| 800 || || Around this time in Rome, music notation started to be developed. At first it was crude, no more than a simple curve to indicate that the pitch should rise or fall. Then around 1160 in Paris the familiar five lines of the staff can be seen with the music notation, giving a clearer sense of pitch. Around 1400 in England the system of notation began to resemble our modern form, with open and closed notes. The colour red was used by some composers to indicate metric alterations, the use of such "colouration," as it was known, later giving way to other devices. |
| 1157 || || Around the middle of the twelfth century we find the keyed monochord, which was developed further, several strings being added, until eventually we recognize the clavichord. A tangent was fitted to the back of each key, which when raised contacted the single string, and facilitated simultaneous notes. The tangent acted as a bridge determining the speaking length of the string. A mute was fitted to the non-speaking length, so when the key was released the note stopped singing. |
| 1350 || || Towards the middle of the fourteenth century German wire smiths began drawing wire through steel plates, and this method continued until the beginning of the nineteenth century. Iron, gold, silver, brass, gut, horsehair and recently nylon have been used for strings on many different instruments. The earliest use of steel wire occurred in 1735 in Wales, but is not thought to have been used for the stringing of instruments. The Broadwood piano company stated that they were using steel wire in 1815 from Germany and Britain, but this has not been confirmed. According to the Oxford Companion, it was in 1819 that Brockedon began drawing steel wire through holes in diamonds and rubies. Before 1834 wire for instruments was made either from iron or brass, until Webster of Birmingham introduced steel wire. The firm seems to have been called Webster and Horsfall, but later the best wire is said to have come from Nuremberg and later still from Berlin. Wire has been plated in gold, silver, and platinum to stop rusting and plated wire can still be bought, but polished wire is best. In 1862 Broadwood claimed that a Broadwood grand would take a strain of about 17 tons, with the steel strings taking 150 pounds each. There had been many makers, but it was not until 1883 that the now-famous wire-making firm of Roslau began in West Germany. According to Wolfenden, by 1893 one firm claimed their wire had a breaking strain for gauge 13 of 325 pounds. The same maker gives some earlier dates for the breaking strain of gauge 13: 1867 - 226 pounds; 1873 - 232 pounds; 1876 - 265 pounds; and 1884 - 275 pounds.
Wolfenden said:"These samples were, of course, specially drawn for competition and commercial wire of this gauge cannot even now be trusted to reach above 260 pounds.
Since about 1450 keyboards have virtually remained the same, except for a little variation in the colour of the keys, as the older ones had the reverse of the present-day key colouring. The organ was the first keyboard instrument and the weight of the keys has varied greatly since the earliest examples, whose keys were so heavy that the players were called "Organ Beaters." Around the thirteenth or fourteenth century, keyboards were laid out according to the natural modes which were the basis of the musical system. The interval of the augmented fourth, B to F, was considered discordant, so B was lowered by adding an extra short key, which procedure then led to five accidentals, B flat being followed by F sharp, E flat, C sharp, and G sharp.
Today's arrangement was found as long ago as 1361, as demonstrated by paintings of the time. The first member of the harpsichord family was the virginal or virginals. The strings on this instrument are plucked by plectra and the shape is similar to that of the clavichord. The spinet followed the clavichord and then came the more elaborate harpsichord.
Tuning often followed the meantone system where major thirds were tuned precisely and other intervals tempered. This created some very wild intervals and the howling sound resulted in them being called "wolves" or the "wolf interval." If a series of fifths is tuned from the bottom A upwards, when the top A is reached it will be a quarter of a semitone sharp if all are tuned in pure intervals, and this is called the Pythagorean comma.
The spinet could have received its name from a possible Italian inventor, Giovanni Spinette, or from the connection with spine thorns, which were used for plucking the strings. |
| 1400 || || By approximately 1400 the clavichord had about ten strings and in earlier examples two notes or more were produced from that string or pair of strings by making two or more tangents contact the same string or pair of strings at different points. This type is termed fretted, or in German Gebunden. A later type, in which each note has its own string, or strings, is called a "Bundfrei" clavichord. The clavichord is the simplest and usually the smallest of string keyboard instruments. It is rather like an oblong box with the keyboard running nearly the length of one long side and with the horizontally placed strings almost parallel to that side. The small wrest pins and bridge are at the right-hand side and the strings are permanently damped at their left-hand ends by a strip of felt or cloth. The strings are struck from below by small pieces of metal shaped like a screwdriver blade, which are fixed to the backs of the key frame as tangents.
For more information on the history of the keyboard compass. |
| 1420 || || The earliest mention of a harp made in England appears in the state account books of 1420. "By the hand of William Menken was paid u8.13s.4d for two harps for Henry V and Queen Catherine." Henry V reigned from 1413 to 1422. Harpsichords with one manual and a two-foot register were slightly more triangular in shape than a modern grand piano. The strings were normally arranged like those on a straight-strung grand piano. Plucking was done by crow quills soaked in olive oil to harden them, though sometimes leather was used, also to provide contrast in tone. In modern harpsichords nylon is now the preferred material. When a key is depressed, the back end lifts a small piece of wood or nylon called the jack, five to eight inches long, with a gong fitted at its top carrying the plectra which plucks the string as it passes. On release of the key, the plectra bypasses the string by means of a spring originally of hog's gristle. The damper is fitted to the plectra, sometimes looking like a flag. By removing the jack stop rail, the jack can be removed also. The rail prevents too much movement of the jacks. A screw at the bottom end of the jack regulates its height. If plucking does not occur when hand stops are preventing it, an adjustment can then be made with a small screw at the top or in the side near the top of the jack. In the case of a two-foot register one or both registers can be engaged. Whalebone, shell, and wood have been used as materials for plectra. The harpsichord seems to have originated in Italy. Four octaves was the normal range and various notes below this were introduced on other keys whose notes were used less. For example, the lower E played C below, F played F, F sharp B flat, and the rest were naturals, suitable as keynotes. Divided keys on the first two keys were also found on English harpsichords with the back of the note for the correct note and the front for another note. |
| 1598 || || Paladino describes an instrument he has made in letters to the Duke of Modena, calling it "Pian e Forte." Although this instrument was capable of soft and loud, it is not clear if it is a type of harpsichord fitted with a device or a true hammered piano. |
| 1682 || || On July 14, 1682, Henry Purcell was appointed organist of the Chapel Royal, London. Purcell is famous for more than a hundred baroque compositions, including the miniature opera "Dido and Aeneas," and his musical version of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, called "The Fairy Queen." As the spinet was more popular in the UK than the virginal at this time, mainly because of its larger compass and more powerful tone, Purcell would have used one to compose some of his music. |
| 1709 || || The year 1709 is the one most sources give for the appearance of an instrument which can truly be called a "Pianoforte." The writer Scipione Maffei wrote an article that year about the pianoforte created by Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1732), who had probably produced four "gravicembali col piano e forte" or harpsichords with soft and loud. This instrument featured the first real escapement mechanism and is often called a "hammer harpsichord." The small hammers were leather covered. It had bichords throughout, and all the dampers were wedge-shaped. By 1726 he seems to have fitted a stop for the action to make the hammers strike only one of two strings. He had produced about twenty pianos by this time and then he is presumed to have gone back to making harpsichords, probably from the lack of interest in his pianos. Three of his pianos remain extant today: one with four octaves, dated 1720, is in New York; one with four and a half octaves, from 1726, is in Leipzig, Germany; and there is one in Rome from 1722. There are approximately ten plucked instruments surviving today with the name Cristofori on them. |
| 1711 || || John Shaw was the inventor of the tuning fork. He became a royal trumpeter in 1688 and rose to sergeant trumpeter in 1708. He was also lutenist to the Chapel Royal, appointed in 1706. A lute is a guitar-like instrument with a long neck and a pear-shaped body, much used in the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries. The instrument is notoriously difficult to keep in tune, and Shaw devised the tuning fork to help him tune his lute. He died in 1752. |
| 1725 || || Johann Ulrich von Kunig, the court poet at Dresden, published a translation of Maffei's article on Cristofori's piano, and within a year the clavichord maker Gottfried Silberman (1683-1753) made two such pianos. Here again however, the piano was not received with great enthusiasm. Bach, a close friend of Silberman, did not like his pianos at first, but his opinion changed later. Christian Ernst Friederici, a pupil of Silberman, continued with experiments on the piano and made a small square piano, which was a success; he named his piano a "Fortbien". Later on Friederici began producing "pyramid" pianos, which were grand-shaped pianos set vertically, with the treble curve side up and the wrest pins at the bottom, not to be confused with the upright piano.
Not until after the end of the Seven Years' War in Germany in 1760 did the piano become really popular. This was because twelve instrument makers came to England, the "twelve apostles," as they became known. Johann Christoph Zumpe was one of them, known for his simple but extremely successful "square" pianos for which his name became virtually a synonym in the second half of the eighteenth century. It is not known exactly when. Buntebart, who was also a pupil of Silberman, came to England, and he worked at first with Shudi the famous maker of harpsichords. |
| 1730 || || The firm of Kirkman piano makers was founded in 1730, according to the Pierce Piano Atlas. However, Kirkman inherited the business from Tabel's wife, whom he married one month after Tabel's death. Tabel was a harpsichord maker who trained with Ruckers. He came to London in 1680 and set up making harpsichords. Abraham Kirkman, who was born in 1710 in Bischweiler near Strasbourg, came to work for Tabel. In 1742 he moved to Great Pulteney Street. These are some later dates and locations for him:
(1817) (Grand Pianoforte Maker to Her Majesty and H.R.H. The Prince Regent)
(1818-1832) (Grand Pianoforte Maker to His Majesty) 19 Broad Street, Golden Square
(1822-1896) Kirkman, Joseph (Junior) 67 Frith Street, Soho
(1831) 3 Soho Square
(1846) 9 Dean Street
(1848) DuLour's Place, Golden Square
(1864) 21 Broad Street, Golden Square
(1894) 12A George Street, Hanover Square
They had associates with Collard who were based at 50 Bond Street, London, the same as Chappell. There is a fine example of a Kirkman harpsichord at the Colt Clavier private collection. In 1896 Georgiana Kirkman sold the business to Collard's at cost. |
| 1732 || || J.C.F. Bach was born in 1732. |
| 1733 || || On April 11th, 1733, the Earl of Bristol paid Shudi u0.17.6 for the tuning of his harpsichord. This must have been for a year--if it was just for one tuning I was born in the wrong time. |
| 1735 || || J.C. Bach was born in 1735. In the same year, according to Pierce, Schiedmayer made his first piano. Before that he was a clavichord maker. He was born in 1711 and died in Erlangen in 1781. He had three sons, two of whom made pianos from around 1790 on, under their own names, Adam Schiedmayer and David Schiedmayer. Later on, about 1853, they became a single company. |
| 1739 || || This could be the date for the first upright piano, made by Domenico del Mela, which is more like a grand stood up than an upright as we know it today or the one made by Hawkins in 1800. The compass of the del Mela piano runs from C to E and the piano is in the collection of the Museo del Conservatorio in Florence. |
| 1740 || || Broadwood's were granted the Royal Warrant for keyboard instruments. |
| 1742 || || April 13th of this year saw the first public performance of George Frederic Handel's Messiah, which took place in Dublin, Ireland. The Messiah is in three parts representing Christ's birth, death, and resurrection. |
| 1745 || || God Save the Queen was composed.
