Behning & Sons Piano Company

The Behning Piano Company, established in 1861 in New York, survived for nearly 100 years, and has a colorful history. I’ve decided to show its history in a time line format, as the ownership/management underwent several changes over the years.

  • 1861 ~ Henry Behning establishes Behning Piano Company in New York City on East 128th Street
  • 1864 ~ Behning partners with Mr. Albrecht Klix, building pianos under the name of Behning & Klix
  • 1873 ~ Behning terminates partnership with Klix and continues building pianos under his own name
  • c.1875 ~ Behning partners with Mr. Diehl
  • 1878 ~ Behning terminates partnership with Mr. Diehl
  • 1881 ~ Behning partners with son Henry, and name changes to Behning & Son
  • 1920 ~ both sons, Henry and Gustave, take over the company and expand to East 133rd Street and Alexander; name changes to Behning & Sons
  • 1931 ~ Gustave runs the company on his own and moves it to West 51st Street
  • 1932 ~ Kohler & Campbell acquire the company
  • 1956 ~ production under Kohler & Campbell ceases

Pianos and The Great Depression

When you think of old pianos, do you think of ornate carvings? The fancy pianos are the ones made in the early 1900s and before. Behning & Sons certainly made some of the finest, most ornate pianos I have ever seen, according to photos I’ve come across on the Internet. The Behning & Sons piano that was given to me was marked with Serial #48409, indicating that it was manufactured in 1922, when the two sons were running the company. I don’t recall much about what this piano looked like, except that it was plain. This one came into existence right on the heels of the Great Depression. People did not have money for extravagance. Their lives had been stripped of frills and “extras.” They had no use for ornate things; now they wanted more practical items in their homes. This is why piano makers, including Behning & Sons, started producing the plain, boxy style cabinets for their upright pianos. Shorter pianos also became more popular because they took up less visual space in the room, as rooms were smaller than before. Grands and baby grands were still being produced, and the styles of their cases were also simplified.

Quality Pianos

Piano manufacturers also learned how to make “economy” pianos so that people could still enjoy music on a tighter budget. Sometimes the result meant a sacrifice in quality, but often it was more a sacrifice in aesthetics, with still a pleasing sound from the instrument. Behning & Sons did not sacrifice quality. In fact, they were known for producing high-quality, expensive pianos, and enjoyed a great deal of success. They even made the Wendland player piano during the years between 1910 and 1930. Perhaps it was their self-imposed standard of high quality that made it hard for them to survive the Great Depression, for not too long after that period, the younger son, Gustave, being left alone with the company, was compelled to sell it to Kohler & Campbell, who kept the name alive for nearly another quarter of a century. (I thought this was interesting, since I’ve also come across a 1915 Kohler & Campbell piano.)

My photos of this piano are not impressive, but are mostly “for the record.” Usually I take the entire piano away when I acquire one, but this was one of the rare occasions when I got to disassemble it on-site and take only what I could carry. With the seats all folded down in the minivan (not the van in the photo), we were able to take everything but what was firmly attached to the cast iron plate. In other words, I did not keep the strings or the soundboard, nor the side boards or back boards, but I kept everything else. I got good photos of the markings on the plate because I knew I would never see it again, and those markings are how I identify the piano.

Also in the photos you will see the son of the dear folks who gave me the piano, my son who helps me with most of the moves, and our indispensable Dolly.

If you own a Behning & Sons piano, you can be proud of the fine-quality, American-made musical instrument that graces your home, and I hope you will care for it and play it often.


Bibliography

Pierce, W. Robert. Pierce Piano Atlas. 12th Edition. Larry E. Ashley Publishing: Albuquerque, NM, 2008

antiquepianoshop.com

rayspiano.com


 

 

Published by Angela Umphers Rueger

Hello. I am a joyful wife and mother of three, just turned loose the last of my little chicks, and getting ready to spread my own writing wings. Twenty-six years ago I earned a B.A. in English because my heart's desire was to write. Since that time I've worked as a teacher, musician, cleaning lady, tax professional, and artist, but never as a writer. In the past year, several friends have encouraged me to pick up the baton and run with it. By creating this blog, I took the first baby step toward becoming a published author. The journey will likely be longer than I can imagine, but it has finally begun, and that's all that matters.

