Steinway Pianos, Part 2

My Steinway

The serial number in my Steinway upright piano (13175) dates it to 1866. In fact, the metal case found in this piano was patented on June 5th of that very year (according to the engraving on the plate). The patent reads:

Patent 55,385, William Steinway, dated June 5, 1866, Improvement in Piano-Fortes. This patent claims as new “The use in piano-fortes of a metal case cast in one solid piece, consisting of the plate a, braces b, rafters or brace-frame c, and a connecting piece or flange running round on three sides of the case and supporting the regulating apparatus, leaving one side open for the insertion of the sounding-board with its bars and bridges.”

Does this mean that the Steinway piano which has come to me was one of the first upright pianos with a cast iron frame? Wow! It’s certainly one of the heaviest of the 20+ pianos my sons and I have moved!

Another thing I recently learned is that Steinway began building pianos with 88 keys in 1868. I was curious, so I went back to my workshop immediately and counted—sure enough, my piano had only 85 keys, which was common in the 19th Century.

Steinway published their first illustrated catalog in 1865, just one year before my piano was built.

What I Did with It

When I had accumulated twelve pianos, I decided twelve was enough. I had more empty cases than I had room for, and enough action pieces to keep me going for years to come. But then someone approached me, saying, “I have an old Steinway. Someone started a restoration on it, but never finished, and now it’s too far gone. Would you be interested?” Would I be interested? Who can so no to a Steinway? A few days later my son and I showed up with a trailer, and we gladly took that rugged old piano off his hands. Incidentally, this man is now my choir director, and I enjoy keeping him apprized of what’s going on with his contribution.

When he said it was too far gone for restoration, he wasn’t kidding. The finish was very badly damaged and dried out; the veneer was peeling in several places; the action pieces were filthy dirty, and several were dry-rotted and broken; and the name had been removed from the fallboard when someone was preparing it to be stripped and refinished. Immediately I went online to see if I could find a replacement for the fallboard label. Indeed I found it. . .and paid $50 for it. Not long after that, I had cause to praise God for leading me to look for the label on that exact day; for the very next day Steinway revoked all rights to distributors to sell the labels. They didn’t want to the run the risk of people buying the labels and placing them on pianos not built by Steinway. I get that.

The label I purchased is still carefully preserved in the packaging, as I’ve still not gotten around to refinishing the fallboard. But when I do, it will become a wall-mounted shelf, and will be available for sale.

The keys were in pretty good shape. The wooden parts were original to the piano, but the ivory had all been replaced at some point. I have long since removed the action and keys and used them to make gifts for many of my customers. A few finished art pieces remain available for sale, and I still have some raw piano pieces waiting to be turned into their own forms of art.

Also, I’ve reserved the case, with the intention of turning it into a desk. Because of the engraving and the beautiful craftsmanship of the iron plate, I’ve left it inside the piano. The strings remain intact as well. The case is rather heavy, even without the moveable working parts, but it will receive a new set of casters, which will enable it to roll easily without marking the floor. In fact, I’ve borrowed a piano tilt from the same man who gave me the Steinway, to use in easily laying the piano down to do the repair underneath, then pick it up again. When I’m ready to begin the build, I’ll let you know, so that those of you who are interested may follow the process. But first, I want to practice on a lesser known model, since piano restoration and furniture building are new to me.

Other Events in 1866

My study of the history of the Steinway company piqued my curiosity about other events. Particularly, I wanted to know what was going on in the United States and in the world during the year when my Steinway was built. Here are some of the things I discovered:

In the United States

  • March 13 — The United States Congress (Republican majority) overwhelmingly passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866, initiating protection of the rights of African-Americans; President Andrew Johnson (D) vetoed the bill on March 27, and Congress overrode his veto on April 9.
  • April 10 — The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was founded in New York City by Henry Bergh.
  • May 16 — The U.S. Congress approved the minting of the nickel as a five-cent coin, and subsequently discontinuing the half-dime.
  • July 24 — Tennessee became the first U.S. State to be readmitted to the Union following the American Civil War.
  • July 25 — Ulysses S. Grant became the first man to hold the rank of General of the Army (now called five-star general).
  • Also in 1866, the Minneapolis Milling Company (now known as General Mills) built its own mills. The history of General Mills is a compelling read.

