Popular Science Monthly/Volume 40/February 1892/The Development of American Industries Since Columbus: Musical Instruments I

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THE place this country holds among modern nations in the production and use of musical instruments is so significant that the fact alone ought to be sufficient to disprove the charge that Americans are too material to appreciate music or the arts. In this and the following article we purpose to treat of the development of musical instruments and their manufacture in America from the historical, technical, and industrial standpoints, with brief sketches of the various improvements and of the individuals identified with them. The piano-forte, the "household orchestra" of the people, is entitled to precedence. Though less complicated and expressive than that "king of musical instruments," the organ, it fills such an important place in social and popular life, and its production maintains such a prosperous art industry, employing within its lines so many gifted men, that this prominence is fully justified.

In treating of the evolution of the piano-forte a little attention must be claimed for the precursors of the instrument. The harp, one of the most ancient, may be traced back in Egyptian history to an indefinable period before Christ. Bruce, the celebrated Scottish traveler and antiquarian, found two paintings, in fresco, of harps on the wall of an ancient sepulchre at Thebes, supposed to be that of Rameses III, who reigned about 1250 B. c. In Thebes, an Egyptian harp was found, in 1823, by Sir John Wilkinson, in an ancient tomb, estimated to be three thousand years old, and when the gut strings were touched they emitted musical sounds. These instruments are illustrated in Fig. 1.

The lyre, a relative form of harp, was also much used in Assyria and Egypt. Ancient sculptures found in Konyunjik, Assyria, now in the British Museum, show two lyres with figures, which further demonstrate its remarkable antiquity. Both instruments were played with the fingers; sometimes a piece of bone or ivory was used with the lyre as a plectrum.

The dulcimer, which of all musical mediums is nearest to the piano, has been likewise traced into the dim recesses of history,

PSM V40 D492 Triangular harps.jpg
1. Ancient Egyptian Harp, from instrument in Egyptian Museum, Florence. 2. Ancient Egyptian Harp {Wilkinson). 3. Ancient Egyptian Harp (Wilkinson). 4. Persian Chang (from Persian MS. 410 years old) Lane's "Arabian Nights."
PSM V40 D492 Various forms of egyptian harps.jpg
1 and 3. Portable Harps for single use. 2. Orchestral Harp. 4. From Painting at Thebes, on tomb of Rameses III.
Fig. 1.

and was known doubtless as early as the harp. In a piece of antique sculpture—an Assyrian bas-relief—in the British Museum, a dulcimer may be seen illustrating the principle of sound production in strings by percussion.

Another bas-relief represents PSM V40 D492 Assyrian lyres.jpgASSYRIAN LYRES.
1 and 2. Sculptures from Konyunjik (British Museum).
3. From Botta's "Nineve."
Fig. 2.
a procession of triumph after the victory of Sardanapalus over the Susians, where the dulcimer is used.

Having shown the antiquity of these instruments of the string family out of which the piano has been evolved, we pass over a space of centuries and come to the next major development of the idea. This was the introduction of finger-keys in the organ, which were in the beginning struck with the clinched fist. Guido is said to have first applied them, in addition to his other historic achievements.

The first instrument of the string family with finger-keys was the clavicytherium, or clavitherum, which the Italians produced about the thirteenth century. This was a form of harp with gut strings in which a key-board was employed with finger-keys to move the mechanical leather plectra used for plucking the strings in lieu of the fingers.

The clavichord, an instrument used up to a recent date, came into existence about the same period as the foregoing, and was another PSM V40 D493 Procession in triumph showing dulcimer.jpgFig. 3.—Procession of Triumph, showing Dulcimer. step toward the piano. This, like the two instruments mentioned, derived its name from clavis, a key. For the first time gut strings were set aside for wire, which were thrown into musical vibration by a tangent moved by a key, thus forming a rude anticipation of the first piano-action mechanism. Sebastian Bach used the instrument in his home for purposes of inspiration and practice, while Mozart is said to have carried one on his musical journeys. Beethoven was also partial to the instrument. It had very many advantages over the harpsichord, the only popular instrument of the Mozart and Bach era. For instance, it was possible to produce rude piano e forte effects —which results, first attained in the piano, gave it its title—while it had the faculty of action repetition, and a pleasing attribute of being able to simulate human feeling, such as a violinist or vocalist can produce by sliding from interval to interval. As compared with the piano, however, or even the improved harpsichord of the last century, it was a mere toy.

The first mention of the instrument discovered in England goes back to 1500, when William Cornish, in his work, A Treatise between Trouth and Informacion. says:

"The clavichorde hath a tunely knyde
As the wyre is wrested high and low."

It may have been known previously, however, in that country. Meanwhile, the Germans were generally esteemed as leading clavichord makers at that period.

