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MMD > Archives > August 2004 > 2004.08.26 > 01Prev  Next

WW2 Artistyle Rolls by Herbert Marshall & Sons
By Dan Wilson, London

I was amazed to see 1939 and 1940 Artistyle catalogues in the list
of Ed Sprankle's roll catalog collection (040825 MMDigest).

The Artistyle roll-cutting operation was a creature of the Second World
War.  Historically, all the UK Angelus-Artistyle rolls, both 65- and
88-note, had been made for Sir Herbert Marshall & Sons (yea, he of the
Marshall & Rose and Wendel & Marshall pianos) by the Universal Music 
Co of Hayes, a management buy-out of Aeolian's subsidiary roll-making
company in 1933.

The cut paper stock was identical to Universal or Meloto rolls,
some with Themodist snakebites and some not, but was converted into
Artistyle stock by stencilling it in green with the distinctive special
chains of spaced letters indicating both tempo and loudness, as and
when Marshalls ordered finished stock.  Rather as with the early days
with Wilcox & White and Aeolian in Meriden, the roll labels bore a
suspicious similarity to Aeolian's product, because it was easiest to
have the Universal printers do them as well.

This stencilling work was conducted in an off-site workshop at Hayes
which had been set up in 1916 when Aeolian's Song Rolls had started,
for lack of space in the main works.  With the stock market Crash in
1929 sales of Song Rolls had dived just like the normal rolls, but
because of the Artistyle operation, the workshop was kept going by
a couple of semi-retired men who after 1933 rented the shop from
Universal and were paid piece rates by whoever was buying the rolls
they were stencilling.

At the outbreak of war the Government seized the main factory, as
Governments will, and ordered everything to do with piano-making pushed
aside in favour of munitions.  Roll sales already being uneconomic, the
serried ranks of perforators (most of them, as we can tell from the two
surviving ones with Mike Boyd, 1903 Chicago-made machines originally
built for 65-note roll making) were unceremoniously scrapped, except
for five 88-note Themodist perforators which were put outside under

Enter the Royal Navy, who had large numbers of upright players in ships
and shore establishments and wished to object.  It was vital that
spine-stiffening fare should continue to be issued for their mess
deck pianos.

So, under the aegis of the Ministry of Supply, the people who did have
space for a perforator, Herbert Marshall & Sons, were prevailed upon
to get into roll-making for the first time.  In early 1940 two of the
perforators were moved to central London along with all the roll paper
stock and cardboard roll masters and two experienced Universal roll
perforating staff who were on the point of retirement.  They continued
the role of the Hayes main factory while the stencil workshop continued
as before, without moving.

Marshalls effectively took over the entire Universal catalogue, making
rolls under the Angelus-Artistyle and Regent labels in exactly the same
style as before, Regent being Marshalls' version of Universal's Meloto
dance roll.  Except for utility card being used in the boxes, it would
be very difficult to tell wartime Regent rolls from prewar ones, had
not Marshalls decided to start a fresh number series starting with
1000.  This resulted in confusion with Standard roll numbering (they
had also taken over all the remaining stocks of completed Hayes rolls,
which included the Standard 88-Note Accentuated) so from around
November 1940 an R was added on the front.

Very large numbers of the new Regent issues were made and there's
barely a collection in the UK that doesn't have a few of them.
Probably only a small minority were actually made for the War Office.
I'm not aware that any new hand-played rolls were issued but there are
plenty of 1940s hits cut the standard way, metronomically from the

As war rolled on, though, it became difficult to keep players
maintained and both the Navy and the public moved progressively to
radio and the 78 rpm disc.  The Marshalls roll-making department closed
around February 1942 and the perforators were carefully covered over
to await peacetime.  They survived until 1947 by which time Gordon
Iles had bought two of the remaining three perforators at Hayes, and
indeed the Universal Music Co, and started up production himself,
later changing skin to become Artona Music Rolls.

The remaining stock of Regent, Artistyle and remaining Hayes rolls
weren't destroyed but sold to a roll wholesaler (I'm not sure I ever
knew the name) from whom they remained available until the end of
the war.

Dan Wilson, London

(Message sent Thu 26 Aug 2004, 22:40:00 GMT, from time zone GMT+0100.)

Key Words in Subject:  Artistyle, Herbert, Marshall, Rolls, Sons, WW2

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