The American Orchestra and Theodore Thomas

By Charles Edward Russell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI
Waterloo at the World's Fair

TO UNDERSTAND what happened next, it is necessary to reconstruct Business America of thirty-two years ago -- a feat difficult now but serviceable if accomplished, for it will refresh us with a fair way-mark of our social advance.

It was a time when competition, now becoming extinct or perhaps perfunctory, was keen, nervous, relentless, and conducted frankly after the notions of primitive man. It was a time when oil mills were burned, blown up, or ruined, factories wrecked, competitors dogged with hired spies, entangled if possible in woman scrapes, bankrupted by incredible underselling, or maybe shot at if they still proved deaf to reason.1 It was a time when the picturesque description of competition as "cut throat" had more than a humorous significance. It was a time, hardly to be imagined now, when a feeling of bitter personal resentment was expected to attend all commercial rivalry, and in small towns competing grocers belonged to different churches and walked on different sides of the street.

With the rest, the makers of musical instruments, above all of the tinkling piano, were engaged in a fierce strife for territory and sales.

When Theodore Thomas, taking, against his judgment, the musical directorship of the World's Fair, made a condition about it, he must have had this in mind. The music must be kept separate from the exhibit of musical goods; that was his condition. He wanted music taken from the Department of

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1
Ida Tarbell, The Standard Oil Company; Herbert Casson, Romance of the Reaper; H. D. Lloyd, Wealth and Commonwealth; Thomas W. Lawson, Frenzied Finance.

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