The virginal and spinet, both forms of the clavicytherium, came next. In these instruments brass-wire strings superseded gut. Instead of a leather plectrum for plucking the strings, a piece of crow-quill was used attached to a "jack" and operated by a finger-key. The difference between these two instruments was only a slight matter of shape. The virginal was in some cases partially upright. Among the magnificent collection of instruments presented to the Museum of Art by W. A. and Mary E. PSM V40 D494 Spinet by player.jpgFig. 4.—Spinet by Player.
South Kensington Museum, London.
Brown, of this city, several specimens may be seen. The virginal was a favorite instrument in England during Elizabeth's time. The most noteworthy example of this species in preservation is the Rossi spinet, in the South Kensington Museum collection, London. It has a compass of four octaves and an eighth from E, and is finished in a superb manner. A Player spinet is shown in Fig. 4.

Meanwhile musical art had been developing, the compass of keyed instruments was extending, and the harpsichord duly appeared in Italy, which was the home of musical art almost up to the end of the last century. Toward the end of the sixteenth century it had taken the place of the virginal and spinet in many parts of Europe. The harpsichord was an enlarged and improved form of the latter instruments. Among other original features it contained two strings to each note, which marks another important innovation,

Hans Ruckers, of Dresden—Handel's favorite maker—was the most noted of his time. One of his instruments is at present in the possession of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. having been presented by the late Mr. Drexel, of Philadelphia.

In Italy, Father Zanetti, a Venetian priest, became noted for some improvements in the harpsichord about 1702, Crotone and Farino—two famous Italian makers—later appeared. The latter substituted catgut for wire, going back to the harp principle, but it never won recognition. Meantime, one Rigoli, of Florence, made upright harpsichords as far back as 1631. Coming down toward the introduction of the piano-forte, the names of Silbermann. Stein, Peronnard, Marius, Cristofori, and Tschudi must be mentioned. These were all noted harpsichord-makers, representing Germany, France, Italy, and England, but nearly all of them became identified with the production of the piano.

The piano-forte was invented by Bartolommeo Cristofori, a harpsichord-maker of Padua, Italy, who exhibited four instruments in 1709. The honor was formerly claimed for Marius, a French maker, who produced a piano in 1710; while German PSM V40 D495 Harpsichord.jpgFig. 5.—Harpsichord. writers maintained that Schroeter, of Dresden, was the initiator of the instrument. The earliest date ascribed to the latter's achievement, however, is 1711. During the present century, however, an Italian document was discovered, written by Marchese Scipione Maffei, a Florentine scholar, in 1711, which testifies that Bartolommeo Cristofori, of that city, exhibited four pianos in 1709, which statement was originally published in the Giornale in that year, accompanied by a diagram of Cristofori's action principle, employing hammers, which constituted the chief difference betwen the harpsichord and the piano.

In Maffei's writings Cristofori's name is given as "Cristofali," but this is proved to be an error, because inscriptions upon existing piano-fortes give the name as "Cristofori."

Father Wood, an English monk, living at Rome, is also said to have made a piano-forte similar to Cristofori's in 1711, which he exhibited in England, where it attracted much notice. PSM V40 D495 Piano by cristofori 1726.jpgFig. 6.—Piano by Cristofori, a. d. 1726. Kraus Museum, Florence. Cristofori did not remain idle after introducing his first instrument. He became prominently known as a maker, but died in 1731, comparatively poor. Two piano-fortes by Cristofori, at present in Florence, dated 1720 and 1726, show that he anticipated the principles of an improved action, and many other points of equal importance in the structure and acoustics of the instrument. One of these is illustrated in Fig. 6. All authorities admit that he was a great figure and a genius of no common order.

England, backward in the production of musical creators or adjuncts to the art in the past, contributed nothing of consequence to supplant the harpsichord, which instrument was largely imported, until the middle of the last century, when Burckhardt Tschudi, a Swiss, settled in London. Tschudi subsequently engaged in the manufacture of piano-fortes, and incidentally founded the house of Broadwood & Sons, existing at this date in London, and still eminent as piano manufacturers. Plenius, another London harpsichord-maker, attempted to copy Father Wood's pianoforte, but failed to popularize the form, and ceased manufacturing the instrument in a few years.

Throughout England little was known of the piano-forte until the arrival of twelve workmen in London from German shops, about 1760. This turned the tide of popularity in its favor, for, having had practical experience abroad, they produced instruments of more musical value than those experimental pianos hitherto made by Plenius and Tschudi, These men were familiarly known as the "twelve apostles." From Cristofori's time to 1760 all the piano-fortes made were in the form of "grands," but very diminutive as compared with those of our time. This shape was borrowed from the harpsichord, out of which the piano-forte was evolved. Zumpe, however, a German workman, who went over to London among the group indicated, produced square pianos for the first time, which he sold at a reasonable figure; and this feature, combined with their portable appearance and pleasant touch, won rapid popularity for the instrument.

PSM V40 D496 John Broadwood.jpgFig. 7.—John Broadwood. John Broadwood, the founder of Broadwood & Sons, a young Scotchman, came to London in 1751, and found employment in Tschudi's workshop. He rose rapidly in the favor of his master, and subsequently married the latter's daughter. Afterward becoming a partner, upon the death of Tschudi he inherited the business. Broadwood, by his personal genius as an inventor and workman, rescued Tschudi from being a mere harpsichord-maker, and, toward 1786, Tschudi & Broadwood became pre-eminently known as piano-forte makers. Broadwood was instrumental in introducing the action at present known as the "English grand action," which originated with Backers, a workman in Tschudi's shop, in 1776. Robert Stodart, another graduate of Tschudi's workshop, succeeded to a successful business established by Backers, the inventor of the "English grand action" and died very wealthy. Stodart also contributed many important improvements to the grand. He was followed by his sons, who maintained an excellent record as piano-makers up to recent years.

