Detail of W.C. Peters and Sons insignia. Performing Arts Reading Room, Library of Congress.
William Cumming Peters was a composer, arranger, organist, and music publisher. Born in Devon, England in 1805, Peters emigrated to the United States from England around 1820. Peters opened the first piano and music store in Pittsburgh in the 1820s, and also worked there as a music teacher, clarinettist, organist and composer. Peters moved to Louisville in 1832 and started a music school and circulating music library.
Around 1840 he began a music publishing business in Louisville, Peters, Browning & Co., which expanded quickly to Cincinnati under the name Peters & Co. Popular composers such as Stephen C. Foster and Henry Russell were in the company's music catalog. He went on to open other publishing companies in Baltimore, New York, and St. Louis with alternative partners.
Peters moved to Cincinnati in 1851 and formed with his sons a successor publishing company to his previous one, with the new name W. C. Peters & Sons. It became one of the most influential of the nineteenth century, publishing many different types of music. Peters was active arranging and composing music himself for the firm. A fire in 1866 caused the company to lose all of its stock and plates, and one month later, Peters died from heart failure. His brother and sons, who had been partners with him at different points of his career, continued various music publishing ventures after his death.
In 1851 he wrote of the inherent artistic talents of Cincinnatians: "Several ladies have lately left Cincinnati for Italy, for the purposes of studying vocal music under some celebrated singing master. If they do as well in music as their celebrated townsman [American neoclassical sculptor Hiram Powers] has done in sculpture, the musical talent of Cincinnati will yet astonish the world."