In the World

  • May 10 — A London bank collapsed, precipitating The Panic of 1866.
  • June 14 — Austria and certain German states declared war on Prussia.
  • June 20 — Italy declared war on Austria.
  • August 23 — The Treaty of Prague ended the Austro-Prussian War.
  • October 12 — The Treaty of Vienna ended the war between Austria and Italy; Venetia was annexed by Italy.
  • Also in 1866, Alfred Nobel invented dynamite in Germany. (With regret for creating an instrument of destruction, he later established the Nobel Peace Prize.)
  • Sweden initiated a series of progressive reforms for women’s rights with recommendations from the Girls’ School Committee of 1866.

In the World

  • May 10 — A London bank collapsed, precipitating The Panic of 1866.
  • June 14 — Austria and certain German states declared war on Prussia.
  • June 20 — Italy declared war on Austria.
  • August 23 — The Treaty of Prague ended the Austro-Prussian War.
  • October 12 — The Treaty of Vienna ended the war between Austria and Italy; Venetia was annexed by Italy.
  • Also in 1866, Alfred Nobel invented dynamite in Germany. (With regret for creating an instrument of destruction, he later established the Nobel Peace Prize.)
  • Sweden initiated a series of progressive reforms for women’s rights with recommendations from the Girls’ School Committee of 1866.

In Music

  • March–December — Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote his Symphony No. 1, “Winter Daydreams.”
  • May 30 — Bedrich Smetana’s opera The Bartered Bride debuted at the Provisional Theatre in Prague.
  • November 3 — German composer Paul Lincke was born. He is considered the father of the Berlin operetta.
  • Also in 1866, Theodore Thomas conducted the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in the American premiere performance of the Prelude to Act 1 of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.
  • The first Steinway Hall opened in New York, with a seating capacity of 2000 in the main auditorium.

Bibliography

americanhistory.si.edu

steinway.co.uk

pianobuyer.com

steinway.com

steinwaypianos.com

Steinway Pianos, Part 1

“Today’s Steinway: We still make them like we used to… only better.” So states their official U.S. website. Steinway & Sons has been crafting superior pianos since 1853.

The Founder

Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg was born February 15, 1797, in Wolfshagen, Germany. He served in the German Army from 1812 to 1822, then left the service and began work as a carpenter. While apprenticed to an organ maker, he discovered his love for music. He began making instruments of his own—first guitars and zithers, then gradually escalating to building pianos. In 1836, in the town of Seesen, Germany, he built his first grand piano in his kitchen, and gave it to his bride, Juliane, as a wedding gift. That same year Steinweg moved out of the kitchen and into a shop, where he built nearly 500 more pianos over the next decade—an average of one piano per week. Juliane bore him nine children, and when the family immigrated to the United States in 1850, two of his sons, C. F. Theodor and Wilhelm, remained in Germany to keep the piano shop in operation.

Soon after arriving in the U. S., the Steinweg family americanized their name to Steinway. At first Henry and his sons worked for other companies in the piano business, then on March 5, 1853, they opened Steinway & Sons.

In 1865, tragedy struck the Steinway family when two of the sons, Charles and Henry Jr., as well as the factory foreman Theodore Vogel, all died. In the same year, Albert enlisted in the Union Army (Civil War). With the loss of so much leadership in so short a time, C. F. Theodor sold his share of the German-based company and moved to New York to help keep his father’s company going. Henry Steinway, Sr., died February 7, 1871, just shy of his 74th birthday.