Sebastian Erard, the founder of the well-known house of Erard, became a leading maker in France toward the end of the last century. He was another important figure in relation to improvements in the grand piano, and also the harp. He was followed by his son Pierre, who became equally famous.

Clementi, the celebrated pianist, a Roman, began business in London in 1800 in partnership with Frederick W. Collard, the latter being the practical partner, and out of this firm the eminent house of Collard & Collard, at present known through Great Britain and Ireland as manufacturers, came. The first Collard was in his time also a great inventor.

Pleyel, Pape, and other French makers appeared soon after the beginning of the century and became famous in Europe as improvers. PSM V40 D497 Illustrating the partial development of the piano action.jpgFig. 8.—Illustrating the Partial Development of the Piano Action. Many other makers of distinction are known in relation to early piano-making in Germany and elsewhere, but detailed reference to them is impossible here.

John Broadwood introduced an important improvement in the construction of the square piano in 1783, by altering the position of the tuning-pin block—known technically as the "wrest-plank "—from the front of the instrument to the back, a system which has since then been maintained. He also made some valuable improvements in the construction and position of the sounding-board.

John Geib, a German pianomaker, patented and introduced the first "square action" of value in 1786. This became known as the "grasshopper" action, and held a leading place in England and in this country up to 1840. He also introduced the buff stop. Members of the Geib family were among the pioneer piano and organ builders in New York.

The square piano, which held a favorite place in the United States up to within the past five years, owing to the fact that it was brought to a high point of perfection here, was very popular in Europe as a household instrument up to 1807, when the "cabinet" upright took its place. William Southwell, of Dublin, some of whose family were prominently known on the early American stage, was the inventor and patentee of the latter instrument. It was produced after fourteen years of persistent endeavor, and, although many persons had previously attempted to make an upright piano-forte of practical value, Southwell was the first to solve the problem in 1807, and it is out of his instrument

PSM V40 D498 Southwell piano 1798.jpg
Fig. 9.—Southwell's Piano, a. d. 1798. In the possession of A. Simpson, Esq., Dundee, Scotland.

that all subsequent models and modifications of the upright sprang. He also originated the first meritorious upright action ever produced up to his time. This is still known in London as the "Irish" action. One of Southwell's earliest attempts is illustrated in Fig. 6.

It is noteworthy that John Isaac Hawkins, an Englishman, the inventor of ever-pointed pencils, and an engineer by profession, began the manufacture of uprights in Philadelphia in 1800, He took out a national patent in that year for his instrument, which he named "portable grand," and which created quite a furor in that city at the time,

Thomas Jefferson happened to see one of Hawkins's "portable grands" in 1800, while visiting Philadelphia, which he speaks of in the following letter to his daughter: "A very ingenious, modest, and poor young man. in Philadelphia, has invented one of the prettiest improvements in the piano-forte that I have ever seen, and it has tempted me to engage one for Monticello. His strings are perpendicular, and he contrives within that height to give his strings the same length as in a grand piano-forte, and fixes the three unisons to the same screw. It scarcely gets out of tune at all, and then, for the most part, the three unisons are tuned at once."

One of these instruments is now in the possession of Broadwood & Sons, London. Hawkins was certainly the first to anticipate the modern upright, in its characteristics of portableness, but musically his instrument had no value, and the action principle PSM V40 D499 First american upright piano made by hawkins 1800.jpgFig. 10.—First American Upright Piano, made by Hawkins in Philadelphia, 1800. In the possession of Broadwood & Sons, London. originated by him was a complete failure. He afterward returned to London, where he achieved an honorable place in his profession. I am indebted to Mr. A. J. Hipkins, the celebrated English writer on musical instruments, and member of Broadwood & Sons, London, for facts given in this connection.

The future of the piano about the beginning of the century depended on the successful introduction of iron; for a point of development had been reached where wooden cases were found inadequate to withstand the tension imposed by heavier stringing and an increased key-board compass. Meanwhile the first notable attempt to introduce iron into the structure of the piano occurred in this country in 1800, when J. Isaac Hawkins, already spoken of, manufactured uprights with iron backs, on which the sounding-board was adjusted. Several rude attempts to employ iron were made subsequently in Europe, but without any degree of success, until Allen and Thoms, two practical workmen in the shop of Stodart in London, originated and patented a system of metal tube and plate bracing in 1820. This attempt was in itself very successful. It became the property of Stodart and proved a fortune to him, but, although an improvement on the old methods, it was far from being adequate to the demands of musical progress. Pleyel, of Paris, and Broadwood, of London, followed with more improvements of the same order, and with partial success, from the standpoint of the European climate as well as the demands of the limited compass then known. Allen and Thoms later on improved upon their first patent, but not before they had been anticipated in this country by Alpheus Babcock, a piano-maker of Boston, whose invention Jonas Chickering subsequently perfected. Probably it was the obvious inability of London-made pianos to stand our climate, or the intrinsic defects in the system of case-building then in vogue, which attracted the attention of American piano-makers as early as 1790, when cases were put together with screws instead of glue in Philadelphia; anyway, it has long been a subject of pardonable pride to American piano-makers to know that the problem referred to was solved in this country.