Francisco Perez Mirabal was making pianos in Spain, two of which survive today. The style of the piano is that of Silberman, with a compass of G to G and a length of 239 cm. Although the Mirabal piano used the same type of case as Silberman's the action was of a Florentine design. The stringing is unusual in that there are three strings for each note in the treble. However, they are arranged in a pair and a single. The single string has a longer speaking length than the double strings. The paired strings go through two bridge pins on the first bridge, then through one bridge pin on the second bridge. The single string passes through a slot in the first bridge and then onto the second bridge where it passes through two bridge pins. This system must have made the piano interesting to tune as well as creating an unusual harmonic combination. |
| 1748 || || Stein became a pupil of Silberman and he was with him until June, 1749. In 1760 he married and had fifteen children. One of his daughters, Nannette Stein, was his best pupil. David Schiedmayer also studied under him. Stein did a lot of research and took out some odd patents. |
| 1750 || || Thomas Culliford, 112 Cheapside London, established his piano making business sometime in the latter half of the eighteenth century. He also worked for Longman & Broderip for a time. |
| 1752 || || Clementi was born in Rome, the son of a silversmith. In 1766, when he was fourteen, he came to England and lived in Wiltshire under the watchful eye of Peter Beckford. He made his debut in London in 1801. Clementi published a highly respected piano method which even Beethoven endorsed, sending pupils along to Clementi. |
| 1756 || || W. A. Mozart was born. |
| 1760 || || Christian Ernst Friederici started on his own. C. P. E. Bach wrote a letter to Forkel on the 10th of November, 1773, stating that he liked Friederici's clavichord in preference to those made by Fritz. Friederici went on to make small square pianos, which became very popular. |
| 1761 || || In September John Broadwood started to work for Burkat Shudi.
J. C. Zumpe was a German builder who served his apprenticeship with Silberman. He also worked for Shudi making harpsichords for a time. In 1761 he set up his workshop at 7 Princes Street, Hanover Square, London, where he worked until 1780. From 1780 to 1784 he was at Princes Street, Cavendish Square. He was in partnership with Buntebart from 1769 to 1779. There is a combined piano/organ in the Musue des Arts et Metiers in Paris, with Zumpe and Buntebart's name on it. The action of Zumpe's square piano is very simple and has been called the "old man's head" or "single action mop stick." Hammer heads were put to the strings by pads of leather fixed to the ends of thick brass wires inserted into the backs of the keys. There was no escapement or checking the fall of the hammers other than by the pads which lifted them. The dampers were above the strings where the lever was tipped with cloth, and hinged by whalebone at the back of the instrument on the keys passing through holes in the hitch pin block. At the left side of the instrument there was either a stop to raise all the dampers or two hand-stops to raise treble and bass sections independently. The wrest pins were on the right and the hitch pin block was at the back parallel to the keyboard. A piano was made by Zumpe in 1766 with the black notes divided into two sections, controlling different strings, to allow for the tuning of sharps as sharps and flats as flats. The practical difficulties of playing such a thing ensured that it did not catch on. Zumpe hired a Scottish cabinet maker, John Broadwood who came to London to make his fortune. In 1769 he married Barbara, the daughter of Shudi the harpsichord maker who Zumpe used to work for. In 1763 probably the first advertisement for a piano in the UK was taken out by Zumpe, selling them for u50.00. By 1767 one of the first known public performances using a Zumpe took place, at the Beggar's Opera at Covent Garden. The concert featured a Miss Brickler singing, accompanied by a Mr. Dibdin on a "Zumpe pianoforte." Johann Christian Bach performed on a Zumpe for a piano concert at The Thatched House, St James. Schoene & Co. of Princes Street, Cavendish Square, took over Zumpe's business when he retired, running it from 1784 to 1793.
J. C. Bach gave the first-ever piano recital on one of Zumpe's instruments at the Thatched House in London. The instrument cost him u50, a bargain at the time, and Bach himself thought so. Probably a wise investment by Zumpe. |
| 1767 || || Longman & Broderip, the music publishing and instrument retailing company, was founded by James Longman in this year, with the first known address at 26 Cheapside, London. Geib and Gulliford made pianos for them. (See also 1798.) The earliest known surviving square piano with the name Longman is from 1770 and is in the Boston Museum. It has five octaves spanning D to A. In 1798 the firm became Longman & Clementi, and in 1832 when Clementi died the company became. Other known partners of Longman included Longman & Lukey in 1771 and Longman, Lukey & Comp in 1774. |
| 1768 || || Gabriel Buntebart moved in to 7 Princes Street, Hanover Square, until 1795. One of his pianos can be seen at a museum in Brussels. |
| 1770 || || Beethoven was born. |
| 1771 || || Americus Backers, a Dutchman, exhibited a piano with an action similar to Cristofori's, yet with some differences, and Broadwood's and Stodart's helped him develop this action, according to Broadwood's records. Broadwood's were to use this action in their pianos and it was soon known as the English or Broadwood action. It was about this time that J. Broadwood took control of the company, and the action was used up to the beginning of this century. Backers started in 1761 at Jermyn Street, London, and remained there until 1781.
Robert Stodart took out a patent using the name "Grand" to describe his instrument, this being the first known use of the word grand in a patent. |
| 1772 || || Johann Andreas Stein (1728-1792), who was also a former apprentice of Silberman from 1749 to 1750, went on to develop the Viennese action in 1772. The hammers are centred to a metal spring clip fixture on the keys called a Kapsel with the heads of the hammers towards the player and the shanks being set horizontally and parallel to the keys. The shanks protrude beyond their centre points and contact a spring or moveable stopper so that the back of the shank is held when the key is depressed, forcing the hammers forward until the escapement takes place. This action is also known as the South German or Back Striker. The strings were normally fifty percent thinner than their English counterparts and the hammers were much smaller and covered with buckskin, giving a lighter touch and tone. This type of piano was preferred by Mozart. The English action had a jack centred to the key and the top of the jack pushes the notch lifting the hammer; when the hammer is about an eighth of an inch from the string the jack escapes by means of a set-off button. The notch is in contact with the button which forces the jack away. A wire spring inserted into the key in front of the jack constantly pulls the jack forward to keep it in place in front of the notch. The action is also known as the direct action because the jack works directly under the notch. The action also became known as the Broadwood action because of its extensive use by this maker. At the back of the key there is a check which catches the hammer while the key is held, and after the hammer has escaped there is usually one long centre wire for the hammers running along one complete section. This is also known as a single escapement action. There is always some lost motion which results from a gap between the jack and notch to allow escapement. The gap's measurement being about that of card could have resulted in the use of the term carding for the task of trying to eliminate this gap when regulating. |
| 1773 || || Clementi's Sonata Opus 2 is probably one of the first pieces to be composed with the piano in mind and not the harpsichord. Haydn's popular piano sonatas started the shift from the harpsichord to the piano. But it was Mozart's piano concertos which put the piano on the map, especially through Mozart's virtuosity on the Viennese piano, which had a light touch, a very crisp treble, and a very efficient damping mechanism. Mozart didn't like the English action as it was heavy and the dampers were very slow. This is one reason Mozart's music transfers well to a modern piano, unlike Clementi's music, which in his later years he wrote mainly with English pianos in mind. |
| 1774 || || Frederick Beck established himself at 4 Broad Street, Golden Square, London. There are no records for him after 1795.
John Joseph Merlin (1735-1804) came to England in 1760. He introduced the "una corda" pedal which moved the action to one side, hitting only two strings instead of three, making the piano quieter. In 1774 he took out patent number 1081 for a combination harpsichord-cum-piano, which he called his "Compound Harpsichord." |
| 1775 || || Johann Behrent of Philadelphia was probably the first piano maker in America, and he made squares. |
| 1776 || || America declared its independence. |
| 1777 || || Erard made his first square piano; it was probably a copy of an English Zumpe piano. For more info on Erard see The History of Sebastian Erard.
Robert Stodart, a former apprentice of John Broadwood, took out patent number 1172 for an instrument which was both a harpsichord and piano. Apparently you pressed on one pedal and this disengaged the piano and engaged the harpsichord. If you pressed on the second pedal this operated the swell.
The typical compass for the piano was now six octaves, by this time the piano may be said to have taken over from the harpsichord in popularity.
Erard made his first piano in France. He then moved to England where he remained until 1796. He then went back to France and in 1802 opened his Paris factory. |
| 1783 || || Broadwood introduced a sustaining pedal and is credited with its invention. However, there is a Backers Grand of 1772 in the Russell Museum, Edinburgh with two pedals, one on each front leg pointing inwards. The right is a sustaining pedal, the left an una corda, so we may conclude that Americus Backers was the first to use the sustaining pedal and the una corda. Its number is 29. |
| 1785 || || George Astor was established 73 Cornhill London, and closed down in 1810. |
| 1786 || || John Geib invented the grasshopper action for square pianos while he was doing work for Longman & Broderip. According to "The Pianoforte" by Harding, he was an employee of Longman & Broderip. But "Early Keyboard Instruments" by James has Geib's business address from 1775 as "Old Bailey London" until he emigrated in 1798. The hopper hinged to the key with a spring to maintain position. An escapement screw passes through the hopper and the button is behind the hopper. The later sticker action for uprights was a development from this action. |
| 1787 || || Bury, Samuel & Co. were listed at 113 Bishop's Gate within London. There are no further records for them after 1794.
Pascal Taskin developed a form of return string. Taskin used a screwed wrest pin in the form of a metal loop, through which the strings were passed. One end of the loop passed through a block of wood in such a way that it could be moved backwards or forwards by means of a nut. This method was expensive to produce and was not widely used, unlike the system James Stewart invented in 1827, which is still used today by all the piano makers. |
| 1790 || || James Ball set up making pianos in Duke street, London, and was active until 1817.
Ludwig Lenkfeld set up in Tottenham Court Road and was there until 1796. He was in partnership with Geib for a short time. |
| 1793 || || John Adlam was established around this time and his premises were at 40 King's Street, London.
Broadwood's made their last harpsichord.
Monro & May, 60 Skinner Street, Snow Hill, London. The company was in business from 1793 to 1827. Monro worked for Longmann & Broderip until 1788 and may have worked on his own after this time until 1793.
Johann Adolph Ibach sets up shop in Barmen, Germany. The oldest surviving family-owned piano manufacturers in the world, Ibach still makes fine instruments at their factory in Germany.
John Broadwood gave his son James Shudi Broadwood fifty percent of the shares of the company and renamed the company John Broadwood & Sons. James had by this time worked in all parts of the company and was well-versed in piano making. |
| 1798 || || Broderip & Longman, the music publishing and instrument retailing company, went bankrupt. Their addresses were 26 Cheapside and 195 Tottenham Court Road, London. This was a turning point in Clementi's life, as Clementi had a long association with this company. He decided to form a partnership with four gentlemen to set up a new piano company from the old one. One of these gentlemen was Frederick Collard, who came from Somerset.
