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John Aitken (subscriber) 1810

Music Publisher and Composer

Most of the founders of the Mechanics' Bank were artisans who had served traditional apprenticeships but whose later paths set them apart from their peers. John Aitken was a silversmith in his native Scotland, but when he moved to Philadelphia in 1785, he became one of North America’s first music publishers. While his competitors printed sheet music using hand-engraved metal plates, Aitken introduced the use of standardized punches to stamp notes onto the plates, a faster process which also produced more legible scores.

In 1807, Aitken opened a music store at 76 North Second Street in an odd-looking building known as “Jones’s Folly.” In addition to his publishing business, he dabbled in composition (with little success) and rented the second floor to an Englishman by the name of Blake, who gave flute and “clarionet” lessons until he was visited by a group of Quaker elders and told to “stop teaching the clarionet to our boys or we will have thee put in prison.”

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