PSM V40 D500 The albrecht piano 1789.jpg
Fig. 11.—The Albrecht Piano, a. d. 1789. Pennsylvania Historical Society. Made in Philadelphia by Charles Albrecht. One of the oldest American pianos known.

In 1775 John Behrent, of Philadelphia, announced that "he had finished an extraordinary instrument by the name of the piano-forte in mahogany, in the manner of the harpsichord." This was probably the first piano made in America. James Julian came forward in 1784, when the Revolutionary War had just been concluded, and advertised the great "American piano-forte of his own invention." In 1789 a piano-forte made by George Ulshofer, a German musician and musical instrument maker and repairer, was exhibited by him in Corre's City Tavern, New York. Some time before this year Charles Albrecht began making pianos in Philadelphia, many notable specimens of which exist to-day. One stands in the Art Rooms of the Philadelphia Historical Society, dated 1789, and another was presented by the late Mr. Drexel to the New York Museum of Art.

I find a definite announcement in 1792, in the first number of the Diary or Lowdon's Register, of February 12th, in which Messrs. Dodds & Claus, musical instrument manufacturers, 66 Queen Street, announce the "forte piano of their make, with their own improvements."

Piano-manufacturing in New England was begun by Benjamin Crehore, in Boston, as early as 1798. He had a workshop at Milton, Mass., where he made violins and violoncellos many years previously, but his first piano was produced some time in that year. His workshop proved to be a national school for the art, so to speak, for Alpheus Babcock and John Osborn, the celebrated PSM V40 D501 Babcock skeleton iron plates 1825 1830.jpgFig. 12.—Babcock's Skeleton Iron Plates. 1. Patented December 17, 1825. 2. With iron ring, patented May 24, 1830. piano manufacturers of the period, with whom Jonas Chickering learned his business, were apprentices of Crehore's. The first Chickering, therefore, sprang indirectly from the hitter's modest factory.

The pioneer makers in New York were Davis, Gibson, Kersing, and Geib—names now almost forgotten, although old instruments of their production may be found occasionally in piano ware-rooms and country houses. All of these were in business before 1800 and upward, but they never attained prominence or wealth.

The piano industry had attained some footing in America toward 1829, despite foreign competition, for in that year twenty-five hundred pianos were made here—nine hundred being produced in Philadelphia, eight hundred in New York, seven hundred and seventeen in Boston, and a considerable number in Baltimore and Cincinnati. At that period the Loud Brothers, of Philadelphia, were the leading American makers—a position assumed by Chickering & Mackay toward 1840. In Boston, Osborn, Jonas Chickering, and Alpheus Babcock were established—the former being one of the most distinguished of native piano-makers. Babcock, who produced and patented his skeleton iron plate in 1825, moved to Philadelphia in 1830, where he lived for a few years.

Jonas Chickering began business in 1823, in partnership with James Stewart, a practical piano-maker and inventor. Stewart had been previously in business in Baltimore, but came North to become a partner of Osborn, with whom he quarreled in a short time, when a separation ensued. In 1826 Stewart went to London, having accepted a position as superintendent of Collard & Collard's. Mr. Chickering entered into partnership with a Captain Mackay at this juncture, and the new firm rapidly rose to a foremost place as makers of pianos, thanks to the inventive and technical genius of Mr. Chickering. In 1841 Captain Mackay died, when the whole business reverted to Chickering.

Jonas Chickering was born in Ipswich, N, H., April 5, 1798. He learned cabinet-making in his native town, and when a mere youth turned his face toward Boston, to find an outlet for his native abilities. On arriving in Boston he found his way into Osborn's shop, leaving it subsequently to enter on a successful career as a manufacturer and inventor. In 1840 he introduced and patented his full solid-cast metal plate for squares, which he carried into grands in 1842. The introduction of these plates marks an era in the history of the American piano.

PSM V40 D502 Jonas Chickering.jpg
Fig. 13.—Jonas Chickering.

Upon the death of Jonas Chickering, in 1853, the responsibilities of the business devolved upon his three sons—Thomas E., C. Frank, and George H. Chickering. The first two are dead, the last is the present head of the firm of Chickering & Sons. C. Frank Chickering, the author of the chief developments in the Chickering piano since his father's death, has left behind him a splendid record as an inventor, while his most artistic labors have been performed in the region of acoustics, or tone development. He was born in Boston, June 26, 1827, where he received his education and professional training. He lived in New York for many years, attaining an influential position in social and artistic circles, and died here March 23, 1891. George H. Chickering was born in Boston, April 18, 1830. Trained under his father's eye in all departments of the art, he was eminently fitted for the province in which he labored up to the time of his brother's death, while time and experience have amply qualified him for the responsible position he now occupies.

