Nothing new…

There’s nothing new under the sun. Take for example product placement. You may think that placing a BMW in a James Bond movie is a relatively recent idea for gaining sales and prestige. Think again.

On 12th July 1887, Alberto Mezzetti received a letter from WIndsor Castle thanking him for the musical composition that he had “kindly sent” to the Crown Princess and the Princesses Victoria, Sophie and Margaret of Prussia. Sending his musical work to Windsor Castle and receiving such a letter of approval was quite a promotional coup. Placing Ocarinas in a War Zone was something else…

In 1902, Mezzetti received another letter of thanks, this time from Robert Baden-Powell, war hero and founder of the Scout Movement, for the “handsome case of Ocarinas which I have just received from Mafeking “. The Siege of Mafeking was a turning point in the Second Boer War, from which the keen amateur musician, Baden-Powell, had recently emerged as a national hero.

Mezzetti was an astute business man as well as an Ocarina performer, publisher and entrepreneur. He sold his brother’s Ocarinas around Britain for over thirty years. This “handsome case of Ocarinas” had either been sent as a gift of appreciation, or is an early example of product placement and celebrity endorsement; or possibly both!

And if product placement is nothing new, neither is Industrial espionage or patent wars.

For 21st century smartphones, see Apple v Samsung; for 19th century Ocarinas, see Mezzetti v Fiehn.

When Italian-born Mezzetti was selling hundreds of his Ocarinas in several sizes around the UK, the Austrian Heinrich Fiehn began selling tens of thousands of his factory-made Ocarinas in at least 28 sizes around the world. Fiehn was so prolific, he even became known as inventor of the Ocarina despite Mezzetti being one of the first group ever to make and play Ocarinas some twenty years earlier.

And how did Fiehn first discover the Ocarina? An army friend suggested he spy on performances of Mezzetti and his group in Vienna and make copies of their instruments. Within months, Fiehn had not only produced his first Austrian Ocarinas, he had registered a patent (1881) to rival Mezzetti’s own patent (1878) for the invention of the Ocarina tuning-slide. I wonder who invented and who copied?

So all these ‘business’ practices prove that there is nothing new under the sun.

And this little history just goes to prove that “all is fair in love and war… and Ocarina-making!”

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