NATIONAL ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION, 1901-1904
A Cramer 5 Octave Ship's Piano, believed to originate from the National Antarctic Exploration Vessel Discovery and supplied for the National Antarctic Expedition, 1901, made by J B Cramer & Co., 109 Bond Street, London, in April 1899, serial number 29840. Iron frame, overstrung with folding keyboard. 44 x 13 x 26in. (112 x 33 x 66cm.) closed. (damages to front and repair to one broken lever)
A Dundee piano retailer installed and hand finished a piano in the Officer's Wardroom on board the Discovery, fitted out for the Royal Geographical Society in 1901. It was without a base, as it was required to fit on to a narrow 2ft. ledge in the wardroom. The piano is illustrated up on this ledge in Michael Barne's cartoon for the South Polar Times (the piano seen just behind a caricature of Koettlitz 'I must be off now to look at the thermometer'). For the forward location of the piano in the Discovery wardroom, see D. Yelverton, Antarctica Unveiled, Boulder, 2000, pp.379-80.
The piano featured in several of the diaries recording the voyage south, including an incident when in severe weather it broke loose and damaged both itself and several chairs. The ship's carpenter repaired the damage to the front panel and replaced a broken lever with a clip and wire from the sledging equipment, evidence of which can still be seen on this piano. It was used in the wardroom, was carried up on deck for divine service (later replaced for services by the harmonium donated to the ship in Christchurch) and was taken ashore to perform in the amateur theatricals. Various officers played upon it, including Scott, who notes that he performed clumsily. It was mostly played by Lieutenant Royds, Discovery's First Officer.
At the conclusion of the expedition, Discovery was put up for sale and as was common, the wardroom assets were divided up amongst the officers, Royds retaining the piano. A selection of Royds' effects, including an American reed organ labelled 'Presented by the Citizens of Christchurch New Zealand To the "Discovery" for the Antarctic Expedition. Augt. 1901- Septr. 1904' was sold by his heirs in a West Country auction in the early 1980s.
The serial number on this piano dates it between 1895-1900 according to the Pierce Piano Atlas, and there is a label beneath the keys dated 10.4.99.