1830 at Huntingtower, Perthshire. Early in life he was apprenticed to block
cutting for printing on cotton, but block printing having been supplanted by
machine printing immediately after the end of his apprenticeship, he
preferred not to be tied to a decaying trade and signed articles for a
second apprenticeship to the new process. As an apprenticeship in those days
was invariably for seven years, he was about 27 years old [ie 1857] before
his apprenticeship days were over, although he had begun at the age of 13.
After being engaged for several years as a machine printer he began to long
for a wider field for his energies, and although his employers were
reluctant to part with him, and promised him rapid promotion if he would
remain, he relinquished the cotton printing and connected himself with the
firm of Messrs. Collins & Co. , of Glasgow, who were developing business
rapidly as publishers of Family Bibles and similar works. He established
successful agencies for their publications in Glasgow, Liverpool,
Manchester, and other towns in the North of England. In 1871 he came to
London and began publishing on his own account, his principal business
continuing to be in Family Bibles, of which he issued editions in Welsh and
Dutch, as well as English. At that time the Family Bible was more popular
than it is today, and Mr Murdoch's annual output for a number of years was
more than 30,000, which were supplied to all parts of the Empire.
the custom in those days to give a premium plate to purchasers of the Family
Bible and this eventually led Mr Murdoch into print publishing. At the time
when the oleograph was in it prime and publishers were eager to issue
first-class pictures in the artistic style, he established a great business
in this department. He secured paintings from some of the most eminent
artists of the day, such as the late Alphonse de Neuville, Richard Beavis,
Frederick Goodall, R.A., Phil Morris, A.R.A., Robert Müller, and others, and
from these he reproduced pictures in the best style of colour printing then
extant. Several of these pictures had the good fortune to attract the
attention of Her late Majesty Queen Victoria, and owing to her patronage and
the merits of the pictures themselves, they commanded an enormous sale.
the same period the trade in photograph albums arose to great proportions in
England, and as it had been for many years the practice to put a family
portrait register into the Family Bible, it was an easy transition for the
great Family Bible publisher to become an album publisher as well, and that
on a large scale.
album publishing had a great influence on the future of Mr Murdoch's
business, for, strange to say, it formed the base of the extensive musical
business for which Messrs. Murdoch & Co. are now well known. The stages of
this curious development are simple enough when understood. In many of the
portrait albums it became the custom to supply a little Swiss musical box
which played as the album was opened. This Mr Murdoch supplied in many of
his albums, and speedily he found himself interested not only in that but in
all kinds of musical boxes, up to the very largest and most expensive. The
business in musical boxes grew rapidly, and customers on all sides began to
press for instruments of other kinds, so that in a short time there grew up
a considerable trade in pianofortes and organs and all sorts of musical
1883 Mr Murdoch's business was amalgamated with that of Messrs. John and
Alexander Dow (an offspring, several years previous) and converted into a
private company, Mr Murdoch becoming the chairman and Messrs. John Dow,
George Murdoch, and Alexander Dow the other directors. This company has
followed the lines laid down by Mr Murdoch, and has grown steadily from that
time until now.
business in pianos and organs eventually became so large that it was found
necessary to start factories to supply the needs of the company, and from
these have emerged the well-known concerns of Spencer & Co., who have lately
become pianoforte makers to H.R.H. the Princess of Wales, and Malcolm & Co.,
organ and Phoneon makers, Regent's Park. In both these concerns Mr Murdoch
was the senior partner, and his sons, Mr J.G.Murdoch Junr and Mr James
Murdoch, the respective managing partners.
the building of this great business, Messrs Murdoch & Co. have ever been
zealous that all their concerns should be conducted in the most
straightforward manner, and that the goods manufactured and sold by them
should be strictly in accordance with their description, and of sound
quality. As time has passed, even the most violent of their opponents have
come to see that the businesses established by Mr Murdoch and his company
have been a help to the musical instrument trade, and that they are amongst
its most useful members.
Murdoch was a most loveable man, and everyone who came in personal touch
with him found him to be a real friend. In him was to be seen none of the
bluster and overbearing character usually associated with a successful
business career. The marvellous success which converted a working cotton
printer of 1857 into the great manufacturer and merchant of 1902 was due to
a rare sympathy with men, which drew out their best from those with whom he
was associated - a clearness of mind which saw plainly the practical; a
shrewdness of judgment that saved him from making many mistakes; a courage
that boldly seized the occasion; and a quiet perseverance that grappled with
and overcame whatever difficulties lay in his path. Combined with these rare
business qualities, he possessed a mind of lofty religious character.
Throughout his life he never failed to meet an engagement and never broke a
Murdoch took an active part in the political life of St Pancras, and more
than once was invited to stand for Parliament. In 1892 he was candidate for
East Renfrewshire, a district familiar to him since boyhood, and he made a
capital fight, greatly reducing the majority against his side; but the times
were against him, and he shared with many others the disastrous fortunes of
his party throughout the country.
world is poorer for the passing of Mr Murdoch, and those who were in touch
with him have sustained a loss in his death that time can never make good,
but his influence remains, and they who are left in charge of the businesses
founded by him have doubtless received an inspiration that will carry them
forward on the principles he laid down.
an obit from a music oriented journal, as far as I can guess, of John G.
[Gloag] Murdoch. Would you consider him significant? Apart from the details
in it, he also amassed the largest collection of English coins in the world,
sold in 1903 at Sotheby's.
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