A few of the earliest pianos Henry made in Germany are still in existence. His first piano, nick-named “The Kitchen Piano,” still exists in its original condition. Depending on the source, you may read that it’s on display at the Musical Instrument Museum of Scottsdale, Arizona, at the Steinway & Sons factory in NY, or at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. I don’t think they’re inaccurate. Rather, I’m inclined to believe that the piano has been moved from time to time, and that it has indeed been at all these locations. Although I’m not sure of the date of publication for the various articles I read, I think perhaps today it is at Steinway & Sons. There is a Steinway piano located at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. Built in 1868, this one is called the “Plain Grand Style 2,” although when you look at the photo, you’ll see that there’s nothing plain about this model! This was Steinway’s first piano built with 88 keys, and incidentally, the natural keys are black and the sharps are white. It is the prototype for the Steinway Grand Model D.

Early Growth and Continued Production

In just one year Steinway & Sons outgrew their first building and moved to 82 Walker Street. In 1860, just six years later, they constructed what is still today the world’s largest piano factory between 52nd and 53rd Streets, on what is now Park Avenue.

In the late nineteenth century, it was common for piano manufacturers to open their own concert hall in order to showcase the unique voice of their instruments. The first Steinway Hall opened in New York in 1866, with a seating capacity of 2,500, and was the premiere concert hall until the opening of Carnegie Hall in 1891. Another Steinway Hall opened in London, England, in 1875; and in 1880, Steinway & Sons returned to their roots when they expanded the business to Hamburg, Germany. This plant was operated by Henry’s fourth son, William (Wilhelm). A second Steinway Hall in NY was built in 1925, when the first one was closed and the showroom relocated to West 57th Street.

Following the death of the founder in 1871, Steinway & Sons remained under family ownership for another 99 years. Henry Z. Steinway, great-grandson of the founder, was the last family member to participate in the making of Steinway pianos. Until his death in 2008 at the age of 93, he signed every custom-made limited edition piano.

The end of the family ownership was marked by a merger with CBS, Inc., in 1972, although Henry Z. remained president. Then in 1985, a group of Boston businessmen purchased the company and formed Steinway Musical Properties, Inc. This corporation merged with the Selmer Company in 1995, but both companies continued to operate independent of one another until Steinway Musical Properties, Inc. was taken public. John Paulson, of Paulson & Company, bought Steinway and privatized it again in 2013. The new showroom and music hall opened in 2015, at 1133 Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue), and the manufacturing plant remains in operation at #1 Steinway Place, Long Island City, NY.

Key to Success

The reason Steinway & Sons has stayed at the top echelon in the piano manufacturing industry is because they continually look for ways to improve the process. I recently took a virtual tour of the Steinway grand production house and was impressed by the number of times that the tour guide said that such-and-such a process only came into use a few years ago, or maybe a decade ago. This tells me that although they already produce one of the finest quality pianos, they never tire of looking for ways to improve. From forming the body of the piano, to outfitting its interior, to applying the finish, to fine-tuning the sound, to packaging the completed piano for shipment, the manufacturing of every individual piano is performed by a symbiosis of man and machine. The few steps done by machine ensure uniformity and precision in the workmanship, while the many steps done by the skilled hands of artisans provide each instrument with its own unique voice while still maintaining that characteristic Steinway look, feel, and sound.

Steinway Contributions to the Industry

Steinway & Sons is responsible for bringing to the industry many qualities and construction techniques that we now think of as standard:

  1. Overstrung grand piano (1859). This means they crossed the bass strings over the treble strings, the way we see them in pianos today. This allowed for longer strings, thus providing a deeper, richer tone.
  2. Iron plate (1866). We’re all familiar with that heavy plate inside the piano. (Some people call it a harp, or mistake it for the soundboard.) The iron plate replaced the wooden one and is able to hold significantly more tension and will not warp over time, as the old wooden plates did.
  3. Accelerated Action (1931). This improved the reaction time of the action pieces when the pianist struck the keys. Steinway pianos have a characteristic double action, which gives them a faster response time than any other piano in existence.
  4. Diaphragmatic soundboard (1936). Since the soundboard is constructed of many thin sheets of spruce, approximately 6 inches wide, glued side-to-side and cut on the diagonal, the addition of ribs on the back of the soundboard give it better durability and stability while still allowing it to vibrate freely with the sound.
  5. Hexagrip pin block (1963). The pinblock is located at the top of the soundboard and houses the tuning pins (220 of them on average) for the strings of the piano. Steinway strengthened the pin block by laminating seven layers of hardwood maple in a staggered grain formation. This innovation improves the overall quality of the sound and allows the piano to hold its tune longer.

