Chappell's was founded in 1811 by Samuel Chappell, Francis Tatton Latour, and John Baptist Cramer. Cramer was a highly fashionable pianist, composer, and teacher of the pianoforte. One of the company's first publications was by Cramer, "Studies for the Pianoforte," which has had many editions since the first publication. In 1812 Chappell targeted the nobility and gentry for sales of musical instruments. The company opened a special room and called it the "Ware room," which they the advertised in local papers. In this room they displayed cabinet pianos, squares and grands. The pianos sold at this time were not made by Chappell, but they used the fact that Messrs. Cramer and Latour had personally selected each of the instruments; this was a huge advantage over the rival retail outlets.
On 23 January 1811 the Morning Chronicle contained this advertisement:
"Chappell & Co. beg leave to acquaint the nobility and gentry that they have taken the extensive premises lately occupied by Moulding & Co., 124 New Bond Street, and have laid in a complete assortment of music of the best authors, ancient and modern, as well as a variety of instruments, consisting of Grand and Square Pianofortes and Harps for sale or hire."
Cramer suggested to Mr. and Mrs. Chappell that they should invite all their professional friends and colleagues to have a meeting. This meeting took place at 124 New Bond Street in January 1813, and from it the Philharmonic Society was born. Chappell was closely linked to the Philharmonic Society for many years. During the society's first year's concerts Cramer and the old master Clementi took turns conducting at the pianoforte on alternate concerts.
At some point a letter from Beethoven to his friend Ferdinand Ries came into Chappell's possession, dated 1819. Chappell treasured this letter, which read as follows:
"I am just recovering from a serious mishap which I had and am going into the country. I should like you to see the enclosed two works - a great solo sonata for pianoforte and a pianoforte sonata adapted by myself as a quintet for two violins, two violas, one violoncello - taken to a publisher in London, they would sell easily for, perhaps, fifty ducats in gold (if you can get more, so much the better, it would be very welcome). Pardon me if I come very heavily on you but my case is such that I have to look to every side and corner for bare life. Potter (Ciprian) says that Chappell's in Bond Street is now one of the best publishers."
In the early 1820s Chappell's were awarded the Royal Warrant. In 1840 Chappell's started producing their own pianos. They opened a factory in Phoenix Street, Soho, and after a short time Chappell pianos grew in popularity so they moved to their new factory at Chalk Farm. The Chalk Farm factory has been enlarged many times.
One of the nicest tributes came from Richard Strauss:
"Dear Sirs, I consider the tone of a remarkable sweet and sympathetic quality, and of musical sustaining power, and the touch is very responsive and light. Having always been used to pianos of German make, it was a great and agreeable surprise to me to find such a perfect instrument of English manufacture. Yours, Richard Strauss."
Samuel Chappell died in 1834, leaving a widow Emily, and three sons, William, Thomas, and Arthur. Emily took control of the company. Thomas worked for Chappell's for £26.00 a year. Not until 1840 did he become a partner in the company. Each of the sons did their part in running the company. In 1850 Thomas financed the building of St. James Hall in Piccadilly. The Hall opened in 1858 with a concert in aid of the Middlesex Hospital.
Arthur directed the Ballad Concerts every Monday and Saturday; he ran them for 40 years. Chappell's ran their Ballad Concerts until 1926. In 1895 Henry Wood conducted the Promenade Concerts alongside Chappell's Ballad Concerts. Edward Speyer and Henry Wood ran the Proms until the war of 1914-18. Chappell then terminated their contracts and ran the Proms until 1926 when the BBC took them over.
William Boosey succeeded Thomas as MD when Thomas died. William had worked with Thomas for many years, having joined the company in 1894. William was responsible for introducing the royalty system as the only fair way to pay composers for their work. This of course was of little use until the reform of the Copyright Act of 1842, which did not occur until William Boosey formed the Musical Defence League. The league was driven to act in 1905, when they announced in the press that they would not be issuing any more new publications or contracts and also that they would not be putting any more adverts in the newspapers. This of course was an outrage - it would be equivalent to turning off all the TV stations today.
T. P. O'Connor, MP, put a private bill through Parliament and the Copyright Act of 1906 became law. This made it a criminal offence to pirate music, though it was only a civil offence to copy books. Most of the copyright acts in the UK and overseas came about through pressure from Chappell's. In 1920 Louis Dreyfus acquired Chappell Music.
In 1901 Chappell Piano Co. Ltd. was incorporated as separate company from the music publishing side, and in 1922 production for grands and uprights reached one hundred a week.