PSM V40 D503 Chickering full solid cast iron piano frame 1849.jpg
Fig. 14.—Chickering's Full Solid-cast Iron Frame, a. d. 1840. Also applied to Grands.

Chickering's "circular scale" for squares followed the full metal plate, and this became in later years a direct key to the development of the system of "overstringing" now in general use in this country. Previous to the "circular scale" the hammer heads struck upon an almost straight line throughout, and having, meanwhile, to conform to a standard law which regulates the part of the string on which the hammer is to strike, piano-makers were restricted from bringing forward further improvements in stringing and case structure. Jonas Chickering, however, helped to remove the barriers which impeded progress by running his hammer-heads on a curve. This permitted the introduction of many original features in the general constitution of the instrument, leading up to still greater developments. The improvement was suggested to Chickering by the perfecting of the plate idea, for, having found the latter to be a most satisfactory means of strengthening his cases so as to withstand all extra tension imposed by heavier stringing and an extension of the keyboard, he was placed in a position to move forward, and the "circular scale" for squares was the outcome. This system, however, was never found applicable to the grand or upright, owing to their different construction, though the late C. F. Chickering took out a patent for a "circular scale" for the latter instrument in 1871.

The term "scale" in the technical vocabulary of the pianomaker means—superficially—the disposition of the strings; but it really means far more, for the scale draughtsman has to make radical changes in the case, action, structure of the plate, and other lesser features to correspond with any changes made in the arrangement or use of the strings. The Chickering "circular scale "' is regarded as a most important contribution by old pianomakers, though it was never carried beyond the square.

Loud Brothers, of Philadelphia, had in the mean time brought out and patented many features of moment, which gave impulse to other thinkers, but nothing of consequence comparable with Chickering's achievements. New York makers were not slow to see the advantage of the latter's plates, which were copied in various forms. A few of the more ingenious managed to use plates almost similar to Chickering's, without exposing themselves to legal proceedings. The "circular scale," being an unpatentable species of innovation, was, however, freely copied.

The most notable of the makers in New York around the "fifties" were the Nunns family and Bacon & Raven. The former introduced the French square action into this country, and are known to have brought forward some minor imjjrovements.

The next and most important advance in piano construction was overstringing. In the old system of stringing—which is yet in use among English makers—the strings throughout were placed almost parallel, in harp-fashion. In the illustration of a Chickering plate (Fig. 14), this method of string adjustment 7nay be seen. British and French makers yet stick to the old system to some extent, though they have adopted many of the progressive traits of American pianos. Even the eminent house of Broadwood & Son, London, still use the "flat scaling," as it is called, in preference to overstringing, on the ground that it yields a purer quality of tone. This is only a matter of opinion, however, about which the best makers and experts of Germany and this country differ. One thing, meanwhile, is indisputable—viz., that English pianos lack the power and resonance of American instruments, and would never stand this climate. They are constructed for sweetness and daintiness of tone rather than for volume. American pianos, on the other hand, possess a remarkable combination of all those qualities which are in the highest sense related to musical art.

Overstringing was anticipated about the beginning of the century by the elder Thomas Loud, but nothing came of his experiments. Overstringing—which means simply the crossing of sections of the strings—was a difficult system to perfect, since it compelled radical changes in the disposition of the hammers, structure of the plate, and other component parts of the piano. About 1853, when the instrument had grown to still larger dimensions and power, thanks to the whole-cast metal plate, a point had been reached where it became apparent that further compass and volume of tone were impossible under accepted stringing conditions. Overstringing was the only avenue to further progress

PSM V40 D505 Henry E Steinway.jpg
Fig. 15.—Henry E. Steinway.

in tone-development open to piano-makers; yet few saw it, and those who did were incapable of bringing it to a practical success. The chief points of superiority over the flat scaling are that overstringing permits the dividing up of the tensional pull of the strings upon the case, while it admits of their more advantageous use from the standpoint of tone, and renders the instrument more capable of staying in tune and up to pitch—a most important consideration.

John Jardine—a very clever piano-maker—was one of the earliest to attempt overstringing in this country, but his efforts led to no permanent results. Frederick Mathushek took out a patent for an application of this method of stringing in 1851, but it never became popular. Steinway & Sons, however, took up the idea in its crude stages a few years later, and applied it successfully. They not only developed overstringing, but it is to them we owe the improved disposition of the strings below. They were the first to exhibit a square piano containing a practical and successful PSM V40 D506 Steinway grand piano with the fan shaped strings disposition.jpgFig. 16.—Interior of "Steinway" Grand, showing Disposition of the Strings Fan-shape. development of the overstringing principle, which has since been accepted everywhere. An instrument made on these improved lines was exhibited at the American Institute Fair in 1855. It was awarded a gold medal, and was practically the parent instrument of that order, not only as regards the arrangement of the strings, but in the structure of the plate and most other general features. Bass overstringing, passing over three bridges, was a noticeable feature in that piano. A full metal plate, covering the wrest-plank, having a solid bar, was also used, with improvements which insured greater resistance against the pull of the strings. Another feature embodied in this instrument was the arrangement of the bridges. These were placed farther in on the sounding-board, so as to bring into sympathy hitherto dormant sections of its surface.