The Making of a Steinway

There are more than 12,000 individual parts to a piano, more than half of which are in the action. (Based upon my experience in taking pianos apart, I estimate this number to be representative of all pianos, and not exclusive to the Steinway.) I recently took a virtual tour of the Steinway factory in NY, and I’ll have to say that as one who disassembles pianos, I was fascinated by the reverse process. It gave me a greater appreciation for some of the pieces for which I haven’t yet found a use, such as the bridge and its hitch pins. But, believe me, I will—especially after watching the fine craftsmanship that went into making them. Too much time and effort went into the construction of the various components of these (and other) pianos for me to simply throw away any part of them.

I now invite you to take the same virtual factory tour. This 42-minute tour will walk you through the entire process of the making of a modern-day Steinway grand piano. It truly is an amazing work of art!

Bibliography

Ashley, Larry E. pub. Pierce Piano Atlas. 70th Anniversary Edition. Larry E. Ashley Publishing: Albuquerque, NM, 2017.

americanhistory.si.edu/

britannica.com

steinway.co.uk

steinway.com

steinwaypianos.com

metmuseum.org

Photo courtesy of Luxurious Magazine

Sacrificial Freedom

I will freely sacrifice unto Thee: I will praise Thy name, O Lord, for it is good.

Psalm 54:6

On this Independence Day, I wish to spend a few minutes reflecting upon what true freedom looks like. To some, freedom means being able to do what you please, go where you want, and say what’s on your mind. And while our Constitution does grant us those rights (so long as the expression of our rights does not infringe upon those of others), true freedom is much more basic than that.

Slavery was not forbidden in the Bible: rather, it was considered a fact of life. Masters were instructed to be kind to their slaves (Eph. 6:9; Col. 4:1), and slaves likewise were admonished to honor and obey their masters (Tit. 2:9; 1 Pet. 2:18). Many slaves were better off in such a condition than they would be on their own. They had a roof over their heads, food to eat, job security, and more. In fact, when the debt was paid, they could choose to become a servant for life (bondslave), and many did, for the love they had for their masters.

Philemon was a slave owner. Paul wrote a letter to him and sent it by the hand of Onesimus, a runaway slave. Onesimus had thought he could get lost in the crowd in Rome, but instead the Lord led him to the doorstep of Paul, who was then a prisoner in that city. Paul led Onesimus to the Lord, discipled him in the teachings of Christ, then sent him back to his master Philemon to right the wrong he had done and suffer whatever punishment he might face. Granted, in the letter, Paul took upon himself Onesimus’s guilt and debt, urging Philemon to accept his slave back as a brother.

The Bible is replete with object lessons that teach us various aspects of our relationship with God. Just as marriage pictures the relationship between Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:31-32), so slavery illustrates the relationship between man and God (Col. 4:1; Eph. 6:5). God created us and sustains our lives. As our Creator, He owns us. We belong to Him. But all of us at one point or another have run away from Him (Isa. 53:6). Yet He in love drew us back to Himself (Isa. 43:1). It is His love for us that motivates us to love and serve Him. I take you back to the verse with which we began:

I will freely sacrifice unto Thee: I will praise Thy name, O Lord, for it is good.

Psalm 54:6

True freedom is not those expressions protected by the Constitution. True freedom comes from God. In Him, you can be free—in your home, on the street, in prison, in a job you hate, in a job you love, whether you are the boss or the employee, whether a student or a graduate, single or married.