44 thoughts on “Behning & Sons Piano Company

  1. How can I find out when a Behning & Sons upright — serial 52523 — was made? I’m considering buying it for casual use (haven’t played since childhood, but miss it, and my daughter is interested) but want to make sure that it has a little lifespan left. Hammers and keys have been replaced but not sure what or if anything else has been done.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Angela Rueger,
        Hi, can you quickly find a Behning & Sons console w/ the serial # 402313 in your book?
        I’m attempting to help a dear friend w/ her piano.

        Thanks, Mike

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  2. Hi, I am interested in buying a used 2001-2002 Behning Studio piano model BE-112, Serial EH 0937. The seller said it is a Yamaha made by another company in Japan. I am unable to find out any information about this piano. Can anyone shed some light on this?

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    1. Hello, Dave. I’ve been looking into this, but I can’t find your model or serial number either in my book or online. The last Behning piano was produced in 1956, so a piano from the 2000’s would definitely not be a Behning. However, I could not find either the model or serial number you gave me under the name Yamaha either. Perhaps you could send me pictures of the piano and the name and serial number as marked on/in the piano itself. There may be other info there that would help me identify it for you. Otherwise, I’m terribly sorry, but I’m of no help.

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      1. That is helpful, actually. I found a website with some information regarding the current production of Behning pianos, https://marthabeth.com/piano_brands.html.

        Here is the pertinent information available there:

        Behning: See Weber. Probably part of the Chinese “startup” using the Weber name. Possible stencil piano. Iffy, no matter which circumstance. No. Chinese.

        Weber (variously Albert Weber): Established in New York in 1852 by Albert Weber. Very high quality (and thus expensive) pianos; elaborate cabinetry. Alas, in 1903, Weber succumbed to Aeolian. Even so, its pianos were higher in quality than the rest of Aeolian’s oeuvre. After Aeolian folded, the Weber name was bought by Young-Chang. Some now made in China. Too dicey. Keep looking. Korean/Chinese.

        The take-away from these two entries is that the Weber/Behning pianos made in China are not recommended for their quality. But this is only an opinion. If you have played the piano and like the sound, and if you like the price, either have a trusted technician look it over for you, or simply go for it.

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  3. Thanks. I may have to look at the interior of the Behning to see where it was made. The seller claims that it was made in Japan. I almost bought a Kimble Artist Console Model 4245 Serial-DO 2400. It was very good looking like new and rarely used for $1200.00 but the Behning for $3500.00 had the sound and keyboard feel like a Yamaha. The finish is gloss black.with minor flaws. I hope it is made in Japan. But I also found that Yamaha pianos today are built in many other countries, and even the “Made in Japan” models are built with piano components from other countries like Indonesia, China and others. Many pianists advise to purchase a Yamaha upright originally built in the 1970 and 1980 “sweet years” before globalization took effect. Yamaha pianos in those years were engineered in Japan, all components were made in Japan, and all assembly took place in Japan under very tight quality conditions. I was originally looking for a Yamaha upright so I will see if I can find a good one for around $3500 or so. What do you think?

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  4. Hello, I was looking at uprights: Yamaha U3 and U3H, but then I found out about Feurich 122 and 133. They are like a Steinway but at a much lower cost. They are made in China but they are well built. The key action is like a grand piano, and the sound is great. Only problem is I can’t find them for sale except in the U.K. Anyone Know who sells them in the U.S.A.?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi,

    We have a Behning Cabinet Grand piano and was wondering when it was built. Can you look up the serial number is 30156 in your book? I don’t know if you would also know how we can sell it?

    Thank you!!
    Kim

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello, Kim. Your Behning was built in 1900. I have seen many pianos for sale on Craigslist, eBay, or your local online classifieds (here that’s Pensacola Marketplace). Those are all good places to list your piano. Be sure to note whether delivery is an option, it if the buyer has to move it.
      I wish you well in finding a buyer, and Happy New Year!

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  6. Hi, I just discovered your awesome site ! I own a Behning grand piano …serial number appears to be # 48886… nice mahogany cabinet with a few blemishes. I bought it in 1991 for $500, had it serviced and tuned, and it sounds pretty good. Does your catalog show it as having been built in 1921 ? And also, would it be worth a complete rebuild…refinish…restring…regulate job ? Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello, William, and thank you for making my day with your kind compliment. I can confirm that your Behning was built in 1921, but I know nothing about piano appraisals. However, by your description, and the fact that it still has a good sound, I would definitely keep it in service. Complete rebuilds are not cheap, so I’d consult with a local technician before jumping into that. He can inspect your piano and tell you whether it’s worth the investment.

