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Mason & Hamlin, New York

Mason & Hamlin PianosEmmons Hamlin is credited with organ reed innovations. He partnered with Henry Mason to form Mason & Hamlin in New York City only a year after Steinway changed his name (from Steinweg to Steinway) and established his own business, Steinway & Sons, in New York. The year is 1854. The two companies would soon capture a sizable portion of the popular and ever growing retail grand piano business spreading out from New York to the most remote western destinations.

But, the first instrument coming from Mason & Hamlin wasn't a grand piano. It wasn't even a piano. It was the "organ harmonium." and it would be this popular organ that would brand the Mason & Hamlin name into the American mainstream. The company quickly developed an excellent reputation for design and quality craftsmanship. In fact, an industry phrase developed over the later years of the 19th century: the American Cabinet Organ, a term that would forever be associated with the Mason & Hamlin name. The company grew with several years of continual, worldwide praise from the public, the technicians, industry designers and critics.

It was almost three decades after Henry Mason and Emmons Hamlin started their organ business that they began piano production. For 25 years they produced organs, all the while intense debate evolved in New York, Chicago, Boston, London, Berlin, Vienna and elsewhere amongst designers and piano makers over the design of the perfect grand piano. By the early 1880s, many of the design conundrums had been solved or resolved, and it is at this point that Mason & Hamlin started producing a line of high quality pianos. Technicians will speculate whether Mason & Hamlin were businessmen who found themselves doing the right thing at the right time since it's true that many Mason & Hamlin grand pianos built during this time of the company's history were exceptional instruments, many of which survive in good working order to this day.

Mason & Hamlin piano making received the same attention to quality materials and craftsmanship that had made Mason & Hamlin famous for their cabinet organs. Many pianos were sold in the United States, with many still in fine working order. We often talk fondly of Mason & Hamlin grand pianos, and can attest to the sturdiness of the pianos and to the logical design of the plate and the interaction of various parts. We have found that Mason & Hamlin grands are usually well worth the effort to repair and restore.

Sources

Sources for this information include Michael Sweeney's 30+ years experience in the piano restoration business as well as the following texts: Piano Roles: A New History of the Piano by James Parakilas;Giraffes, Black Dragons, and Other Pianos: A Technological History from Cristofori to the Modern Concert Grand, Second Edition by Edwin M. Good; Men Women and Pianos, A Social History by Arthur Loesser, and Pierce Piano Atlas by Bob Pierce.

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