Canned Piano

Think Amazon’s mail order is something new? They ship all kinds of crazy things to Alaska and we are amazed they can do that. We also marvel at the packaging—or sometimes the lack thereof. The early residents of Fairbanks also depended on mail order for many goods and to get those specialty items here, it took some interesting packaging. The following article is about one very unusual package that arrived in 1913.

The Alaska Citizen – July 21, 1913

I will leave it to any man in the camp if this place ain’t pretty nearly reached the limit. Ever since there has been a white man in this big country of ours, we’ve been eating out of tin cans, drinking out of tin cans and hiding our dust in ‘em. We get our butter in cans, eggs in cans, spuds in cans, beer—well, anyway there’s a limit, and it is reached when they start handing us pianos in cans from down there in the States. I have had that canned music chestnut about phonographs doped out to me in a dozen different styles, but this one has got it over ‘em.

Fairbanks Daily News Miner – July 17, 1913


Latest Thing in Piano Packing Reached Town This Week

On Monday last, Arthur Williams, of the Arcade Café, received a $1,000.00 player-piano direct from Chicago. While it is a beautiful machine with tall the latest attachments and of perfect tone, the feature which drew a crowd while the piano player was being unpacked was the fact that it came in a tin can, hermetically sealed.

Of course, there was the regulation piano box outside of all, but when the boards of the box were removed there was exposed a huge tin can the shape of the piano, which was both water and airtight. It was the first time the Sourdough Express piano movers had ever been called upon to get at a piano by means of a can-opener and tinners’ shears, and the crowd watched with interest the breaking into of that machine. It was a long, hard struggle, but when the mahogany piano showed up, fresh as the day it was made, without a scratch on it, the wisdom of the piano company’s shipping in tin cans was notable. Had the piano dropped overboard on the ocean trip, it could not have been damaged.

Note: Sourdough Express is still with us and still in the moving business today. Arthur Williams, the owner of the piano and the Arcade Café, was a member of Men’s Igloo No. 4. This rusty, dusty history nugget has been proudly brought to you by Men’s Igloo No. 4 and Women’s Igloo No. 8 of the Pioneers of Alaska.

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