If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.

John 8:36

Happy Independence Day to one and all, whether or not you live in the United States of America! Are you free from the power of sin? If you are not yet free in Christ, regardless of your status in society, I pray that today will become your Independence Day.

Image by Simple-aign from Pixabay

The Hidden Parts

A few days ago I disassembled yet another piano action. More than 300 screws had to come out in order to release the more than 1,000 individual parts. The tedium of the task gives my mind a chance to focus on other things, usually whatever music I happen to be listening to at the time.

But this time I got to thinking about how all these parts usually stay hidden inside the piano. A pianist will see them if motivated by curiosity to open the cabinet and look inside. But more often, the musician will simply sit down and play. The outward and most obvious parts—the keys, pedals, cabinet, and even the bench—are important in making music. But no less so are the hidden parts—the hundreds of internal pieces that work together in one fluid motion to produce sound.

I have both outside and inside parts too. I tend to spend a lot of time with the outward parts—showering, dressing, primping, etc. These things are necessary, and the folks nearest to me thank me for tending to such details!

But what about the inside? those hidden parts? Do I give proper care to my heart, lungs, brain, digestive system, muscles, joints, and so forth? It’s important to get proper nutrition, exercise, and rest so that my body can function as intended.

And how about my mind? Do I fill it with things that make me a better person? or with things that will not matter even tomorrow, much less in a hundred years? It is my thoughts that guide my actions, and therefore I must pay close attention to what shapes those thoughts.

Now comes the most important hidden part of all—my soul. This is the real me. It’s the part of me that others come to know and love (or not). It’s the part of me that will live forever. The Bible says,

Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part You shall make me to know wisdom.

Psalm 51:6

There are those today who would have you believe that truth is what you make it. My friend, this is a lie! Truth is not relative; it is not subjective. If that were so, then I could easily lose unwanted pounds by simply deciding that gravity doesn’t apply to me.

God wants me to embrace His truth. How can I do this? By embracing His Word.

Sanctify them through Your truth: Your Word is truth.

John 17:17

My soul is rotten to the core. I am a sinner: I was born that way. You were too. But God offered you and me new life through the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ. I accepted that offer. He forgave all my sin, and now He sees me as clean and wearing Christ’s spotless robe of righteousness. He teaches me to grow in grace daily, and to increase in wisdom.

My body is growing old and will eventually break or wear out, and then be laid to rest. But my soul will live forever somewhere. The eternal destiny of my soul is settled. What about yours? Have you even given it any thought?

Coming Soon: Angela’s Piano Barn

The past few months have been busy, busy, busy! Can I get an amen? In that regard, my story is no different from yours, I know.

Here in my studio some exciting changes are taking place! In short, I’m getting a brand new workshop/studio right in our back yard. Here I’ll be able to consolidate the tools and materials currently located in several rooms in the house, in the garage, and in a rented storage unit. The transition is coming along more slowly than we had anticipated, but it’s coming.

We bought the shed pictured above from Graceland Portable Buildings, and it was delivered in early November on a day of drizzle by the ever-so-skillful Kelsey Cunningham. We had to take down the fence between our yard and the neighbors’ yard, remove two trees, and move a 500-lb propane tank out the way. Even at that, Kelsey had less than two inches to spare between the corner of our house and the corner of our neighbors’ shed, but he got it in with no damage to any of the structures. My hat’s off to him! He’s good! Not only that, but he used his tow dolly to help us put the propane tank back in place. Some friendly neighbors had come over to help move it out of the way at the beginning of the day.

Graceland Portable Buildings has locations nationwide, but Kelsey only works locally. I highly recommend both for your storage needs. And no, I’m not being paid to tell you this. I’m just a very happy customer.

