FOX, JOHN C., piano manufacturer; b. in 1832 in New York City; he apparently married; d. 14 Jan. 1868 at Kingston, Ont.
John C. Fox trained both as a musician and as a manufacturer of pianos in the United States and in Europe. He set up a firm in New York City to make pianos, J. C. Fox and Company, and he arrived in Kingston, Canada West, in February 1861 to sell pianos made by this firm. By June he had a branch store in Kingston and within a year had started a piano factory. He was a resident of Kingston by 1862, when he appears to have discontinued the New York City firm. In September 1862, he competed in the provincial exhibition in Toronto and won first prize for the best piano. He supplied pianos for visiting musicians and, a skilled musician himself, performed at local concerts and directed charity musicals.
Fox expanded his business in January 1864, buying a large distinctive stone building while retaining the earlier factory as a branch of the new one. He also improved the quality of the instruments he produced: on 23 Sept. 1865 he received a patent for a modified sounding board. He “bound the free border of the piano sounding board with a cast iron band and thus made it free of any tendency to spring upwards or downwards.” He later advertised “Double Iron Clad Pianos for Defiance,” explaining that they defied competition in both price and beauty of tone.
Fox had by then the largest piano factory in Canada. He employed over 60 men, many of them skilled artisans, and completed six pianos a week. He had sales agents in Picton, Cobourg, Toronto, Hamilton, and London. However, over-expansion, along with a fire at his branch factory in May 1867 and the collapse of the Commercial Bank in October, brought financial failure. On 16 Dec. 1867 Fox was declared insolvent. Early that month he had received head injuries in a sleighing accident, and he died in January 1868. Among his effects were a fine organ and a Cremona violin. He was buried in New York City.
Fox’s patent for the sounding board was sold to F. C. Cline who carried on the business for a time. All the materials and tools later went to Charles Rappe, later Rappe, Weber, and Company, who manufactured pianos for many years in J. C. Fox’s building.
Frontenac County Registry Office (Kingston, Ont.), abstract of town lot 4. Daily News (Kingston), 19 Feb . 1861 – 7 Feb. 1868. Mitchell & Co.’s Canada classified directory for 1865–66 (Toronto, n.d.), 76. Mitchell & Co.’s general directory for the city of Kingston, and gazetteer of the counties of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, for 1865 (Toronto, 1865), 58, 60.