Passing over the numerous inventions brought out by Steinway & Sons, following the success of their squares made on the system referred to, their patent for stringing in grands claims a brief notice. This is illustrated in Fig. 16. They were granted a patent for this invention in 1859. In the instruments made on the new lines the strings were spread out in fan-shape, in conjunction with an original disposition of the bridges, as well as with a striking departure in the construction of the plate, the quality of wire used in the different sections throughout, and in many minor directions. The success of these instruments was pronounced, and the "Steinway" grands were immediately given a foremost place among the leading concert instruments of the world. In 1863 they applied overstringing on a full iron plate, together with many of the most significant features of their squares and grands, to the upright, a form little used in those times, though now holding popular favor to the almost entire exclusion of the square. Since that year they have added patent after patent, and have been most indefatigable in their efforts to improve the character of the piano. Among their other notable inventions must be named their "grand duplex scale," which is now adopted in all their improved instruments. This was introduced in 1872. Their modern grands are remarkable for the character of the action used, as much as for their individuality of tone. This action is a Steinway specialty, and contains many original and effective features, which render it capable of yielding remarkable results in the hands of the artist, the chief features being its power of quick repetition and susceptibility to artistic demands. This brief sketch of their inventions would be incomplete without mention of their "cupola metal frame." This is another improvement in the structure of the modern plate.

The house of Steinway & Sons was founded in 1853 by Henry E. Steinway and his sons, Charles and Henry. The elder Steinway was born in Wolfshagen, in the duchy of Brunswick, Germany, on December 17, 1797. From being an organ-builder he entered the sphere of piano-making at Seesen, where he married and began business on his own account. His three sons, C Theodore, Charles, and William Steinway, were born at Seesen. Henry E. Steinway won a reputation as a progressive piano-maker from the beginning. In 1839 he exhibited a grand and two squares at the state fair of Brunswick, where he was awarded the prize medal by Albert Methfessel, the composer, who presided as chairman of the jury on the occasion. Meanwhile his sons all grew up in the atmosphere of the piano art business, in which they afterward figured so prominently. In 1850 Henry E, Steinway came to these shores on the advice of his son Charles, who had come over the year before to investigate the field. In 1853, the year of the first American World's Fair, the house of Steinway & Sons was founded. William, armed with an excellent education and a technical training, was taken into partnership late in that year, and since then has been closely identified with the growth of the business.

William Knabe, the founder of Knabe & Co., of Baltimore, whose portrait we give, was another important figure in the development of piano-making in America Born in Kreutzburg, Germany, in 1803, he came to this country twenty years later with a knowledge of piano-making; and, in association with Henry Gaehle, began manufacturing in Baltimore in 18139. A few years later he started in business for himself. Knabe was instrumental in bringing out many good "scales" and new ideas of similar unpatentable character, and is admitted to have left behind him a PSM V40 D508 William Knabe.jpgFig. 17.—William Knabe. worthy record as a maker, being always identified with pianos of the first grade. He died in 1864 in Baltimore.

The late James A. Gray, of Boardman & Gray, of Albany, introduced several inventions of some moment into the square in past years, but with the decadence of that instrument their value ended.

William Lindeman, a native of Dresden, Saxony, and founder of Lindeman & Sons, introduced a "cycloid piano" in 1860, which won some notice from performers and experts. This instrument was a sort of compromise between the grand and square, but it was never a selling success, though a most meritorious and ingenious development.

Among other makers who identified themselves with the square during its popular period, may be named George Steck, John Jacob Decker, Andres Holmstrom, Myron A. Decker, Henry Hazelton, Napoleon J. Haines, and many others, living and dead, whose work in minor details can not be considered here.

The late Henry F. Miller, of Miller & Sons, Boston, and Albert Weber, founder of the eminent Weber firm, also deserve mention. The Miller and Weber firms played no insignificant part in improving the quality of American grands, and uprights as well. Henry F. Miller was a native of Providence, R. I., where he was born in 1825, He became an organist in early life, and subsequently drifted into piano-manufacturing in Boston, where he soon won a distinguished place.

The upright, although the popular form in Europe for over fifty years, never won a place here until past 1870, when the showing of these instruments at the Centennial Exhibition stimulated fresh efforts in this direction. About 1882 it had conquered the square as a household form of piano, and since then the latter has been fast going out of use. In fact, in the leading shops the manufacture of squares has ceased entirely.

