Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Chickering, Jonas

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CHICKERING, Jonas, piano-manufacturer, b. in New Ipswich, N. H., 5 April, 1797; d. in Boston, Mass., 8 Dec., 1853. He was the son of a blacksmith, and, after receiving a common-school education, learned the trade of cabinet-making. In 1818 he went to Boston, and a year afterward became a workman in John Osborne's piano manufactory. In 1823 he began business with a partner, and subsequently carried it on alone. He associated himself in 1830 with John Mackay, a retired ship-master, and from that time imported, by the cargo, the fine woods used in the construction of piano-forte cases. In 1841 his partner was lost at sea. He gradually extended his facilities until his factory in Boston made 2,000 pianos a year. In 1852 the workshops were burned, and before the new and more spacious building, erected around a quadrangle on a lot five acres in extent, was completed, he died. He had introduced various improvements in the manufacture and construction of the piano-forte, notably the circular scale. In 1825 Alpheus Babcock, of Boston, patented a cast-iron frame for a square piano. Mr. Chickering greatly improved this frame, including in it the pin-bridge and damper socket rail. This construction he patented in 1840. At the London exhibition in 1851 he exhibited a complete frame for grand pianos in one casting. In 1853 he adopted the system of overstringing, which he combined with a metal frame of one casting, in a square piano, finished after his death by his sons. The Chickering instrument has a high reputation among musicians of all countries. After the death of Jonas Chickering, who was respected for his public spirit and benevolence not less than for his progressive enterprise, the business was continued by his three sons, who, after receiving their education in the public schools, were taken into the manufactory. — His son, Thomas Edward, b. in Boston, 22 Oct., 1824; d. there, 14 Feb., 1871, succeeded his father as head of the firm, of which he became a member when but twenty-one years of age. For many years before the war he was interested in the state militia, and in 1862 he left Boston in command of the 41st Massachusetts volunteers. The regiment was sent to New Orleans in December of that year, and performed efficient service in the field. In April, 1863, Col. Chickering was appointed military governor of Opelousas. At the close of the war he was brevetted brigadier-general.