May 6, 2024 - History

How World War II triggered a run on pianos in Utah

An ad from an old newspaper reads "Pianos Wanted Immediately. Must have one grand and three uprights for housing projects."

An ad from the Deseret News, May 6, 1944. Image via Utah Digital Newspapers, University of Utah

As World War II raged 80 years ago, folks on the homefront went into hoarding mode amid rations and collection drives for tires, metal, nylon and … pianos?

  • This is Old News, our weekly record of golden oldies.

What drove the news: "Pianos Wanted Immediately," trumpeted a Utah newspaper ad in 1944.

Behind the scenes: They were to be used in housing developments that popped up around northern Utah during World War II.

  • That's when the sleepy, rural area around Hill Air Force Base rapidly transformed into a crucial military supply operation and defense industry hub.

Zoom in: A piano was considered a staple household furnishing for a long time.

  • By the 1940s, Americans were only about a generation into recorded music and radio — and the sound quality wasn't great. Folks were still used to making their own music as day-to-day entertainment.
  • The piano, once considered an aristocratic luxury, had become an essential middle-class status symbol. And with the post-Depression economic recovery of the 1940s, people could afford them again.

The intrigue: Nowadays you can't swing a dead cat without hitting an heirloom piano that someone is trying to sell.

Previously in Old News


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