Southwell's cabinet uprights, already spoken of, were large clumsy instruments, though the first acceptable pianos in perpendicular shape produced. In 1813 Robert Wornum, a great figure PSM V40 D509 Section of the improved upright action.jpgFig. 18—Section of Improved Upright Action. in British piano-making records, brought forward an improved upright with diagonal strings, which, from its portableness and other characteristics, soon became the favorite. In his model the dimensions of the upright were reduced to about four feet six inches, and this subsequently in its improved features became the English cottage piano—a form still in popular favor in England. Wornum also produced a smaller upright in 1826, which he named the "piccolo." These, in addition to valuable action improvements, corresponding in effectiveness with the originality of his instruments, were most significant contributions to the development of the upright up to the latter date. He was also the inventor of the upright "tape-check action," which is now generally used, though with many modern improvements. It was patented in England in 1843, but, strange to say, despite its admitted qualities of excellence, was regarded with little favor in Wornum's own country. Continental piano manufacturers alone taking kindly to it. The upright, meanwhile, received much attention in Europe from piano-makers and improvers, and soon grew into popular favor, to the general exclusion of the square. The European squares, however, were never brought to any considerable degree of perfection, while American squares, on the contrary, were so excellent, toward 1860, that their musical and other qualities served to draw the attention of piano-makers from the upright. The demand for pianos taking little floor-space for household use in the large cities within more recent years drew the attention of makers to the upright as a substitute for the square; and, now that success has been achieved in giving the upright the musical characteristics of the square, the latter is almost out of date.

Cabinets and other forms of uprights on English lines were imported and made in this country about the time they came into use abroad. Timothy Gilbert, of Boston, introduced an improvement in the upright and its action in 1841, but it amounted to little. Jonas Chickering also paid some attention to the perfecting of the instrument, and many excellent uprights of his production may be found, but the public did not take kindly to them at the time. In addition to many minor inventions in the upright, he is said to have applied overstringing to them in 1851. But it was only after 1870 that the upright found any favor in this country.

The late C. Frank Chickering introduced some remarkable upright scales about 1870, having devoted much time and experiment to the perfecting of the instrument, and these were generally copied by competitors of less originality or spirit. Frederick Mathushek, previously mentioned, is also on record as having made some striking advances in the adaptation of the upright form to the popular demand. I have in mind the years preceding 1876. It would, however, be impossible to follow out in detail all the minor contributions made to the upright up to that year.

Excellent uprights are now manufactured by the leading firms, and in all may be found an average in the shape of improvements—the full iron plate in its most modernized form, overstringing with improved acoustic conditions, a good action well regulated, and almost every other feature that existing inventions warrant. But this is not to be interpreted as a declaration that further evolution is impossible. Meanwhile there are specialties in use in the instruments of some firms which I shall try to point out in a brief way. One of the most peculiar of these is the Mason & Hamlin system of tuning and stringing which they have introduced in all their pianos. Notwithstanding a disbelief freely expressed at the outset, their innovation has been, in fact, very successful. Instead of the conventional tuning-pin driven in a pin-block (known as the wrest-plank), they use a screw-headed blade, having a slot at one end for the string, and a screw at the other end by which it can be tightened. The principle is illustrated somewhat in a violin-bow. The blade runs in another slot to keep it from twisting, and the tension of the string is imposed upon a flange cast in the plate. This device is applied to their grands and uprights with most satisfactory results. Decker Brothers, Sohmer & Co., Steck & Co., Weber. Decker & Son, of New York, Hallett & Davis, Emerson Co., Miller & Sons, of Boston, and various other houses, also manufacture instruments with patented improvements, but though most of them are meritorious they are not revolutionary or striking. Behr Brothers, of New York, have, however, attracted much attention within recent years through the introduction of an improved grand-action principle, and a system of stringing, which are illustrated. They are sparing no expense or pains in their efforts to improve the character of their instruments, and such sacrifices are entitled to acknowledgment. Their grand-action improvement assists the production of fine graduations of tone in performance as well as PSM V40 D511 Behr brothers piano hammer and stringing device vs ordinary.jpg1. Behr Brothers' Grand Piano Hammer, with Compensating: Lever.
2. Ordinary Hammer and Butt.
3. Behr Brothers' "Stringing Device." (All patented.)
prompt repetition, while their method of string adjustment has been adopted with a view to rendering the instrument more capable of staying in tune, as well as for the purpose of tone development. This is applied to both uprights and grands.

James & Holmstrom, of New York, have recently patented and introduced a "transposing key-board" into their uprights, which is receiving considerable notice from artists. It is an ingenious adaptation of the ordinary key-board, by which the piano-performer may change the pitch at pleasure. Though the idea was anticipated a century ago, and frequently experimented with, it was reserved for Mr. Andres Holmstrom, of the above firm, to apply it with success. It is a great boon to vocalists and artists generally, and of popular value as well. In the invention referred to, the key-board, which is distinct from the action, is made to move a little toward either side, so as to bring the keys under different hammers; the performer is meanwhile given easy and effective control over its disposition, and variations of pitch can be obtained with ease. Apart from this invention Mr. Holmstrom has drawn many excellent upright "scales," which have given him a high reputation among piano-makers.

Conover Brothers, of New York, have also patented several inventions of much significance, the author of which is Mr. C. F. Conover, one of the most remarkable of the later-day school of makers. These cover improvements in almost every department of the upright instrument. They include an original tuning-pin arrangement, a method for obtaining prompt repetition in the action, and a "scale" of especial moment and value. The latter also embraces a departure in plate construction as a part of the whole scheme. Conover's scale contains "duplex bridges" and what are termed "auxiliary vibrators," and in effect is a most meritorious contribution to American piano-making. Their "hollow steel" tuning-pin system is also a significant improvement, while their action is, as far as it is original, equally successful.