Collard was a carpenter by trade, and was soon in demand as a "belly maker" (soundboard maker). He was put in charge of production, while Clementi did most of the selling. Clementi eventually became one of Broadwood's main competitors. Clementi himself was a talented businessman, as much as he was a talented composer and musician. Unfortunately, Clementi was reluctant to change with the times. He was reluctant to introduce over-damping, over-stringing, and some of the more modern factory production methods emerging from America. The firm eventually became Collard and Collard. Collard's also made pianos for John Squire, 22 & 23 Sutterton Street, Caledonian Road, London. Clementi died at Evesham England in 1832. In 1960 Chappell's took over Collard's, then sadly in 1963 a fire destroyed all the Collard records, which included those of Clementi. |
| 1800 || || The first true upright, by John Isaac Hawkins, an Englishman living in Philadelphia. In this piano, strings ran below the keyboard with hitch pins at the bottom (unlike the pyramid piano where the strings ran up from the keyboard to the top). The compass was five octaves with an octave span of 158 mm., which is narrow. Hawkins was born on the 14th of March, 1772. He attended medical college but left, and began a career in piano making. It is said he made a piano for Thomas Jefferson, but that Jefferson was unhappy with his piano and returned it to Hawkins. Not long after this Hawkins left the US and returned to England to sell coffee. Later, around 1819, he ran a mechanical museum.
The Jacquard weaving loom was manufactured in Lyons, designed to weave cloth under the control of punched cards. Later developments of the idea were applied to musical instruments, leading to the invention of the player piano and the Pianola. |
| 1801 || || Erard made a grand for Napoleon, which had a Viennese action and five pedals.
Edward Riley obtained a patent for a transposing piano, in which the keyboard moved laterally, allowing keys to work different notes. The same year Jacob Ball made a transposing piano, which is said still to exist.
Erard's Paris factory was organised along the production lines of Broadwood's factory. |
| 1802 || || Broadwood's six-octave grands were selling in London for u84. Dealers got a 25% discount. Around this time John Broadwood was paid a salary of u5,000 while a skilled worker would be paid u100. |
| 1804 || || Challen Pianos London were established. Their clam to fame is that they made the world's largest grand, at twelve feet long. They were later acquired by Barratt & Robinson, England.
Johann Strauss was born.
Johann Baptist Cramer's first venture into publishing was with the company known as Cramer & Keys. For more history on Cramer see the . |
| 1807 || || The sticker action was invented by William Southwell (1756-1842). He was an apprentice to Weber's of Dublin, from 1772 to 1782. He went on to open a workshop at 26 Fleet Street, Dublin. The sticker action was fitted in upright pianos and cabinets (also known as wall-climber pianos). In this action the hopper is fitted by a vellum hinge, vertically to the back of the key, and escapement pins pass through the hopper. The stick or jack raises the butt on a long centre. The over-dampers can normally be removed as a complete part, though on some of the larger cabinets or (wall-climber pianos), a stool was needed for the piano tuner to reach the tuning pins.
Ignace Joseph Pleyel was born in Ruppersthal, Lower Austria, on the 1st of June 1767, and died in Paris on the 14th of November 1831. He opened his piano factory in Paris in 1807. Anxious to create a Pleyel instrument accessible to all, the company developed an excellently crafted square piano in 1839, at a very reasonable price. His son Camille took over in 1831, and won many gold medals for his pianos. Pleyel made the first double grand, two pianos in one case, with one keyboard at each end. Pleyel was in partnership with the pianist Kalkbrenner. He was also a pupil of Haydn. He liked Warnum's small pianos so much in 1815 he asked Henri Pape to organise the construction of cottage pianos on the Warnum pattern. This could have been the deciding factor in starting his own line of small pianos. Pleyel introduced the upright piano to France. In 1961 they merged with Erard, and in 1971 Erard struck a deal with Schimmel to manufacture Erard and Pleyel pianos. Some of their first pianos were called "Pleyel Ignace" in Paris.
Erard first used the metal stud bridge (brass agraffe).
A fire on the 20th of March at the Clementi piano factory caused an estimated capital loss of U40,000, of which the insurance companies paid out only U15,000. Broadwood's, their main competitors and rivals, came to Clementi's aid, helping him to fulfil orders, and Broadwood's workmen collected enough money among themselves to re-equip Clementi's men with the tools of their trade. |
| 1808 || || Bracing bars of metal were used to support the wooden frame in Broadwood's grands. |
| 1809 || || Erard patented wrest pin bushings. The English patent number was 332. Not all pianos have bushed wrest pins.
Erard introduced the "Roller Double Escapement" or compound escapement action. The roller lifts the hammer in two ways, by the jack and by the repetition lever. The repetition lever's main job is to catch the hammer when it drops onto the roller and hold it there, or lift it slightly; there have also been a few modifications to this action.
Robert Warnum patented the cottage piano, which was a small upright and he later invented the tape-check action, patented in 1826. It was also known as a pianino or piccolo. The action was a sticker with only short shanks. Their pianos became very popular. Large upended grand type pianos were sometimes known as giraffe pianos and others as pyramid pianos. There were also harp pianos with exposed strings above the action level and with wrest pins at the top and a sort of upright harpsichord which plucked the strings which was known as a clavicytherium.
During the first part of the 18th century the street piano or barrel organ was invented. It had no dampers and was not tuned chromatically. |
| 1810 || || Chopin was born.
Chappell Pianos of London was founded. For more information on Chappell's . The company also made Elysian pianos which are now made by Young Chang.
Schumann was born. |
| 1811 || || Liszt was born.
Samuel Chappell, Francis Tattor, and John Baptist Cramer formed the publishing firm of Chappell & Co. on 1st January 1811. Cramer left in 1813 and Chappell is said to have dissolved the whole partnership in 1825. One source claims that Cramer dissolved the partnership at the end of the seven-year agreement in 1818. Chappell took his oldest son, William into business, and he became director of the firm when his father died in 1834, although William's formidable mother became manager. The second son, Thomas, 1819-1902, left school to join his father when he went blind near the end of his life. Cramer was born in Mannheim in 1771 and died in England in 1858. Clementi taught him, and in 1793 he gave his first public performance, using a Broadwood piano. He became famous for his playing and acquired the appellation "Glorious John." One of his more illustrious pupils was George Smart. After working for Chappell, Cramer started his own publishing firm. Like Chappell at a later date the name was associated with piano making. A number of piano makers and organ builders both printed and published music at the same time. |
| 1815 || || The pricelist of 1815 of Messrs. John Broadwood & Sons reads as follows:
Six-octave grand u40.10s.0d
Six-octave ornamented Grand u46.0s.0d
Six-octave upright grand u46.0s.0d
Six-Octave cabinet u33.2s 0d
Six-octave ornamented cabinet u48.0s.0d
Six-octave cabinet with additional keys u31.0s.0d
Square with round corners and compass C to C u22.15s.0d
Square with double action u18.3s.0d
Square with single action u17.6s.0d
Square (elegant) u26.0s.0d. |
| 1817 || || Thomas Broadwood visited Vienna, after which he wrote to Beethoven, offering him a piano. Beethoven wrote back in February 1818: " I shall regard it was an altar upon which I will place the choicest offerings of my mind to the Divine Apollo". Beethoven was very appreciative of the six-octave grands, preferring the bigger tone of the English piano. The piano still exists today.In That year Broadwoods were using four metals bars in the trebles of their grands. |
| 1819 || || This was the year that Brockedon began drawing steel wire through holes in diamonds and rubies. It would also appear to be the date for the first use of steel wire in Broadwood pianos. |
| 1820 || || Aucher FrUres of France was one of the first piano makers with a folding keyboard, which came to be known as a ship's piano. The company stopped making pianos in the 1930s. |
| 1823 || || Chickering (1796 - 1853), having started as a cabinetmaker in New Hampshire, became an apprentice with Babcock, a piano maker in Boston, in 1818. It is believed that Chickering became a partner of Babcock at his new address, 11 Marlborough Street, Boston. This would have only been for two years at the most. The firm of Chickering, established in 1823, has the longest history of piano making in America. In 1932 they merged with the Aeolian American Corp., and Wurlitzer started making Chickering pianos around 1986.
The Eavestaff company was established in 1823 at Finsbury Park, London. The Brasted brothers took them over in 1925. At the end of the 1970s Eavestaff pianos were marketed by a new company formed by John Brasted. The pianos were to be made under licence by Kemble & Co. For some years previously, Eavestaff pianos were made at the Barratt & Robinson factory, Hermitage Road, Harringay. From the 1950s onward Eavestaff only made Minipianos, the best one being the Royal. They stopped making pianos in 1983. In the USA Hardman Peck & Co. made Eavestaff Minipianos under licence in the 1950s and 60s. However, today Eavestaff pianos are made by in China, and are not Minipianos, but a standard upright. Brasted pianos were made by them as well. |
| 1825 || || Pierre Erard patented in England a method of fixing metal bars to the brazing by using bolts, which passed through holes cut in the soundboard. The iron frame of a modern grand is attached in a similar way and although Broadwood's used bars from 1808 there was always controversy over who used them first, as Broadwood did not take out a patent for metal bars in combination with a metal string plate until 1826.
Babcock (1785-1842) patented the full iron frame, which was not at first completely successful but still an important development. |
| 1826 || || Robert Warnum patented the tape-check action, which is similar to the present-day over-damper action. He also took out patents for diagonal stringing. From 1810 to 1812 he was in partnership with George Wilkinson at 315 Oxford Street and 11 Princes Street. Wilkinson went to work for Broderip after this. |
| 1827 || || James Stewart, Chickering's first partner, fitted return strings, not only for the steel bichords but also in the treble section.
Thomas Loud in America made the first down-striking grand. His workshop was at 22 Devonshire Street, Queens Square, London, from 1802 until 1825 when he moved to the USA. |
| 1828 || || Messrs John Broadwood & Sons pricelist for 1st May 1828:
Square F to F, plain case 36 guineas
the same type, banded with rosewood, 41 guineas
Square in plain case with circular ends 38 guineas
new patent six octave F to F with metallic plate U55.
A charge of 4 guineas to be made for fixing drawers to either of the above
Cottage six-octave f to F square front 50 guineas
Cottage superior with six octaves and square front 55 guineas
The same with with cylinder front 55 guineas
Cabinet with six octaves 65 guineas
Cabinet elegant 70 guineas
Cabinet with six and a half octaves in rosewood case 75 guineas
W. H. Barnes was founded and also sold pianos under the name of Normelle, Osbert, and D'Almaine. It's not to clear if they made their own at first or just branded other makes. Later on in the 1900s they did use the Kemble and Monington names.
Rushworth's was founded by William Rushworth, a pipe organ builder in Yorkshire. In the late 1800s the company moved to Liverpool. Apparently a piano was sold from the offices, almost by accident, and it was then they decided to sell pianos to the general public. This was the start of the piano retail site. At first pianos were made by Clarence Lyon of London, and not long after Rushworth's began producing classic British pianos alongside their world-famous organ building, which is now in its fifth generation under the leadership of Alastair Rushworth. It has become the largest organ builder in the UK. Around 1921 Rushworth also acquired pianos from Squire & Longsons for U29.00 and resold them for U49 guineas.
In 1969 the piano retail side formed into a separate company. This was after piano production was stopped at the St. Anne Street workshop to allow them to concentrate on organ building.
In 1998 the piano retail side went under major reconstruction under the guidance of David Rushworth, and they have introduced a wider range of overseas pianos. The Rushworth piano is now made for Rushworth's in the Far East and is backed up by Rushworth's in-house service facilities.
