Paulo Soprani – The Italian Accordion
This is one of those stories destined to not only change the life of one man, but also of one town, one country.
What happened in 1863 seems to be a legend, but was in fact a reality, important enough to start an industry that would become famous all over the world: the accordion industry.
An Austrian pilgrim returning home from a visit to the Loreto sanctuary asked for hospitality for the night at a farmhouse near Castelfidardo. After having been refreshed, he sat down near the fireside and started to play a strange ”box”. This was the house of Antonio and Lucia Soprani and their sons. One son, Paolo, was interested in this musical box which was in fact a copy of the ”accordeon” patented in 1829 by Mr. Demian of Vienna.
Many different stories tell of how Paolo obtained this box: some say that during the night, the young Paolo woke up to study all the secrets of the box. The important thing is that, from this little box and Paolo’s intelligence, after a few years the accordion industry would be born in Castelfidardo.
In 1864 Paolo opened a little workshop inside his home, with the help of his brothers; after some years, he moved to a bigger house, engaging some workers. The first ”armoniche” produced were sold in fairs and markets of nearby towns. In Loreto there were always a lot of pilgrims, religious visitors and dealers. Paolo went there to exhibit his accordion.
In 1872 he moved to the centre of Castelfidardo and opened a factory in the Piazza Garibaldi. His instruments had immediate success, especially in the country where the farmers danced to popular songs. Quickly the popularity grew and requests came from other european countries like France. At the end of the 19th century the ”armonica” started to be exported to other continents, for example the USA, where a lot of Italian people had emigrated and the sound of the ”armonica” eased their homesickness. To supply the increasing number of orders he needed to find a bigger place and more workers, to organise the phases of production in a better way and create a commercial office. For this reason Paolo with his sons Luigi and Achille opened a new factory in Castelfidardo where about 400 people worked.
In 1900 the company had a big success in a fair in Paris; Paolo became a member of the academy of inventors of Bruxelles and Paris and met the President of France. He continued to work in his factory until he was 70 years old, when his two sons took over. He died in his house on 20th February 1918, when he was 73 years old.