Steinway Pianos


Steinway & Sons, New York, London, Hamburg

Steinway PianosSteinway and Sons is probably the most famous and most respected piano maker in the world. Entire books have been written devoted to its history, its legend, and its mystique, and for good reason. Pianos made by Steinway are wonderful to play, to listen to, to tune, and to restore.

The Steinway D is the standard to which all other concert grands are compared and critiqued.

Already having established a name for himself in Brunswick when his pianos captured the attention of musicians and statesmen, Henry E. Steinweg came to the land of opportunity in 1849, only a dozen years before the civil war. Parts of the country were experiencing a great burst of energy, heightened from fallout from the gold rush in California and Nevada. In the southern states, there was an ever growing resentment toward northeastern influences to power in Washington, especially with all the promises broken in decisions to bypass the south in building the first transcontinental railroad to California. Still, New York merchants and craftsmen were receiving orders for goods from all over the country, including an increasing demand for good quality pianos. With a constant stream of immigrants flowing into New York City, the country was showing signs of becoming even more of a major center for world trade than speculators had even imagined. Henry Steinweg turned Steinway would bring his European training and set it to work in what would turn out to be the very best place on earth one could have chosen at that time in history to build a high end piano making business.

Steinway was one of many new European names setting up shop in New York during these years.* In those important decades for both commerce and country, Steinway & Sons established itself as the greatest piano makers in the world, a name that soon eclipsed all but a small few of those hopeful immigrants from England, France Germany, and beyond. The Civil War would make sudden changes to demand, but in the ten or so years leading up to the outbreak of war, Steinweg worked hard, and set the foundation for a tradition in piano making that would soon become second to none. In 1853 Steinweg changed his name and established his piano company, Steinway & Sons. From a small shop in New York, the new company began a limited production schedule, building through the decade a reputation that would survive and outlast even the war's economic repercussions. The new business would build, begin to flourish. Designs would be researched, studied and decisions would be made for future production. By the end of the war, Steinway & Sons would have finally settled into the design adaptations, changes and innovations that would propel Steinway's reputation to the astounding heights that the company maintains to this day.

Today, Steinway continues to produce exceptionally good pianos and the entire chronological range of Steinway pianos holds up to the name. Other pianos are perhaps as well made, but the Steinway name itself holds value. If you own a Steinway piano or are in line to inherit one, planning for the piano's care, repair and restoration is something to be taken very seriously as these pianos can be very valuable. Their finish and interiors will need to be maintained between generations. If you own a Steinway, you will want to make sure that your piano is included in your estate planning. Let the piano's future caretakers know about the need for maintenance, repair, refinishing and restoration.

* To get an idea of how many new piano companies sprang up in New York State during the 19th Century, browse the names of piano manufacturing companies along with founding dates in New York. Notice also, how many piano companies were founded around the time Steinway & Sons was established.

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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