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  7. Hi, I have a Behning and Son grand cabinet from the early 1900″s. I guess 1908, but I have not been able to verify it. The serial # is 35908. There is also a four digit number stamped on the front panel # 2606. Maybe the model #? It looks to have a veneer coving the wood carvings(molded), a spruce back and a sound plate made by O.S. Kelley Company of Springfield, Ohio. # stamped in the sound Plate 2 12 7. I would appreciate any help you could provide on Dating this piano.

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    1. Hello, Joe. Thank you for your question, and please forgive my delayed response. Covid-19 has produced all kinds of challenges. 🙂
      So, I looked up your serial number, and you are absolutely correct. Your piano was indeed built in 1908. Congratulations on preserving such a fine musical instrument. I hope it continues to give you joy!

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  8. Hi, it’s wonderful to run across your question and answer site. I have a beautiful, rather ornate Behning upright grand that’s been in my family since at least 1913. Can you look up it’s actual age from the serial number? 31574 It’s still in very good condition and sounds great which is amazing given how many times it has been moved. Thank you very much for any answer you might give.
    – Marlys

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    1. Hello, Marlys. I’m so glad you stopped by, and I’m terribly sorry for my delay in responding. Believe it or not, I’ve been busier since the shut-down, mostly because my children came home from college.

      How wonderful that your Behning piano is still in the family! I looked it up and found that your piano was manufactured in 1903. You and your family have obviously taken excellent care of it. I hope it continues to give joy for many more decades to come.

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  9. #36968 is the serial number for my piano. I just purchased this one and it’s in amazing condition. I know nothing about the piano and I would love to know what it’s actually worth and what year it was made. Think you could look up mine?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi there! We just recently were hired to take some items out of a vacant house so the owners could get ready to renovate and sell it. One of the items is an upright Behning & Sons piano with serial number #26533. Wondering if you had any info on this piano? It is an upright piano with two decorative panels on each end and the middle has a clear glass insert so you can see the instrument at work when being played. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Arcelle, and thank you for reaching out. I used to own a cleaning company and cleaned many move-outs. In fact, that’s how I got one of my pianos. But I tell you what, I’m a bit envious of your incredible find. It sounds like a gorgeous piano, and it was in fact built in 1890. I have no idea what its value might be, but it could potentially be significant, if it was cared for and you found the right buyer.

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      1. Thank you, Angela for that information! It is very helpful. We honestly weren’t sure what to expect when it comes to these kinds of older finds. It has been in the same house for many many years…unfortunately it was a rental home that they are now going to be selling so it has seen many different folks over the years. It definitely could use some tlc, but it is still in very solid condition.

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    2. Boy, I would LOVE to see any photos you could share of this piano! I have a 1903 Behning myself that has intricate multicolored wood inlay on the front panel but is otherwise fairly plain. It would be a treat to see an older, more ornate model if you could share. Thanks!!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Brandy. You have one very old piano! Henry Behning started his company in 1861, but the serial numbers began in 1875, and the first one was 15000. I only have one book at my disposal right now, so this is only an assumption, but I believe that Henry Behning began manufacturing pianos in 1875, and I can say with certainty that your piano was made in that year.

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    1. Hey, Gunther. The Behning listing would put that number in 1921, but instructions say to refer to Kohler & Campbell for grands. Under K&C, this number dates your piano to 1905. K&C built pianos under more than 50 names, including Behning.

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    1. I can tell you half of what you want to know: the age of the piano. Assuming it’s an upright piano, it was made in 1875, the first year Behning made uprights. Their grands are numbered differently. If it’s a grand, then I believe it’s from 1901. Either way, you have a very old piano, which is exciting to me. As for its value, there are other variables to consider, such as its condition and the quality of the sound. You might want to reach out to a local piano store to find out if they can help you determine its value. Also, you might want to check out this article by Lindeblad: https://www.lindebladpiano.com/library/behnig-and-sons-pianos#:~:text=In%20today's%20market%2C%20some%20Behning,or%20more%20when%20fully%20restored.

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