard, and dry kilns “out back.” The quality of an Evans piano gained recog nition during the 1890s. As the Toronto Mail described it, The wood and veneer of which the case is made is carefully selected from air dried material; but to ensure its perfect freedom from moisture it is then twice kiln dried. The iron plate is exceptionally heavy, thus ensuring strength where required. The action, hammers strings, keys and all other parts are of the very best quality of their respective kinds and the whole is made up by first-class mechanics, under the careful and constant supervision of Mr George Brown, a mechanic who has made the construction of the piano his life’s work and study, and who is eminently fitted to turn out just an instrument as the public require and demand. The Evans Bros. pianos are noted for their handsome appearance, easy touch, long standing in tune, and for their full, sweet singing tone.  The same account described the Evans firm as “making preparations to manufacture organs on an extensive scale, and having secured several patents – not at present in use in Canada – which they intend introducing in the construction of these instruments.” No documentation could be found to indicate the extent of such activity. By 1908 Watterworth’s son, Kenneth, had worked his way through the company’s ranks to become secretary- treasurer and factory manager. William Watterworth retired the next year and the company presidency passed to one Charles White in 1911.  Up to fifty tradesmen were employed at Evans Bros. at the turn of the century, with 400 pianos a year being sold through agents from coast to coast. (Ernest and Sidney Sumner and James Brebner had learned the trade at Evans and struck out on their own to form Sumner and Brebner Pianos in 1906.) While the company was not known as a major piano exporter, at least some of its instruments found their way to South Africa and South Amenca. An extremely elaborate, solid mahogany Evans Bros. piano of limited edition was manufactured toward the close of the first decade of the new century, receiving honours at the 1910 Chicago World’s Fair. [A partial photograph not suitable for reproduction here – details highly elaborate case carvings and heavy ornamentation on a mahogany mammoth that must have pushed its weight well over 1,000 pounds.) The most popular Evans piano was Style “C”, available “in Mahogany or Walnut double veneered inside and out, fully guaranteed for 7 years.”19 Style “M,” however, was apparently the firm’s “top-of-the- line” model suggested for the serious pianist. A total of eight different models were offered at the company’s peak, including a player piano avail able from 1912. The Evans Bros. company died a slow death during the 1920s and, like many other Canadian piano manufacturers, ceased operation in the early 1930s. The old Thames St factory that had been built from materials made at the Charles Jenvey brickyard in nearby Springford was torn down in 1958.
Excerpt from Downright upright by Wayne Kelly c1991

Style C, 

Mahogany or walnut.


Height, 4 feet, 9 1/2 inches

Width, 5 feet, 4 inches

Depth, 2 feet, 3 1/3 inches.

Case double veneered inside & out.

Seven and one-third octaves.

Metal frame with open wrest plank.

Tri-chord scale.

Continuous scale.

Third sustaining pedal.

Full width swinging music desk.

Rolling fall.

Elegantly carved trusses and pilasters.

Ivory keys.

Highly polished.

Fully guaranteed for 7 years


11 thoughts on “Piano Manufacturers

  1. Hello there, am desperately looking for any information pertaining to a square grand Evans Bros. London orchestral piano. We presently have this piano at a farm in Markdale Ontario and the house is now sold. Would appreciate any information regarding it’s approximate value etc. in order to decide which route to take. If anyone is interested from your company to take a look at it or possibly purchase it, please advise. Shall await your response and thankyou so much for your time.

      1. Please contact me as I am the granddaughter of Kenneth Watterworth mentionrd in this piece.
        I asked the town of INgersoll to take my piano as a gift for the Museum and they agreed. Now my son decided to take it instead soo .. maybe they would like to have yours.
        Mary-Jane Tanner

    1. Hello Maureen. I have the same piano you mention and I was wondering if you found any information about it. The piano I have unfortunately is not in great condition but I am curious about its value or if anybody would be interested in it. Thank you for any information you could give me!

  2. hi i have a piano that my family bought used in Saskatoon when i was a little boy. I would like to know more about it and it’s value it’s not for sale i am passing it down through my family. But i’m interested in finding out more about it. Is there pictures that a guy might be able to match up to see what we have. thanks for your time.

    1. Hello
      The Ingersoll Museum has two pianos in its collection, as well as several documents from the Evans Brothers Piano Company, including memorandums of agreement with the Saskatoon Music Company dating from 1927. If you can provide the serial number from your piano, given time, we may be able to track down a bit more detail.

  3. I have a Evans Bros. Ingersoll, Ontario grand cabinet serial # 10234. Can u give me more info on it. I am wanting to get rid of it but thought I should check first. My uncle owned it prior and he was a professional piano player.

  4. We have a Sumner and Brebner Ingersoll self playing piano with 142 rolls of music…mouse coils with proof pedals….need to sell and hoping you can point us I the right direction. Thank you and enjoy the day.

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