Paint-covered hammers with rabbit's fur and sheep's wool felt were used. This could also have been when two layers of felt were used. Buckskin was still commonly used for the top treble.
The BUsendorfer piano company was founded in Vienna. Ignaz BUsendorfer (1794-1859) was granted the right to trade as a piano maker by the body of magistrates.
Pape may have been the first to make over-strung pianos. He was born in 1789 and died in 1875. Most of the great piano makers can be traced back to just a few early makers. One of Pape's pupils was Carl Bechstein. |
| 1829 || || Rawler made the first under-damper upright piano. It was about one meter high.
Squire & Longson, London, was established. In 1938 a fire at the factory shut them down, and Kemble acquired the name and produced pianos with the Squire & Longson name until the 1970s. The workforce was taken up by Whelpdale Maxwell & Codd Ltd. to make Welmar pianos.
B. Squire was established. In 1936 Kemble took over production. For reference, serial number 17845 corresponds to the year 1885, as confirmed by an original invoice. For any serial numbers after 50000 Kemble's phased out B. Squire in the late 1970s. In the mid-80s Kemble made some very small overstrung underdamper pianos with an 85-note range under Squire name, which were just under 56 inches wide. They sell well in the North of England, as 57 inches is the width of the gap between the chimney breast and outside wall in a lot of terraced houses. |
| 1830 || || Claude Montal (1800-1865) started his career in Paris as the first blind piano tuner. He was the son of a saddler and lost his sight through typhus at the age of six. His parents sent him to an ordinary school, but later he was educated the Royal Institute for the Blind in Paris. In 1834 he published a booklet title "How to Tune your Piano yourself" and later opened his own shop and workshop.
Chickering made a one-piece iron frame for a grand and patented it in 1843.
There were approximately fifty piano makers in London at this time. |
| 1831 || || William Allen patented a cast iron frame, including tension bars, all in iron but the lower part of the wrest plank, which was of wood to hold the wrest pins.
The company of Richard Lipp, Stuttgart, was established. |
| 1832 || || Samuel, Barnet & Sons, London, were established. |
| 1835 || || Wilke of Breslau invented the first hammer covering machine, although it was not adopted for some time.
John Hopkinson started his business in Leeds. For more information on Hopkinson's Pianos see the .
John Strohmenger of London was established. In 1938 Chappell bought them out.
Grotrian-Steinweg pianos was established by Friedrich Grotrian (1803-1860). |
| 1836 || || John Brinsmead established himself as a piano maker in London.
For more information on John Brinsmead.
Steinweg was making grand pianos in Germany and later moved to America where in 1853 the company name was changed to Steinway.
Tate was using a half-blow rail.
Wheatley Kirk patented the first complete iron frame for an upright piano. |
| 1837 || || Allison Pianos, 29 Berners Street, London, was founded. Other premises of the company were at 49 Wardour Street, Soho, London (1839), and 75 Dean Street (1846), also in Soho.
See also the Allison entry under 1840.
In France at this time there were about seventy-five piano makers.
William Knabe from Germany opened up his firm in Baltimore. |
| 1838 || || The Whiton & Whiton Company was founded.
Moore & Moore of London was founded. The company was taken over by Kemble's in 1933. |
| 1839 || || Hallet & Davis, Boston, USA, was established. |
| 1840 || || The Allison company was established. In 1840 the shop was located at 106 Wardour St., Soho, London, but this was just a retail outlet. In 1851 they opened a shop at 34 Brook Street, and in 1856 a new factory was opened at 1a Warrington Street, Somers Town, London. From 1879 on the company was called Arthur Allison and Co. and located at 171 Wardour Street, while the factory on Warrington Street was still in use. In 1907 they moved to Prebend Street in Camden Town. In 1911 the company changed its name to Allison and Allison and two years later opened shops at Leighton Road, Kentish town, 10 Charlton King's Road, and Prebend Street. In 1923 they had locations at 56 and 60 Wigmore Street, and in 1929 they opened at 56 Chalk Farn Road, Leighton Road, Kentish Town and 60 Wigmore Street. Later that year they were taken over by Chappell. They also sold pianos under the name of Globe. As a reference for dating, a piano with serial number 7116 can be confirmed as dating from around 1865.
Antoine-Jean Bord of Paris (1814-1888), started making pianos. At one time they were the largest manufacturer in France with a production of 4,000 instruments.
J. and C. Fischer started making pianos in New York, USA. |
| 1842 || || The organ of St. Nicholas in Newcastle-upon-Tyne was tuned to equal temperament. This is believed to have been the first organ to be tuned in equal temperament in England.
John Pottie made a piano with two soundboards. Each soundboard had thirteen ribs to support it, and sound was transmitted from the top soundboard to the bottom soundboard by means of a second bridge.
George Russell was established in London. The last known address for the company was at 2 Stanhope St., London. From about 1936 Cramer made the pianos, and serial numbers after that date are from Cramer. An example from 1939 would be number 128750,and an earlier one from around 1900 would be number 16499.
Strich & Ziedler, New York, USA, was established. |
| 1843 || || Bord of Paris used the tasto bar, which was a type of pressure bar.
George Rogers of London was founded. Later Bechstein commissioned them to build London-made Bechstein pianos in the early 1890s. Rogers merged with Hopkinson in 1918, and both were taken over by Zender in 1963.
The Co-Op was founded on 1st December at Toad Lane, Rochdale. Roughly six years later the first piano was sold to a man using his profits from the "divi." The sight of a piano being carried into a cottage had never been seen before in Rochdale. The Co-Op became a piano manufacturer and sold pianos under the names of Amyl, Amylette, and Co-Op. The production factory was in Birmingham. |
| 1844 || || Schwander opened his piano action factory. His son-in-law Herrburger succeeded him and eventually Brooks took over, making it Herrburger Brooks.
Mr. Johnson started the Schaff Piano Supply Co., USA.
Jean Schwander, an Alsation, opened his action making factory in Paris. He retired in 1882, but his name can still be found on many actions of fine pianos made today. Bechsteins for example, were later fitted with Schwander actions, up until about the time of the First World War. His successor was his son-in-law Joseph Herrburger, who formed a New York branch in 1900. Twenty years later Brooks of London and Herrburger amalgamated, so the firm of Herrburger Brooks came into being. The Paris branch of Herrburger Brooks closed in 1953, and moved to Long Eaton Nottingham. |
| 1845 || || Ronisch was established, first in Dresden and later in Leipzig.
Vienna at this time had 108 piano makers. |
| 1846 || || On August 26 of this year Felix Mendelssohn's "Elijah" premiered at the Birmingham Festival, England. Mendelssohn died at the age of 38.
Walter Broadwood directed Mr. Hipkins, the head piano tuner at Broadwood's, that he should instruct their tuners in the use of equal temperament. This was a marketing ploy for Broadwood. Mr. Hipkins was only twenty at the time, and even at the age of eighteen he is known to have been tuning pianos in equal temperament. When Chopin toured England and Scotland in 1848, a Broadwood grand was often hired, costing 20 guineas even in London. Hipkins was the tuner and he preferred to tune in equal temperament, so there is a good chance that the piano used by Chopin was in equal temperament. Chopin was paid 150 guineas for at least one of his recitals, and he commented on how much he liked the sound of the Broadwood piano. |
| 1847 || || Broadwood grands were fitted with threaded oblong pins which must not be removed or tapped in. They have to be turned three sixteenths of an inch and the coils formed as the pin returns through the three sixteenths of an inch to its original position. Not to be confused with the Wurlitzer metal plank, on which if the pins are too tight you can relieve the tension by easing back on the wedge on the bottom of the pin. To tighten the pins tap the wedges deeper up into the pin.
Gaveau of Paris was estblished. Gaveau pianos generally have nice crafted cases. In 1960, the company merged with Erard and was later absorbed by Schimmel in 1971. |
| 1848 || || Chickering became Chickering & Sons, USA. |
| 1849 || || Hazelton Bros., NY, was established. |
| 1850 || || Most larger grands and uprights had seven octaves, going down to A. That is important because any pianos that don't go down that far, reaching only to C, for example, can be reliably dated to before that time. |
| 1851 || || At the Great Exhibition in London, 102 different manufacturers exhibited 178 pianos.
This is roughly the date when the classical piano-making period gave way to the more modern period, exemplified for example by the greater use of iron frames. |
| 1852 || || Chickering & Sons, Piano Makers, opened a factory in Boston, USA.
Albert Weber was born in Bavaria on July 8th, 1828. In 1852 he established the Weber Piano Company in Manhattan, New York. In 1869 the company opened new premises at the uptown location of Fifth Avenue and Sixteenth Street in New York. In 1903 the Aeolian Company of New York acquired Weber. At about this time they also opened a factory in Hayes, England. In 1985 the Aeolian Piano factory was closed down. The Wurlitzer Company purchased the Weber name, but they never made any pianos under that name. In 1986 they sold the name to Young Chang, which started to produce Weber pianos. However, this did not last long as Samsung America, Inc. acquired the licence to sell Weber pianos and established the company offices in New Jersey, USA. Around 1988 they introduced different numbers for grands and uprights. Grands started at number 034442 and uprights started at 1327707. In 1992 they introduced new models. The agreement obligated Samsung to buy these pianos from Young Chang. However, in December 2003 Samsung dropped Weber and is now marketing Chinese pianos under the Behning name.
There are a few makes of piano going under the name of Weber, most in the US, but there was one in Berlin and a large company in Canada. |
| 1853 || || Bechstein of Berlin was formed.
BlUthner was formed.
Steinweg changed its name to Steinway of America and the Steinway piano firm was founded.
A Norwich England action maker patented a spring and loop action.
Bord used a spiral spring for the jack.
Claude Montal one of the first blind piano tuners. He exhibited the sostenuto pedal, which Steinway bought. A monograph written by Montal in Paris in 1836, entitled "L'Art d'accorder soi-meme son piano," described his invention. |
| 1854 || || Gabler was founded in New York, USA.
Mason & Hamlin was founded in Boston, USA, by Henry Mason and Emmons Hamlin. |
| 1855 || || On the 12th August in the late evening, Broadwood's Horseferry Road factory burned down. The factory made 2300 pianos a year, and 575 employees worked there. At this time their piano factory was the biggest in the world. It was three storeys high, with a separate steam engine house. The weekly payroll was U1000. There were 600 pianos permanently out on rentals, at rates ranging from 12s to U2.12s.6d per month, serviced by ten delivery trucks. With much of their business done on credit it was recorded that sometimes there was an annual write-off of U10,000. This was the year they made and sold their last cabinet piano, No. 8963, because of the fire.
W. Sames Ltd. was established. |
| 1856 || || Decker & Son, NY, USA, was established.
Wurlitzer pianos, USA, was established. |
| 1857 || || Steck, NY, USA, was established. They later merged with Aeolian. |
| 1858 || || The Hallu Orchestra was formed.
Grotrian-Steinweg, of Braunschweig, was formed. Later the family split and the other half emigrated to the US and founded Steinway & Sons.
Monington & Weston, London, was established. Later they put the double iron frame on their uprights, making them very heavy but very stable pianos. |
| 1859 || || August Forster established a small workshop in Lobau, Germany, where he made his first piano. From there he went on to open his first factory in 1862.