My husband Patrick and I immediately began to convert the shed to a workshop/studio, and the children have pitched in here and there as well. My sons helped me pick up a set of kitchen cabinets that were donated for the cause, and Matthew also worked with his dad and me to hang the drywall. Pat ran the wiring for the lights and outlets, and he did such a good job that the inspector asked if the shed had come prewired. I painted, speckled, and sealed the floor.

The shed sat untouched for a few weeks while all of us were busy with work, but recently Pat and I went back out there to make more progress. We finished hanging the drywall, hung all the trim, and then mudded the drywall. We had some bits of leftover shiplap from another project, and I was able to put it to use in the workshop. I measured and cut the pieces to fit the portion of wall just inside the door, and Pat hung it. Most of the wall is now sanded and ready for paint, but we still need to caulk. Also, I’ve removed the doors from the cabinets, cleaned them, and prepared them for primer and paint. With Pat’s approval, I moved some piano pieces into the workshop, even though it isn’t finished yet, because frankly we were all ready to have a little more breathing room in both the house and the garage. Granted, now we have to be patient as we continually move things here and there to get them out of the way of progress.

♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬

Thank you for joining me on this tour of the studio. I look forward to seeing you on the next one, in the new year, from my new studio. And, yes, there will be an update—with more pictures—when the workshop/studio is completed. Until next time, may you have a Hopeful and Happy New Year!

We’re Going to the Fair!

This year has been one wild ride. Can I get an amen? Businesses were shut down and then reopened at a fraction of their capacity. People began hiding their faces behind masks. All the spring craft fairs were canceled or postponed until fall.

Summer came and matters grew worse. Notices began to pour in announcing the cancelation of even the fall and winter craft fairs. At first it was just the indoor events that were nixed. But when they even canceled the outdoor events, my heart sank.

Sure, I got my money back, but that’s not what I wanted. No one can stay in business by simply receiving back their investment. You have to multiply your investment in order to grow. And as artists who depend primarily upon in-person sales, multiplication cannot happen without giving us the opportunity to greet our potential customers and show them what we’ve made.

What I really don’t understand is how it’s okay to shop at Walmart, but it’s not okay to attend an outdoor event where the vendors are spread well apart.

And while I’m on the subject, how is it okay to stand in line to enter a store, then to share aisles with other shoppers, then to stand in the checkout line, but it’s not okay to stand in line at the polls? This is a double standard, people. The stores dedicated the early hours for at-risk people to do their shopping. Why not do the same thing at the polls?

Enough of my rant.

But I ranted so that you can imagine my utter joy at discovering that a craft fair I was interested in was NOT CANCELED! Hallelujah! I had not actually signed up for this one because it’s out of state, and I don’t yet know how to handle the collection of Alabama sales tax. But you know what? I’m going to learn, because I’m going to be there!

For weeks I’ve been searching for the business card of the woman who invited me to the fall festival so that I could find out if it was still a go. No luck. Then yesterday morning I decided to do an Internet search for the event, and I found it! Then something led me to click on the event in my calendar. (Yes, I put it in my calendar months ago.) And believe it or not, right there in my calendar was the contact info I’d been looking for all along. I called Sherry to let her know of my interest, and she said, “I’m so glad you called. I’ve been looking for your business card for weeks!” LOL. We’re two peas in a pod.

So, in a few short days I’ll be packing my display racks, tent, tables, and wares into my pickup truck and heading to Luverne, Alabama, to their 5th Annual Fall Festival. Will you be there? If you live close enough, do come out. Wear your mask and keep your distance, but COME. You’ll be glad you did. As you can see by the notice, there’s lots to do for everyone at the Fall Festival:

  • Live music by Chris Eiland
  • Crenshaw Kool Ridz Car Show
  • Local Artists
  • LHS Art Show
  • Flyin’ Pigs Petting Zoo
  • Activities for Kids
  • Food Vendors
  • Community Awareness Programs
  • Door prizes every 30 minutes

See you there. . .and I’ll see you at the polls!

Getting Ready for the 2019 Fall Tour

What does “taking a break” mean to you? Normally, when those words are uttered, it means that we are stepping away from our work in order to relax a while.

