E. E. Forbes

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Ernest Erastus Forbes (born March 28, 1867 in Oxford; died 1959) was the founder of the Forbes Piano Company.

Forbes was oldest of six children born to William Patrick and Sarah Elizabeth McCully Forbes of Oxford. He attended Oxford College there, then returned to the family farm. He left to take a job as a salesman for a music company in 1887. Two years later he founded his own music company in Oxford. He opened a second location in Birmingham in 1892, but was forced out of business by the 1893 financial panic.

Forbes found work cutting ice for the Caldwell Ice & Coal Co.. After a few weeks, Gilbert Carter hired him to sell pianos and organs. He made $15 a month at first, but was promised double that if he could sell an organ each month. He sold five in his first month and was earning $100 a month by the end of his first year. Carter made him a junior partner in 1896, but the partnership dissolved after two years, with Forbes giving up his shares in exchange for $2,000 worth of Chicago Cottage Organ merchandise.

He opened his own store in Anniston and, enjoying success, married Mary V. Mallory, and expanded the operation to other cities, with a flagship showroom at 403 20th Street North in Birmingham. He moved to a larger space at 1914 4th Avenue North in 1912.

Forbes treated the business as a calling, often sacrificing profits to get more instruments in the hands of young musicians. His newspaper advertisements repeated his belief that cultivating an interest in music would reduce crime. Forbes became a favored dealer for many area churches and offered space in his downtown showroom where local piano instructors could stage recitals.

After the death of his first wife, Mary, in 1928 and during the Great Depression, Forbes consolidated to his main stores in Birmingham and Montgomery. He began dealing in textbooks, white goods, appliances and other products in order to stay in business. The store survived and eventually grew again. He married widow Annie Forbes in 1933. In 1943 they purchased a home in Montevallo, which he donated to the Presbyterian Home for Children in Talladega as a place where older girls could live while attending the Alabama State College for Women there. The gift was made in memory of his first wife.

When Forbes died in 1959 he divided the business equally between his sons: Ernest, Jr, James, William Kenneth, Herman French, and Nelson.

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