Ludwig Busendorfer took over the business when his father died.
Kimball, Chicago, USA, was established.
On December 20 of this year Henry Steinway Jr. took out the patent for over-stringing for grand pianos (patent number 26,532). This was a turning point for Steinway and their pianos won many awards around the world for best grand piano because of the over-stringing feature. |
| 1860 || || Alfred Dolge started the American Piano Supply in New York City. The American Felt Co. acquired APSC in 1900.
Civil war broke out in America. |
| 1862 || || D. H. Baldwin established his firm in America. In 1889 the name was changed to the Baldwin Piano Company.
Ajello & Sons, London. Giuliano Ajello established the business In London. They manufactured a variety of pianos and were very successful, eventually operating two factories in London. Ajello pianos won many prizes for piano making in Europe. Most of his six sons were involved in the piano business, as with many piano makers. The Ajello factory closed around 1930.
One of the factories was a leased property, while the second, in Camden Town, London, was owned by the family. When manufacturing ceased, the building was leased out to various users until the early 1980s. When Giuliano Ajello's grandson's estate was finally settled, the Camden Town building was sold.
Arthur Giovanni Ajello, and Louis Robert Ajello, grandsons of Giuliano Ajello emigrated to Canada 1910, and established their own firm, which operated until the early 1930s.
At Leestone Road, Wyhtenshawe, Manchester, relations of the Ajello family, namely Bill Ajello, set up making pianos in 1947 and stayed in production until 1960 according to the Pierce Piano Atlas that has the serial numbers for the Manchester factory. However, Peter Ajello believes they were still making pianos much later than that.
The following is courtesy of Bill Kibby of PianoGen:
1862-3 G. Ajello established in London, later maker to the King of Italy.
1870 Not listed in the Post Office London Directory.
1880 Guiliano Ajello, Pianoforte Maker, 11 Park street, Camden Town, N.W.
1885 Gold Medal awarded to G. Ajello at the International Inventions Exhibition.
1886 Kelly's Directory of the Furnishing Trades under Pianoforte Makers & Warehouses includes Giuliano Ajello, listed at 104 Park street, Camden Town, N.W.
1892 My Post Office London Directory lists Ajello at 104 Park Street, N.W., an address shared with Roof & Treacy, Marble Masons, and Alfred Spencer, Harmonium Fittings Maker. Marian Ferriday is compiling a history of the building which was previously known as 104 Park Street: Can anyone help with further information about Ajello, or Alfred SpencerU
1894 104 Park Street.
1899 104 Park Street.
1908 Ajello made uprights with removable keyboards, to facilitate moving.
1911 G. Ajello & Sons are listed as makers in Dolge's book "Pianos and their Makers."
1914 Ajello & Sons Ltd., 104 Park Street, and at 285 Upper Street N. (2368 North).
1914 By Appointment to the King of Italy. Piano number 22,751 (& 751), rubber-stamped 1914 on action, and tuning dates on keys start 1914.
Around 1931 two G. Ajello & Sons pianos with serial numbers around 28,500 are dated quite reliably by Malcolm action numbers, in spite of the mark 2.10.9 on the iron frame. By Royal Appointment to H.M. the King of Italy.
A Monington & Weston piano, number 50,347, from 1931, has a similar mark - 2.12.9 on the frame. The number on the bracing is 15,502.
1936 G. Ajello & Sons Ltd. 285 Upper street N.W.
1951 Not listed in Music Trades Directory.
1960 Not listed. Later models were made by Kemble, who say that the historical records were destroyed in a fire: perhaps Chappell's 1964 fireU |
| 1863 || || Henry F. Miller & Sons of Boston, USA, was established. |
| 1864 || || Anton Petrov founded his piano making firm in Czechoslovakia.
Kranich & Bach, NY, USA was established, specialising in small grands. |
| 1866 || || Nathaniel Berry Pianos were established. In 1965 Barratt & Robinson Ltd. purchased them.
The last square piano to be made by Broadwood. It was dropped because the cottage piano was more popular in the home. |
| 1870 || || Harry Brasted started up his piano making firm, using a piano with a compass of over seven octaves. In 1916 the company made parts for biplanes to help the war effort. In 1925 Brasted's bought up Eavestaff's. In 1928 Brasted merged with Boyd Ltd. In 1934 they introduced the Minipiano. Percy Brasted had discovered a miniature piano made by Messrs. Lundholm of Stockholm, from whom Brasted's bought the rights. The piano was then made only in England. Lundholm contracted to import them and receive a royalty on sales.
Percy Brasted gave it the name Minipiano and it is sometimes claimed that it was his invention. Sales topped 7,000 at 28-38 guineas each. Early models had the wrest plank below the keyboard and the drop action at the rear, so that the hammers struck forwards towards the player. Wedging was unnecessary, as half the strings were monochords and the rest bichords. The wrest pins passed through the wrest plank and were double-ended to allow for stringing at the back. If a string has to be replaced, the coils have to be put on in the opposite direction, and if the piano is chipped up from the back the pins are turned anti-clockwise to raise the pitch. Also, from this position, the bass will be on the right-hand side and treble to the left. Jack Davis, who worked for Brasteds, later designed a flanged iron frame to which the case would be built, enabling higher string tension and reducing the width by about eight inches.
Other makers soon copied the braceless back. With the soundboard now forming the back of the piano, the action could be put in its traditional position, but of course, below the keys. Wires were attached to the backs of the keys to pull up the wippens and trichord stringing was re-introduced. Lastly, to achieve longer bass strings, a sort of triangular action was made, with the treble strike line being horizontal, but the bass section tapering down to the left. The early type of Minipiano has often been criticised, but it should not be forgotten that it did much to maintain and even stimulate interest in an industry which was being hit by the gramophone and the radio. The name Eavestaff was used on the fall on the instrument. Americans usually know small uprights by the name spinet, which is neither accurate nor helpful.
The Challen company ceased independent manufacture in 1959, with the name going to the Brasted brothers.
At the end of 1970 a new company formed by John Brasted marketed Eavestaff pianos. The pianos were to be made under licence by Kemble & Co. As with Challen's for some years previously, Eavestaff pianos were made at the Barratt & Robinson factory, Hermitage Road, Harringay.
Shenstone & Co. a piano key maker, was established. Many piano makers used their keys, including Cramer, Kemble, Rogers, Knight's and Challen. |
| 1871 || || Albion Pianoforte was founded in London.
Bohemia Pianos was founded, in the town of Jihlava, Czech Republic. Around 1924 in collaboration with Viennese piano makers Bohemia Pianos started to make the Hofmann & Czerny, employing some fifty workers.
The Royal Albert Hall was opened, with a seating capacity of 10,000. Thomas Chappell was one of the original governors. |
| 1872 || || Smith, Barnes & Stroeber was established. They seemed to stop making pianos in 1920. The pianos were made in Clybourn, Chicago, USA. In 1884 the name became Smith and Barnes.
Sohmer, NY, USA, was established. Hugo Sohmer was the inventor and the first person to build a five-foot baby grand in the USA.
Steinway patented the duplex scale. Bearing bars on the dead length of strings were used to help towards the production of definite harmonies.
The Rev. Dr. Bonavia Hunt founded the Church Choral Society and College of Church Music, London. This organisation was established for the purpose of teaching, practising, and testing. In 1875 it was incorporated as Trinity College, London, and was the first to grant diplomas of efficiency in music to male members of the Church of England. In 1876, Trinity established examinations in the theory of music to fill the gap left by the Royal Society of Arts. It took until 1878 for the first practical examinations to take place. |
| 1873 || || The tuning department was set up at the Royal Normal College for the Blind, now the Royal National College for the Blind, Hereford, one year after the college had been founded in Norwood, London. The first annual report of the college appeals for U2500 to buy an organ, forty pianos and other instruments for orchestra. It also says "the committee beg to return their thanks to Messrs. Broadwood and Sons, Messrs. Collard and Collard, Messrs. Erard and Chappell for several pianos presented to the institution and others lent for the use of pupils." During that year Broadwood presented a complete set of models of piano actions, specially constructed for the tuning department. In 1875 Sir John Stainer wrote "the models of the various parts of the pianoforte in the department set aside for the training of tuners pleased me very much and I am not surprised to hear that some of the students of the college are earning their living as thoroughly competent tuners." It seems that Mr. J. Irvine from Broadwood's was the first teacher. By 1887 the famous A. J. Hipkins, also from Broadwood's, assisted by Mr. Irvine, were examiners. We read that "in each year we have two preliminary examinations, in which Mr. Irvine not only inspects pianos, tuned by the pupils, but sees each pupil at work, noting the manner of holding and managing the tuning hammer and damper, testing them with all varieties of trichord pianos, including overstrung instruments. Each pupil is required to demonstrate by actual performance his mechanical skill in making eyes, stringing, and ordinary light repairs, such as removing broken wrest pins, repairing hammer shanks, etc.
The third and final part of the examination is conducted by Mr. Hipkins. The work of each pupil is carefully marked with a detailed criticism in regard to defects and if the work falls below the standard required the certificates are withheld. The college authorities are determined to recommend only students who are thoroughly qualified to do good work."
Sergei Rachmaninov was born.
BlUthner introduced aliquot stringing, which was a fourth string placed over the others from G above middle C. It is not struck but vibrates in sympathy. It has to be chipped, and it is to the right of the trichord and slightly higher. |
| 1875 || || A. B. Chase, NY and Norwalk, Ohio, USA. was established. |
| 1876 || || Fletcher's was founded. Now known as Fletcher and Newman, Fletcher amalgamated with Newman's.
Whapdale and Maxwell founded their firm. They were formed to import pianos from abroad. They still do this and are particularly associated with importing BlUthner pianos.
Kluge started to make piano keys for the European piano industry. It now has key manufacturing plants in Wuppertal, Germany and Wilkow, Poland. The company is now owned by Steinway. |
| 1877 || || The British Piano Manufacturing Co. Ltd. was established in Crown Place, Kentish Town, London. They made pianos for Windover.
Barratt & Robinson was established. Barratt & Robinson developed the Kastner-Wehlau floating centre. There is no gluing of the bushing, as it is made out of plastic and was pushed into either side of the flange with a special tool, very quick and simple. They also made Minstrall, Schrieber, Skerratt and Whitton & Whitton. In 1984 the company was acquired by Broadwood.
Gross & Kallmann of Berlin was established.
Edison invented the gramophone. |
| 1878 || || Fieiger Pianos (later changed to Calisia) was founded in 1873 by Gustaw Arnold Fieiger, at first as a repair workshop at, 549 Al. Jozefowa St., in 1898 they moved to Szewska St. later renamed to 9 Chopin St. (a corner of Nowa St.), where it has been functioning up to now. In 1878 Fieiger made his first piano. |
| 1880 || || Arnold & Co. was established.
The Cable Co., Chicago, USA, was established. (They also made Conover from 1883, Kingsbury and Wellington.)
John Thomas Gilbert's company was founded.
W. Harper was established.
Oblong wrest pins went out, in favour of square pins. Also by this time machines were used more for hammer covering.
