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December 26, 2008
Vol. VIII, No. 18

"The Big Day Has Come and Gone"
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. Now we can all catch up on our reading and email. I read a number of financial newsletters and the content is fairly predictable. So I was pleasantly surprised to discover not one but two musical references recently.

The first reference was interesting because I've been thinking a bit lately about how the automobile served as the engine of the US economy in the 20th century. We were all about selling cars. We built roads to sell cars. We built suburbs and malls to sell cars. We even fought wars to get oil to sell cars. But that seems to be in the process of changing now. What if the economic engine in the US in the next century will be the internet and computers in one form or another. Imagine that the internet and computers are still in the Model T phase of development and that we will see some amazing developments to them in our lifetimes.

Anyway, our lives haven't always revolved around the car so I've been wondering what came before and that leads me to this article mentioned in the newsletter I was reading. I'll start you off with a few paragraphs and if you're interested you can follow the link to continue reading.

The End of the US Piano Industry
by Jeffrey A. Tucker

Today the highest-price good that people buy besides their houses is their car, and this reality leads people to believe that we can't possibly let the American car industry die. We couldn't possibly be a real country and a powerful nation without our beloved auto industry, which is so essential to our national well-being. In any case, this is what spokesmen for the big three say.

What about the time before the car? Look at the years between 1870 and 1930. As surprising as this may sound today, the biggest-ticket item on every household budget besides the house itself was its piano. Everyone had to have one. Those who didn't have one aspired to have one. It was a prize, an essential part of life, and they sold by the millions and millions.

That too was new. Americans before 1850 mostly imported their pianos. American manufacturing was nearly nonexistent. After 1850, that changed dramatically with the flowering of what would become a gigantic US piano industry. The Gilded Age saw a vast increase in its popularity. By 1890, Americans fed half the world market for pianos. Between 1890 and 1928, sales ranged from 172,000 to 364,000 per year. It was a case of relentless and astounding growth.

They were used in classrooms everywhere in times when music education was considered to be the foundation of a good education. They were the concert instruments in homes before recorded music and iPods. They were essential for all entertainment. American buyers couldn't get enough, and private enterprise responded.

By the way, the second reference was thrown in at the end of another article. It was this:

"What Hell Really Is…" said the sign in front of a church in Arizona. "Choir practice at 4 PM!" was the next line.

Have a great week!

Dan Long

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