Did You Know?

Did You Know This About Pianos?

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© The Pierce Piano Atlas Anniversary Edition, Reprinted with the permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Interesting tidbits from the world of pianos brought to you by Piano World.

  • In 1887 President Grover Cleveland was the keynote speaker at the opening ceremony for the new five-story Chickering piano factory in Boston, MA.
  • in 1888, Julius Blüthner developed and patented his now famous Aliquot system employing a fourth string in the top sections to vibrate sympathetically. in 1988 Blüthner changed the Aliquot patented system whereby the fourth string is now fastened directly on the bridge, this eliminated the brass post of the previous design. (Sent in by James M. Rerder, 1996)
  • In 1890 some two hundred fifty piano manufacturers produced over seventy thousand instruments.
  • In 1885 a medium grade upright piano sold at retail for around $400.00. By 1892, as a result of efficiencies in manufacturing, the price had dropped to around $200.00 and sales increased from 20,000 instruments to 80,000 instruments.
  • In 1905 it was estimated that 2,180 player pianos were sold. By the end of the decade annual production had reached 95,000 units. In 1927 player piano sales dropped to 93,000 instruments, and in 1928 sales fell to 18,000 units. Player piano sales fell even further, to 2,100 instruments in 1929.
  • Irving Berlin, who could not read music, had a transposing piano that operated by a clutch mechanism, so he could “sample” his songs in other keys. Ift shifted all the hammers. The piano was an upright made by Weser Brothers in New York. It is now on display at the IBM Musical Comedy Exhibit, IBM Building, 216 W. 89 ST., N.Y.
  • J.J. Hawkins, Philadelphia, received a pianoforte patent in 1800, and was credited with having made the first upright piano in America.
  • The Historical Society of Pennsylvania has a Square grand piano made by Charles Albrecht, Philadelphia 1789.
  • F. M. Antisell, San Francisco, received patent for Wrest Plank November 15, 1887.
  • S. Hansing, New York received patent February 19, 1889 for Muffler for upright pianos.
  • Collard was founded by Clementi 1800
  • William Southwell placed a grand on end 1794. He built cabinet pianos as early as 1807.
  • Thomas Loud built uprights with overstringing 1830.
  • Silver, glass, gold and silk were used in making strings for musical instruments.
  • Zumpe created the square piano in England in 1760
  • Pape build piano with the action above the strings as early as 1827
  • Steinway & Sons, New York, have possession of the first two pianos made by Henry Engelhard Steinweg in Germany. These date back to before the Steinwegs came to America (at which point they “Americanized” their name to Steinway).
  • Madam Modjeska had a Steinway Grand in her home in Santiago Canyon, Orange County, California. Paderewski visited Madam Modjeska and played on this piano.
  • John Geib invented the grasshopper action.
  • J. Sylvanus McLean received the first patent 1796
  • Conrad Meyer used iron plate in single casting 1832
  • John Harper built pianos in Baltimore Maryland 1802
  • Beethoven’s Studio Piano is in the National Museum, Vienna, Austria. Also one built by Nanette Streicher about 1803. Nearly all of Beethoven’s compositions were created on pianos built by her.
  • C.F.T. Steinway received patent in New York May 14, 1872 for Duplex scale for pianos.
  • In 1890 Chickering advertised that 78,000 Chickering pianos were in use.
  • John MacKay took out a patent for a new method of boring the shank holes of the hammer heads.
  • Adelina Patti presented piano #3463 upright to the Kimball Piano Company after her tour of 1888-1889. She sang at the Chicago Auditorium Theatre December 9, 1889 for a fee of $4200.

  • Essex Institute, Boston, possesses a spinet made by Samuel Blythe, Salem, MA 1784.
  • The Essex Institute, Salem, MA has a square piano made by Benjemine Orehore about 1800.
  • Hardman upright piano style Louis XVI sold for $550 about 1912.
  • Hardman Autotone (Player Piano) sold for  $900 about 1912.
  • Harrington Autotone (Player) by Hardman sold for $600 about 1912.
  • Harrington upright style #55 sold for $300 about 1912.
  • The first patent issued to H. Steinway, New York, was May 5, 1857; the second on November 29, 1859; and the third to H. Steinway December 20, for the overstrung grand.
  • George Ulshoeffer made a harpsichord as early as 1785.
  • Gustavus Hessilens made a spinet in Philadelphia 1742.
  • Alexandre of Paris built a piano-organ in 1854 with three keyboards, sixteen stops, and a pedal board.
  • G. Hoffman built a symmetrically rounded piano in 1804.
  • Davis Walhaupter made and repaired harpsichord’s 1773.
  • John Jacob Astor dated back to 1783 as an importer.
  • The Smithsonian Institute has a John Tallman square piano made in 1835.
  • They also have one of the first upright pianos made in this country (U.S.) by Isaac Hawkins, Philadelphia, PA, 1801.
  • M. Welte and Son of Freiburg, Germany and Ludwig Hupfeld introduced the reproducing pianos about 1904. Reproducing pianos were designed to provide a more realistic recreation of the original performance.
  • Benjamine Crehore manufactured pianos at Milton 1798.
  • The term “Grand” was first used in 1777 and the first grand made by Broadwood was in 1781.
  • D. Decker received patent July 5, 1870, New York, for bending and gluing cases for grand pianos.
  • T. Loud received patent for shifting keyboard for square and upright pianoforte in 1842.
  • John Hayward used knee pedals as early as 1676.
  • Taft museum, Cincinnati, Ohio, owns a square piano by Babcock Appleton & Babcock mad in Boston about 1812.
  • Some of the first piano manufacturers of France were Virbes – 1770; Johannes-Kilianes Mercken – 1770; Erard – 1777; Hildebrandy – 1783 and Hoffmann – 1783.
  • Alesandro Pasi, of Modena built a spinet in 1493.


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