Nordiska Pianos Sweden was est, They also made piaos under the name of Futura, Classsica & Bambino. In 1988 all machinery, tools, and piano scale designs, were purchased by Dongbei Piano Group China and moved from Sweden to China. |
| 1881 || || Robert Moraley's company was founded. They made pianos and then older keyboard instruments and are now particularly associated with harps and harpsichords. Robert had been a tuner with Erard in 1871, before going on to Broadwood, and then starting his own company in Lewisham. |
| 1883 || || Around this time Clarence Lyon founded a piano making firm at Medlar Street, Camberwell, known as Cremona Ltd. (The name was chosen out of admiration for the fine string instruments made at the Italian town of Cremona). It made trade pianos under various names and dealers, such as Paul Newman, Ronson, Barnes of London, Cranes of Manchester and Rushworth and Draper of Liverpool. All of these companies put on their own transfers. they also made Squire & Longson pianos. Clarence Lyon designed the Cremona pianos both internally and externally and in the 1920s his right-hand man was Alfred Knight, who was employed as works director and who must have played a part in improvements made. In 1929 the Cremona factory was burned to the ground. In 1934 Alfred Knight went on to start Knight pianos.
Bansall & Sons was established.
The now famous wire making firm of Roslau began business in Germany.
Heckscher, the piano part suppliers, were established.
Darwen Pianos was formed. |
| 1884 || || In England the imperial standard wire gauge was sanctioned by the board of trade. Prior to this we used the Birmingham wire gauge. Most UK makers used Birmingham's piano wire. This was due to Webster and Horfall of Birmingham's who in 1854 invented a means of making tempered cast steel piano wire. The Germans had done this before, with little success. The wire from Birmingham's factory was much stronger than the German wire.
The piano making firm of Spencer was established. Spencer & Co. and Malcolm and Co, were two substitute companies of Murdoch and Murdoch, becoming one of the largest retailers of musical instruments in the UK who made their own pianos. According to the Pierce Piano Atlas, "Piano number 38833 was made for HRH the Princes of Wales" in the summer of 1986. Under new ownership, Spencer Pianos ceased to be known by that name. It became Miltone Spencer and soon after ceased trading.
Brinsmead patented a wrest pin so designed that the stress was horizontal. A perforated metal flange in the cast frame took octagonal nuts around a screw-headed bolt where the strings were attached. The tuner needed a special T-shaped tool. The type, when applied to uprights, was called a "top-tuner" because the pins were above the plank, pointing upwards instead of forwards. See 1964.
Zimmerman started up in Leipzig, after working for Steinway in New York. The company become a limited company in 1884 and by 1912 was said to be the largest piano factory in Europe, making some 12,000 pianos a year. |
| 1885 || || Schimmel Pianos was established in Leipzig, Germany.
Spring and loop actions in grands, sometimes incorrectly known as simplex actions, were being made by Herrburger Brooks. This action is a single escapement action. |
| 1886 || || The annual piano production in America was approximately 25,000; in France 20,000; in England 35,000. The Germans claimed the higher figure of 73,000. |
| 1887 || || Gors & Kallmann, Berlin, was established. Quite a few of these pianos are found in the north of England.
Gold, an American hammer maker, made a machine to cover hammers with one layer. In 1876 John Macpavany had shown a similar device.
The London College of Music was founded and in 1939 was recognised as an examining body.
Torakusu Yamaha established the "Yamaha Ream Organ Manufacturing Company" and became the father of Japan's musical instrument industry. In 1887 Torakusa Yamaha built the first reed organ. In 1900 production of upright pianos started, and in 1902 production of grand pianos started. In 1904 Yamaha pianos won awards for excellence at the St. Louis World Exposition. |
| 1888 || || Windover was established, and also made Mertons. They may have had a factory in Manchester or a shop. The British Piano Manufacturing Co. Ltd. also made Windover pianos.
Broadwood's steel bar-less frames were introduced. |
| 1890 || || Ambridge & Son London.
Foster player pianos was formed in East Rochester, NY, USA. |
| 1892 || || Barber & Co., London.
Danemann Pianos was established, and many fine examples of these pianos can be found in UK. For schools they are very sturdy pianos, and the company also made pianos for other companies, including Pohlmann.
Zender's Pianos opened. Sydney Zender, the younger brother of Henry Zender, kept making pianos during World War I by using iron for the strings as there was a shortage of steel. In World War II he survived by selling reconditioned pianos. He died in 1948 and his son Ivan took over. Ivan expanded the business and took over the factory next door in Hackney. In 1956 production was running at 2,500 pianos a year. |
| 1893 || || The Royal Manchester College of Music was founded.
Estonian Pianos opened in Russia. |
| 1896 || || Kirkman's piano company was handed over to Collard & Collard at cost, by the last remaining female member of the Kirkman family, on condition that the traditions of Kirkman's be maintained.
Grover and Grover started a piano company which in 1911 moved to Stroud, England. The company was known as the Stroud Piano Company, and made the Bentley pianos. This name was later adopted by the company to form the Bentley Piano Company. |
| 1900 || || A Baldwin concert grand wins the Grand Prix Award at the Paris international exhibition. This was the first American-made piano to win this award. |
| 1901 || || The Bechstein Hall opened, later becoming Wigmore Hall. |
| 1904 || || In Atlantic City the American Manufacturers & Retailers decided to have done with square pianos. At their annual conference they bought in a large number of square pianos and built a pyramid fifty feet high with them. They then set fire to it, the point of the rather interesting spectacle was that these pianos were valueless as trade-ins on new pianos.
Chickering produced a quarter grand, said to be the smallest of its kind. It was five feet long, and only fifty inches wide. They used a standard width key, but modified the key blocks and off-set of the action to achieve this small width.
Octavius Beale started making pianos in New South Wales, Australia. Born in Ireland in 1850, he first started importing pianos under the name of Hapsburg Beale. The Beale piano factory was established at 47 Trafalgar, St. Annandale and made pianos till around 1940.
Marshall & Rose was founded in 1901; Captain George Samuel Rose became the factory manager at Broadwood's. His father, uncle, and grandfather had also worked for Broadwood's; he had been with the firm since 1888. He spent some years in Germany and France, where he received his apprenticeship in piano making. He was responsible for the introduction of the green frame pianos they made at Broadwoods. He handed in his resignation on the 3rd June 1908 and subsequently went into partnership with Sir Herbert Marshall. His pianos show some evidence of German influence. During the Second World War and as a result of the Concentration of Industries Act, the Whelpdale, Maxwell and Codd Company in London made Marshall and Rose pianos. After the war Broadwood & Hopkinson went back to their own factories. However, Marshall & Rose were no longer interested in manufacturing pianos. Whelpdale, Maxwell and Codd still continues to make Marshall & Rose to this day.
Whelpdale and Maxwell started to have pianos made for their company. At first these were made by Squire & Longson, under the name of Welmar. Squire & Longson is now owned by Kemble pianos in England. They went over in 1933. |
| 1910 || || This year aw the end of spring and loop action production for upright pianos.
Around this time Broadwood's were among the first British piano makers to make player pianos. They called their model the "Artistone Player-Piano." It sold for U84.00 and this pushed up the Bond Street profits to U80,000 in a single year, an increase of U12,300. A Broadwood player piano went on Captain Scott's Antarctic expedition where it was taken to first-base camp, and played on the ice.
Hopkinson, not to be outdone by Broadwood, released their "Electrelle" an electric player piano. |
| 1911 || || There were 136 piano makers in England and 133 were based in London, mainly in Islington.
Michael Kemble founded Kemble's. |
| 1912 || || Hopkinson Piano Makers devised an apprenticeship scheme in conjunction with London Technical College; the course was called "Piano-Making." Also, in 1916 classes in musical instrument technology began at the Northern Polytechnic, London. |
| 1920 || || Brooks of London amalgamated with Herrburger of Paris. The vertical piano shown here contains one of their actions. |
| 1921 || || Squire & Longson were making pianos for retailers. They sold them for u29.00 and the retailers resold them for u49 guineas. The retailers were Barnes of London, Rushworth & Draper of Liverpool, Cranes, and many more.
Jonas Chickering joined James Stewart and established the firm of Stewart and Chickering in Boston, USA. |
| 1923 || || Around November, J. Hopkinson died and the business was acquired by Rogers. In 1963 Rogers was bought by Zenders. |
| 1928 || || Broadwood and Challen co-operate in the design of a new grand piano with agraffes on all bridges except the treble capo. A Challen-Broadwood Patent was taken out. |
| 1929 || || King George V and Queen Mary toured the Broadwood factory at Bow, East London, and in the following year, the King bought a Broadwood piano for Buckingham Palace and the Queen bought a Broadwood for Sandringham.
Chappell started its programme of expansion, buying out Allison pianos, Clementi's world famous Collard & Collard, and if that was not enough, they bought Johann Strohmenger & Sons as well in 1938. |
| 1930 || || Kawai left Yamaha and started his own firm. |
| 1931 || || The Neo-Bechstein Piano with no soundboard, just amplified through loudspeakers. |
| 1933 || || Whelpdale and Maxwell started to make Welmar pianos themselves and Cod joined the company in the 1920. Whelpdale and Maxwell and Cod Ltd. still survives under that name today.
The Squire and Longson name went to Kemble. |
| 1934 || || Challen started to make the largest piano in the world for the Silver Jubilee of George and Mary, in 1935. There may have been two pianos or the one withdrawn repainted and polished and turned out again. There was a letter in the Piano Tuners Quarterly form Challen dated 19th December 1940, saying:
"Particulars of the world's largest grand piano, manufactured by Charles H. Challen & Sons. This instrument was made in honour of the Silver Jubilee of their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary and is the largest grand piano in the world. It has created a profound impression in musical and engineering circles. It is eleven feet and eight inches long, weighs one and a quarter tons, and the combined tensile stress of the strings amounts to over thiry tons. The iron frame alone weighs six and a half hundred weight and the longest bass string is nine feet eleven inches.
The experimental work in connection with its production took over twelve months, and the cost amounted to over U600. In spite of its immense dimensions and strength, so perfectly has everything been calculated that it is even easier to play than an ordinary piano. It is a feat of British piano engineering, which places the British industry definitely on top. It was first shown at the British Industries fair in 1935, where it was inspected by H. M. the Queen, and was played for her by Billy Mayerl. At a later date Sir Walford Davies, Master of the King's Music, also played the instrument and in reference to the piano he stated 'it is indeed a glorious instrument. It has the bass of an organ and yet the intimacy of touch and tone of the finest piano I have ever played. A great achievement'. It has been used on several occasions for broadcasting."
--Charles H. Challen
Alfred Knight started his own piano building business.
Brasstead introduced the Swedish designed minipiano which had its wrest plank below the keyboard, a drop action and double-ended wrest pin holding bichords throughout. Later Jack Davidson Brasstead introduced a flanged frame to which the case work was fixed and the more traditional design came into the Minipianos. |
| 1935 || || Steinway patented the capo d'astro bar which is part of the iron frame and forms the top bridge in the treble. Other makers had used it for the whole compass of the piano instead of studs in the bass and middle sections. It improves the tone and gives more clearance for the hammers as the bar bears down, whereas studs are fastened from below and worn hammers can catch on these and break on removal of the action. The fall on a Steinway is usually pinned to the key blocks similarly to Erards of the same period in the nineteenth century. |
| 1936 || || The BBC held a grand piano test in 1936, which included three categories, according to length. BUsendorfer won the largest and smallest size, and Challen and Steinway shared the 7'6" to 9'. |
| 1938 || || Chappell bought Johann Strohmenger & Sons. |
| 1939 || || An English patent was awarded to Alan Blumlein for his invention of stereo. He was killed in a plane crash in 1942. |
| 1948 || || Ajello & Sons of Manchester was formed. They were related to Ajello of London and made pianos from 1948 to 1960. You find a lot of these small over-strung pianos in the north of England.