Well, that is not exactly what the words mean in the context of this post. I began this page just a few months ago to help present my art to the world. However, I have not been able to find sufficient time for writing the articles—and not for a lack of time management. I simply have a tendency to spread myself too thin. And what do you know, I’ve done it again. I may write a little over the next few months, or at least share a word from someone else, but most likely I’ll be fairly silent from now until January. It’s not because I don’t want to be here, but because I’m only one person, and duty calls.

Working Hard

This summer I’ve been working hard on building up my depleted inventory of piano art and home décor items. It’s important that I work hard just now, because next month begins the fall craft fair season, and I have committed to 9, maybe 10 shows between September 6th and December 7th. I’ll go ahead and list them all here, and if you happen to be in the area, I look forward to meeting you in person at the event.

September ~ Florida

Fall Street Fest (weather permitting)

34 Miracle Strip Parkway, Fort Walton Beach, FL
Friday, September 6, 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Farmer’s Market (tentative)

34 Miracle Strip Parkway, Fort Walton Beach, FL
Saturday, September 14, 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Pensacola Seafood Festival

Seville Quarter, Downtown Pensacola, FL
Friday, September 27, 11:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Saturday, September 28, 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Sunday, September 29, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Fall Street Fest

34 Miracle Strip Parkway, Fort Walton Beach, FL
Friday, October 4, 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

October ~ Florida and Virginia

Suffolk Peanut Fest

Suffolk Executive Airport, 1410 Airport Rd., Suffolk, VA
Thursday, October 10, 2:00 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.
Friday, October 11, 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 12, 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Sunday, October 13, 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. — Military Appreciation Day

Tidewater Baptist Craft Fair

501 Providence Rd., Chesapeake, VA
Saturday, October 19, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

November ~ Florida

St. Simon’s on the Sound Arts & Crafts Fair

28 Miracle Strip Parkway, Fort Walton Beach, FL
Friday, November 1, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 2, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Pine Forest UMC Arts & Crafts Festival

2800 Wilde Lake Blvd., Pensacola, FL
Saturday, November 9, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Holiday Craft Show

Destin Community Center, 101 Stahlman Ave., Destin, FL
Friday, November 18, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 19, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

December ~ Florida

St. Mary’s Winterfest

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Milton, FL
Friday, December 6, 12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, December 7, 9:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

 

Acrosonic by Baldwin

Curbside Piano (01)

Do not disregard the Acrosonic piano as one of inferior quality, or a knock-off brand. According to Living Pianos, “Acrosonic is the biggest selling brand name in the piano industry of all time.” The name Acrosonic, coined from the Greek words akros (“supreme”) and sonus (“tone”), was trademarked and used by Baldwin specifically for their spinet and console pianos. Spinets and consoles are the shortest of the upright pianos, with the spinets measuring just 36-40 inches tall, and the consoles standing at 40-43 inches. This compact design was made possible by placing the action under the keys. Many people esteem the Acrosonic as the finest spinet piano ever built.

Spinet and console pianos are quite useful in small rooms, where an instrument is desired, but space is at a premium. The Acrosonic pianos by Baldwin were both compact and elegant, being offered in a variety of different cabinet styles and finishes, from Louis XV to Danish mid-century modern. They also were, and still remain quite affordable, being valued at between $1000–$3000, depending on their condition; and there are several currently available on eBay, with prices ranging from $0.99 to $3,800. I even found one within 200 miles from home, so that I could spare the shipping charges and go pick it up. The price was right, and the piano was very lovely. It was tempting. But it still works, so I could not justify purchasing it to take it apart and make art from it, and I already have a piano in my home to play. So I resisted the temptation and left it to go to another home.

D. H. Baldwin

Dwight Hamilton Baldwin was a respected music teacher and church musician in Cincinnati in 1857. Over the next eight years, he transitioned out of teaching and into a position as a purchasing agent for Chickering & Sons with his own company, Baldwin Piano Company. He had a stock of pianos, but lost all but one in a fire in 1866. By 1871, he had moved his firm to 142 W. 4th Street in Cincinnati, and he remained there until 1955.