The Swedish firm Lindna introduced plastic parts, about which the less said the better. |
| 1953 || || The Paris branch of Herrburger Brooks closed. |
| 1956 || || Pearl River Pianos was established. They started with six shops and a workshop, and now have a work force over 4,000 and over 300,000 square meters of factory floor space. Production of pianos is 100,000 per year. Twenty percent of their production is exported to the west.
Kawai was now employing over 500 people and producing just over 1500 pianos per year. Koichi Kawai received the prestigious "Blue Ribbon Medal" from the Emperor of Japan, becoming the first company in the Japanese musical instrument industry to receive it. Koichi Kawai died suddenly in October of 1955 at the age of 70. Around this time 33-year-old Shigeru Kawai took over the company and embarked on radical changes. He began construction of two new factories, one a wood processing plant and the other a piano assembly plant, becoming the company's first modern production line. |
| 1958 || || Samick Musical Instruments was established. Samick has grown into the largest manufacturer of musical instruments in Korea, and is now the world's largest piano company. They only started making upright pianos in 1960 and grands in 1970. |
| 1959 || || The Challen company ceased independent manufacture of their pianos, with the name going to the Brasted brothers at first, then later to Barratt & Robinson.
British Piano Actions Ltd., London, passed control of the company to a consortium of six:
Paling & Co. Ltd., of Austria
Heintzman & Co. Ltd. of Canada
Pratt, Read & Co., of America
The Bothner Polliack Group of Companies of South Africa
Beale & Co. of Australia
Alfred Knight & Co. of London
Three years earlier a receiver had been appointed for British Piano Actions Ltd. Five months before the take-over the unsecured creditors received the offer of three shillings in the pound. British Piano Actions Ltd. transferred production from London to Llanelli, South Wales, which was classed as a distressed area, where there was need to create opportunities for employment and much needed grants. On the 10th of March 1982 British Piano Actions were again put into the hands of the receiver. |
| 1960 || || Yamaha produced two thousand two hundred pianos a month.
On July 1Oth, Lindner, a subsidiary of Rippen of Holland, opened in Ireland. The pianos produced were revolutionary; aluminium alloy welded frames were introduced reducing the weight by about half that of a cast frame. Plastics were used more widely for action parts and keys. There were flanges for the whippen and hammer, and dampers were clipped onto the rail rather than fixed with screws as is the normal way of fixing them. |
| 1962 || || Steinway introduced Teflon as a bushing material on all New York built grands and it was used until 1982. |
| 1963 || || Kawai America was established, followed by Kawai Europe, Canada, Australia, and Asia.
On show at the Frankfurt Fair was a Herrburger Brooks Schwander action, with a brass sleeve, lined with P.T.F.E. plastic bushing instead of a cloth bushing. The Amber Light Engineering Co. supplied this brass plastic bushing.
The Leeds piano competition was formed in the UK.
Rogers was acquired by Zenders. |
| 1964 || || Kembles acquired John Brinsmead and Cramer Pianos. |
| 1965 || || Barratt & Robinson Ltd. purchased Nathaniel Berry Pianos. |
| 1966 || || Jasper Corp. acquired Busendorfer. |
| 1967 || || Herrburger Brooks stopped making the spring and loop action for grands. A useful date as many small grands used this action. |
| 1968 || || Herrburger Brooks moved from London to Long Eaton. |
| 1971 || || Kemble took on UK distribution of Yamaha pianos and musical instruments.
Pleyel and Gaveau pianos were made by Schimmel from 1971 to 1994. In 1994 production moved back to France and new designs were introduced using Langer and Renner actions. |
| 1972 || || Bluthner was nationalized by the East German government. |
| 1973 || || The foundry equipped to produce iron frames for Barratt seemed to be on the verge of closing, so Barratt & Robinson bought the firm to guarantee their future supply of frames. |
| 1974 || || Baldwin of the US acquired all of the shares of Bechstein.
Knight introduced a fibre bushing for the wrest pins (tuning pins) which is said to have a holding pressure of 30,000 lbs., compared to traditional wood bushings which only took a tension of 6,000 lbs. |
| 1975 || || At the Frankfurt International Spring Fair, a new 4' 6" grand piano was shown. It was in mahogany, with a satin polyester finish, and called the Alfred Knight in honour of the late Alfred Knight. |
| 1978 || || During 1978 Fazioli Pianos was formed.
The Erard name was taken over by Schimmel of Germany. |
| 1980 || || Kawai opened their Ryuyo grand piano facility. The 300,000 square-foot plant was built at a cost of $50 million and is capable of producing over 60 grand pianos per day. The Ryuyo factory embodies the marriage of hand-craftsmanship and advanced automated technology.
Kemble pianos made the decision to move into retailing and acquired Chappell of Bond Street, London, opening a second branch in the Milton Keynes shopping centre.
On 3rd December Broadwood stopped making their own upright pianos, though they continued to be produced by Kembles, and are now made by Welmars.
Paolo Fazioli exhibited his first hand-built piano at the Frankfurt Fair. |
| 1982 || || Broadwood purchased Danemann Pianos and the factory.
Steinway stopped using ivory on piano keys. |
| 1983 || || Eavestaff stopped making pianos in the UK. |
| 1984 || || Zender pianos were made by Bentley's for them.
Yamaha acquired a majority shareholding in Kemble organ sales and the company was renamed "Yamaha-Kemble Music (UK) Ltd." The Kemble piano factory signed an agreement to start making Yamaha pianos under licence in the UK. The piano production was re-fitted with state of the art machinery and computer-controlled production techniques supplied by Yamaha. |
| 1985 || || The Birmingham brothers bought Steinway and the rest of CBS's musical instruments division (except Fender).
Bentley's were to stop making their own actions and keys. They were to be provided by Herrburger Brooks. |
| 1986 || || Baldwin sold Bechstein to Karl Schulze, the German piano master technician. |
| 1987 || || Zender was completely taken over by Bentley which included Rogers Pianos. |
| 1988 || || By this time Schimmel were making their own keyboards. |
| 1989 || || The Danemann Name was sold to Gardner Pianos in Cardiff in connection with the Welsh Enterprise Board.
Frazer pianos were taken over by Hellas.
Broadwood pianos were made at Bentley's under licence. |
| 1990 || || Barratt & Robinson and Challen pianos were being made in Malaysia. Frames, actions and keys were coming from the UK with felt from the Royal George Mill. The actions were by Langer. Dietrick Dotzek from Germany designed the wrest plank and stringing scale.
Knights was acquired by Bentley.
Chavanne Pianos was established in France, making high quality upright pianos, 125 cm. in height, using spruce from Fiemme in Italy, with Renner actions. |
| 1991 || || The Beethoven Broadwood Fortepiano tour of Vienna, Bonn, Bath, London, and Budapest took place. |
| 1993 || || Bentley, Broadwood and Knight were acquired by Welmars. David Grover of Bentley moved with them as head of overseas sales. |
| 1994 || || The parent company Bury, Cooper & Whitehead of the Royal George Felt Factory, Oldham, closed down. The Royal George Felt Factory, however, continued making felt till its closure in 1998, when a Far Eastern company bought the felt making machinery.
In 1990 the company was given the Queen's Award for export achievement, as 95% of production was exported. When they were at their peak the hammer felt produced at Royal George was enough for over 160,000 pianos in one year. |
| 1995 || || Barratt & Robinson pianos are now being made by Mickleburgh of Bristol. Sadly they are not staying with the Barrett serial numbers, which will cause confusion in the future. For example, Barratt number 44688 becomes 1998 under Mickleburgh and Barratt's old number 44688 becomes 1963. The pianos are not for export outside of the UK at the moment.
Trinity College, London, received the Queen's Award for Export Achievement, a first for a music examining board.
At Bechstein's the receiver was sent in, and following the public outcry a rescue plan was devised.
Steinway Musical Properties Inc. was sold by the Birmingham brothers of Boston to a group of Wall Street investors.
About this time, the Pearl River piano company of China and Yamaha Pianos of Japan went into a joint venture. They set up a company called Yamaha-Pearl River. This company was set up to make certain "Eterna" models that are exported to Europe and the USA.
The Selmer Music Instrument Company, owned by Dana Messina and Kyle Kirkland, paid $100 million for Steinway & Sons in 1995, and it went public a year later, trading under the name of LVB.
In July 1995, Kimball stopped making grands, and its production of uprights at this time was largely done by Baldwin. |
| 1996 || || Steinway is now fitting Herrburger Brooks actions in their upright pianos.
Steinway Musical Instruments went public in August 1996 and is now trading as LVB (Ludwig Von Beethoven) on the New York stock exchange, opening at $19 a share.
In February, Kimball pianos of USA was wound up. The furniture and piano action divisions in the US and UK are still intact. Also, Kimball International's division, mainly BUsendorfer, is unaffected by these changes. However, in October 1996 Kimball sold the action divisions Herrburger Brooks, England, to Harmony Pianos of Hong Kong.
On April 6, in Sacramento, CA, Music Systems Research, the manufacturer of America's best selling player piano system, Piano-Disc, announced the acquisition of the bankrupt Mason & Hamlin Piano Company assets.
Bechstein went public, winning many private shareholders, though Schulze and his family are still major stockholders. Since 1997 the shares can be bought at the stock exchange "Freiverkehr Berlin," Bechstein being the only German company to be successfully traded at the "BUrse." |
| 1997 || || A new Broadwood barless piano design was patented and launched at a seminar at the Royal College of Music. The Millenium range of pianos was announced, incorporating the barless upright.
Dietrich Heinrich Dotzek of Sweden took out a patent for a magnetic assisted upright piano action, patent number GB 2331831. The magnets assist the jack to return under the hammer butt notch, thus giving you a faster repetition with no extra weight added to the touch as would be if a spring was used for the same purpose. The patent was filed in 1997 and published in 1999. |
| 1998 || || In September, Herrburger Brooks of England, the action maker, went into administrative receivership.
On Saturday, December 12, The US International Trade Commission started an investigation into the competitiveness of the US piano industry. This was because piano imports from China, Japan, Indonesia, and South Korea were in excess of 62,480 in the first nine months of this year.
Broadwood celebrated their 270th anniversary.
Edward John Mason, working for Broadwood, took out a patent for an improved capo bar, to improve the tonal quality of the last twenty notes of a grand piano. The patent was filed in 1998 and was published the following year.
On December 28, Steinway Musical Instruments Inc. acquired Kluge, Europe's largest manufacturer of piano keys. The purchase price was three million Deutsche marks. Kluge, Which has key-manufacturing plants in Wuppertal, Germany, and Wilkow, Poland, jointly have a turnover of six million Deutsche marks. |
| 1999 || || Baldwin, the US piano maker, was to lay off 180 workers at their Conway plant. This represents three-quarters of the staff at the Conway plant. Conway was opened in 1957. This streamlining was to help them fight off the Asian imports. Baldwin's share of the market has dropped in the last few years. They had sales of $98.1 million for the first nine months of 1998, down from the first nine months of 1997, which had sales of $103.6 million. By consolidating operations at the Trumann plant in north-eastern Arkansas Baldwin hopes to save an estimated $2 million a year.
Thursday 18th March saw the end of the 10-year ban on importing ivory into Japan. After the February meeting in Washington the Convention committee decided to allow three African nations, including Zimbabwe, to resume exports of ivory to Japan. The number of elephants in Zimbabwe had increased, so the committee imposed a limited volume of exports per year to 60 tons. Ivory is now only being used for the production of keys for Yamaha concert grand pianos. Currently only 80 concert pianos are produced annually, each requiring 24 kilograms of ivory.
The 12th of April was the first day for a new company born from the ashes of Herrburger Brooks. The new company is called Langer Ltd.; it was formed by David Martin and two other former directors of the old Herrburger Brooks. They have moved into smaller premises, but have kept the machinery and fifty members of the old work force. They will continue to make action and keys but will no longer be making hammers.
On Thursday 12 December Deutsche Bank announced that they were buying Baldwin retail financing units at a cost of 35 million dollars. The financing units are for the purchase of musical instruments, primarily pianos. Deutsche Financial Services is well experienced in financing and able to maintain dealer relationships - important to Baldwin piano sales. This sell-off will help Baldwin Pianos to clear some of its debts and concentrate on piano production. |
| 2000 || || The year 2000 marks the 300th year of piano manufacturing--Happy Birthday!
January sees the launch of the new Shigeru grand by Kawai. It has been in the mind of Mr. Shigeru Kawai for over fifty years. In 1980 the Piano Research & Development Laboratory (called the Shigeru Kawai Piano Research Laboratory) was founded, and work began on creating this life-long dream of Shigeru. The creation of the laboratory led to the production of the Kawai EX Concert Grand Piano, which has been played by first-prize winners at major piano competitions around the world. This "quest for perfection" eventually became the basis for the Shigeru Kawai grand pianos. All Shigeru grands are handcrafted by master piano artisans from the Shigeru Piano Research Laboratory. Bass strings are hand wound, hammers are specially hand made (identical to the hammers found on the EX Concert Grand Piano), and soundboards are aged naturally (not in kilns) for five to fifteen years. In general, the various building processes take three to five times longer on a Shigeru Kawai grand than on a regular Kawai grand, thus the number is strictly limited.
February sees the launch of the new Quantum Piano, a collaboration between Conran & Partners and Kemble. Conran designed the case and Kemble designed the inside. The piano has a larger soundboard area than many baby grands, and is also fitted with a sostenuto pedal. Sadly they are only making sixty as a limited edition piano.
The Pearl River Piano Group announced they were to begin production of the old German make Ritmuller. Apparently they will be using the original scale design to keep the European sound, and the pianos are to be made in a special part of the Pearl River Factory. The pianos are aimed at the US market.
Kemble's license to manufacture Chappell pianos ended this year. It will be interesting to see who takes over the manufacture of Chappell pianos. Kemble has the right to the name till 2005, so we will have to wait until then.
On July 14 Overs Pianos of Australia launched their new action at the Australasian Piano Tuners and Technicians Convention in Sydney. It will be fitted into a Steinbach 225 cm. grand piano, with some bridge and scale modifications. This action is the product of computer-aided design; it apparently has superior performance over existing piano actions. The Overs Action offers pianists a level of control, responsiveness and speed unrivalled in grand pianos to date, with a down weight of 50 grams and up weight just over 40 grams. In comparison most of the popular grands have a 50 grams down and 23 grams up. The closer the up weight is to the down weight the more responsive the action is.
On 14 July there was an official press release on the merger between Whelpdale Maxwell & Cod Ltd., London, and Woodchester Pianos, Stroud. The new company will be known as "The British Piano Manufacturing Company Ltd.," and will incorporate the Welmar Piano Co., the Bentley Piano Co., Alfred Knight Ltd., The Woodchester Piano Co., Sir Herbert Marshall and Sons Ltd., and the Stroud Piano Co. Whelpdale, which makes Broadwood, Bentley, Knight, and Welmar pianos, will be moving production from the London factory to the Woodchester factory in Stroud, Gloucester. For Bentley Pianos this is a move back to where they were established. The new company will be making the following brands: Broadwood, Rogers, Hopkinson, Gehr, Steinberg, Lipp, Zender. The new company is to work with Ladbrooks Pianos to produce a new Broadwood steel barless upright piano.
On a sad note, London, which two hundred years ago boasted the world's largest concentration of piano makers, will no longer have a single piano manufacturer in the city.
Schaff buys the American Piano Supply Company. Both companies were founded in the early 1800s, supplying the USA piano trade with felt and tools. The APSC was taken over in 1915 by the American Felt Company, and they went on to acquire other supply houses and tool manufacturers, including the Tuners' Supply Company of Massachusetts. In 1973 a 34,000 square foot modern warehouse was constructed. They became the world's largest piano supply house. Schaff has been in the family for six generations.
October sees Steinway's launch of the new Essex line of pianos, an entirely new instrument with a lower tension duplex scale and a larger, tapered soundboard, with optimum placement of braces, ribs, and bridges and pear-shaped hammers. This new line was designed by Steinway's engineering team, headed by Susan Kenagy and the engineering team at Young Chang. This new line of pianos will be made at the Young Chang factories in Korea . The cabinetry will be Art Deco in style. Four models will be introduced initially, a 182 cm. and a 160 cm. grand, and a 111 cm. and 123 cm. upright. |
| 2001 || || On Wednesday, May 30, 2001, Baldwin Piano & Organ Co. filed for bankruptcy under US Chapter 11, to allow them to regroup as a company. The reasons given were inventory excess and administrative expenses. On Thursday, May 31, the Nasdaq stock market halted trading in Baldwin shares as they closed at $2.15.
On October 15th, Capital Corp., Baldwin's largest creditor, won the right to acquire the company for $17 million in an auction in federal bankruptcy court. Two companies have put in a bid to Capital Corp. for the Baldwin piano name, an investment group based in California and Gibson Musical Instrument Co., maker of Gibson guitars.
On Wednesday November 14th, Gibson Guitar Corp. completed its purchase of Baldwin Piano & Organ Co., giving the guitar maker a brand name in the piano business. GE Capital was Baldwin's biggest creditor and had the right to sell the company under a bankruptcy agreement reached in October. Baldwin owed GE Capital just under $31 million. It is unknown at this moment what Gibson paid for Baldwin, but $17-$20 million could be the likely price.
On November 15th, the Great American Group, Wholesale & Industrial Services, will be selling by order of US Bankruptcy Court the manufacturing equipment of Baldwin Piano & Organ Company USA. The sale will be held in Greenwood, MS.
On Friday, December 21, 2001, Kimball put up BUsendorfer pianos of Vienna for sale. The company, which employs 230 workers, turned over $16 million last year. The Austrian BAWAG PSK Group purchased BUsendorfer, and the company is hoping to increase production from the present 500 to 800 grand pianos a year. If all goes to plan the contracts are to be exchanged in January 2002. |
| 2002 || || December 9, 2002 UThe Calisia Piano Factory in Kalisz has signed the first trade contract with recipients in China after a three-decade break,U this is a trial run of ten pianos. Calisia is Poland's only piano maker. for more history on Calisia
On Tuesday 17 December Bechstein announced that Samick is to take sixty percent of Bechstein shares in return for twenty-five percent of Samick's shares. In the first nine months of 2002 Bechstein's profits sunk around ten percent. It is hoped that Samick can use its large dealer network in the US to sell Bechstein pianos. Samick makes 45,000 pianos a year. It is possible that Samick will make a cheaper version of a Bechstein pianos, just as Steinway uses Young Chang to make their Boston piano range. Bechstein will also assist Samick in improving certain models. The Samick Company was originally established in 1958, in Inchon, South Korea. They have been buying up piano names such as Knabe, Kohler, and Campbell. |
| 2003 || || On Thursday, 9 January, an Elvis Presley Knabe grand piano was sold for $685,000 (u425,711). Music producer Robert Johnson and partner Larry Moss sold the piano to the chairman of the Blue Moon Group, Michael Muzio.
On Monday, 7th April, the British Piano Manufacturing Co. Ltd. went into liquidation. Production of Welmar, Knight, Broadwood, Bentley, and Woodchester pianos stopped. The parent company Whelpdale Maxwell & Cod Ltd. also went under the following day. This also affected Bluthner shops which were part of the WMC group. In 2000 the company had moved from London to the Woodchester factory to cut costs.
Intermusic, of Poole Dorset, England have bought the stock of the failing British Piano Manufacturing Co. Ltd. They have also acquired the piano names of Bentley, Welmar, and Woodchester. Probably the pianos will be made in the Far East for Intermusic.
In December 2003 Samsung dropped the Weber piano made by Young Chang since 1984 and is now marketing Chinese pianos under the Behning name.
Yantai Perzina Piano Manufacturing Co. Ltd was established they make Carl Ebel, Eavestaff, Gebr. Perzina, Gerh. Steinberg, Sungler & Suhne brands. and makes 6000 upright pianos and 300 grand pianos annually. |
| 2005 || || The ABPT celebrates 50 years of service to the public.
April 21st Steinway announces it is to move production of some of the Essex models to Pearl River Factory in China. The move will help keep cost down according to Robert Dove Steinways Asiaus President.
Bechstein is opening a new factory in China, where they will apparently make pianos for the local market. The name will be "Berlin Bechstein Piano (Shanghai) Co. Ltd." |
| 2006 || || Steinway & Sons New York factory has announced that it will return to the production of the original fully developed version of the Model O grand with its characteristic round tail, curved bass bridge, and rear duplex scales. The Model O was introduced in 1902 at the New York factory. Henry Ziegler (1857-1930) designed the Model O The model do get some alterations In 1906, the bass bridge was changed from straight to curved, and the frame was modified to accommodate adjustable rear duplex scales. In 1914, the length was increased slightly by 1/2" from 5'10" to 5'10-1/2". In 1924, the last of these Model O grands were produced in New York.
Yamaha are no longer making the C range of upright pianos that was made at the Pearl River Factory China. The new range of B Models the B1, B2 replaces the C109 and C113 Traditional. The new models will also have a silent version and will be available in more finishes the B model will be made in Indonesia, the same place that the popular GB1 grand is made. The other big factor is pric,e the Black B1 will retail @ U1,899.00 which is a big drop in price on the C110A @ 2,229. The Yamaha B1 Silent Piano in Black Polyester RRP 2,899.00 and is being discounted down to as little 2,299.00 by some retailers.
Mr. Schulze the majority share holder of Bechstein in an interview with merkur.de announced that Bechstein sold 5192 piano of which 1450 were grands in 2005 Mr. Schulze says that "western culture" can't do without eastern and far-eastern wages. Currently, the German factory only manufactures the luxury brand "C. Bechstein". The progressively cheaper models, Euterpe, W.Hoffmann and Zimmermann are made in the Czech Republic, Indonesia and China.
Kemble Pianos Launch there new The Mozart K121 model this is to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Mozart. The new commemorative limited edition Mozart piano will only have 250 individually numbered models made. it comes in two version of case both very decorative. |