With the help of Baldwin’s shrewd bookkeeper, Lucien Wulsin, Baldwin became the largest piano and organ dealer in the western states, eventually opening additional stores in Louisville, Kentucky, and Indianapolis, Indiana. For several years, his primary focus was retail, dealing with the resale of Chickering and Steinway pianos. But in 1887, when Steinway decided not to renew their contract with Baldwin, he shifted his focus to the production of his own line of pianos. While he did make pianos with the name Baldwin on them, he produced instruments under other names as well, often to honor people whom he knew. For instance, he built reed organs under the names Hamilton and Monarch; he also built upright pianos under the names of Ellington, Valley Gem, Howard, and of course, Acrosonic, among others.

Because of the superior quality of his pianos, Baldwin enjoyed the sponsorship of several celebrities, including Liberace and The Lawrence Welk Show, who used Baldwin pianos exclusively. Baldwin’s success lasted into the 1990’s. During that decade the company was sold to Gibson Guitar Company; and thanks to Gibson, Baldwin pianos are still being produced.

My Acrosonic

The Acrosonic that came to me came because I do taxes. One of my tax clients saw it on the curb in their neighborhood and sent me a text with the address. I drove over there and took all the parts that I could remove—which was most of them—then left the heaviest pieces for the sanitation engineers to collect. So I didn’t keep the entire piano out of the landfill this time, but there wasn’t much waste. Since it was sitting on the street, it was easy for me to lay the piano down to remove the pedals and other pieces underneath, then stand it back up again, a testimony to the lightweight nature of this model, that I could do all that by myself.

By tracing the serial number, 512480, I found the piano to have been built in 1954. On the cast iron plate, below the serial number, is a stamp that reads in part: “Patented Full Blow Acrosonic Action Built Exclusively by Baldwin.” The words “Built by Baldwin” are also imprinted in the iron plate, and they appear on the fallboard as well. The keys were not genuine ivory, as the use of ivory had been discontinued by the 1950’s, but they were in very good condition. The cabinet, however, could have been cared for a little better. There was a ring from where someone had set down a cold beverage glass, and several scratches and nicks in the finish. Overall, however, I was thrilled to come across this piano, and even happier that everything I took off of it (barely) fit inside my Nissan Maxima.

Today I would like to offer you a special treat: a video demonstration of what an Acrosonic sounds like. It really does have a nice sound, as I think you will agree.

Not only am I impressed with the sound of this tiny instrument, but I’m impressed with how similar in style this particular model looks to my piano. The color is different, but that is just a matter of a paint job. The dealer pointed out the purpose of the style was to mimic the square grand. When he said that, I looked at it again and thought, “He’s right.” It does resemble a square grand, though understated. It’s just one more example of how great things can come in small packages.


Bibliography

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

antiquepianoshop.com

bluebookofpianos.com

ebay.com

livingpianos.com

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


 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Pull Up a Seat

This week’s challenge is “Pull Up a Seat, Week 14” hosted by XingfuMama. I just “happen” to have a few photos of people—and a fur baby—seated at the piano. What a coincidence! 🙂

These two handsome prodigies are soon to be 21 and 22 years old. And yes, they are none other than my piano movers, whom you’ve seen featured in other stories.

two young boys sitting at the piano

The cat looks like I feel sometimes: “That’s too hard. I think I’ll go sip a cup of tea and enjoy a good book instead.”

Cat at Piano

In this third photo is yours truly, back when I had the privilege of playing the piano at a nursing home in Virginia.

06 Chesapeake Place

Thanks again to Cee Neuner for her amazing directory, “For the Love of Challenges.” For the record, Cee’s directory lists not only photo challenges, but also writing and music challenges as well, and they are grouped by category. It’s very well organized.