Steck & Co., and Decker Brothers, of New York, have been identified with the bringing out of several valuable improvements, which they use as specialties, the most important of which are in the form of scales which can not well be exemplified. The same remark applies to the specialties of several other houses, such as Haines Brothers, Hazleton Brothers, Decker & Son, Kranich & Bach, and others.

Meanwhile I can not pass over the inventions of Paul G. Mehlin, who has done much for the improvement of the modern piano. Though these are numerous and touch every region in the upright piano, his "grand plate and scale" for uprights deserves mention. Through it Mr. Mehlin claims to give the upright some of the principal characteristics of the grand, and the trial to a large extent justifies the claim. The Century Company, of Indianapolis, manufacture the "Mehlin pianos." Mr. Mehlin has taken out a considerable number of patents for improvements in the plate, wrest-plank, action, key-board, scaling, cases, and every section of the instrument since 1872, and has applications pending for more.

Henry Kroeger, of Gildemeester & Kroeger, has also been active as an improver, though his patented inventions cover no radical departures; but his contributions in the form of "scales"

PSM V40 D512 Steinway grand repitition action 1875.jpg
Fig. 20.—Steinway & Sons' Grand Repetition Action, with Tubular Metallic Frame. Patented October 20, 1875.

have been very useful, and during his career he has always been associated with the production of pianos of the highest class. His eminent services deserve this acknowledgment at least. Many other thinkers and inventors, such as Stephen Bramback, of the Estey Piano Company; Myron A. Decker, of Decker & Son; and Hugo Sohmer, of Sohmer & Co., are equally entitled to recognition, though limitations of space prevent more than their mention.

Kindred Industries.—Since 1850 the specializing of such branches of piano-making as action and key making, and the casting of plates—apart from hammer making and covering, case-making, string and felt making—have helped the general development of the piano to a large extent. Action-making is the largest of all these branches. Formerly a skilled workman was expected to be competent in action-making and half a dozen other branches now separated. While the present system tends to prevent the coming to the surface of such skilled piano-makers as those who built up the principal houses now in existence, and otherwise confines the energies and intellect of clever young men in a narrow channel, yet the existing order of things is on the whole beneficent and better than the old.

The first action-making establishment in New York, and probably in the country, was opened by Andrew Brunet, an Alsatian, in 1841, in Clark Street. His place was very small and unpretentious. He was successful, for small manufacturers saw at a glance the advantages of being able to procure their actions from a specialist. Other establishments sprang up in a short time. While there are numerous small shops throughout New England and in the West, New York is the center for the production of the best class of actions; but Chickering & Sons, Boston, Steinway & Sons, Knabe & Co., Baltimore and New York, and a few other firms, produce their own. The two leaders in this branch of the business are Straucli Brothers and Wessell, Nickel & Gross, of New York. Both firms are engaged in a healthy rivalry for the first place in production and in quality of work, and many technical improvements have resulted from this condition of affairs. They both produce actions involving the same principles, but differing in minor details. Keys are also manufactured specially in New York and outside for the trade.

The production of plates for pianos comes next in importance to action-making. The first foundrymen to become identified with this specialty were the Shrivers, well known in that connection. To-day Shriver & Co., of New York, and Davenport & Tracey, of Stamford, Conn., control the largest proportion of the business.

The wonderful growth and extent of piano manufacturing in America is further illustrated in the business established and conducted by Mr. Alfred Dolge, the well-known initiator of the Dolge system of profit-sharing for employés. In the regions of sounding-boards, felts for hammer-heads and other purposes, and a host of incidental articles, he stands alone. In Dolgeville, a large town he has founded in the northern part of this State, he employs over six hundred hands in his felt and sounding-board factories, and has other establishments in Leipsic, Otterlake, and Port Leyden. Over 35,000 boards were turned out from this factory during the last year. For this purpose 2,800,000 feet of choice lumber were handled. As each sounding-board represents a piano, one can easily estimate from this basis of observation alone the wonderful dimensions of the piano trade. The unique business in Dolgeville is well worthy of study as a curious example of American industrial life. Its relation to the piano industry is apparent.

In 1850 there were 204 establishments in this country making musical instruments; piano-fortes were not separately reported upon; 2,307 hands were employed, and the product represented $2,580,715. We find that in 1860 21,707 pianos, representing $6,518,432, were manufactured in the United States. The annexed table of statistics shows the industry in 1880, and is the latest:

State. No. of
Capital. No. of
Wages paid. Cost of materials. Value of products.
New York 82 $6,627,845 3,966 $3,213,481 $3,579,131 $8,084,154
Massachusetts 45 1,905,700 1,504 890,721 1,132,847 2,652,856
Maryland 4 638,382 385 200,988 157,699 534,099
Connecticut 3 257,000 302 142,057 182,018 386,583
Pennsylvania 5 169,500 154 87,044 81,145 217,924
Indiana 2 77,000 90 42,500 43,000 109,000
California 6 50,000 27 18,425 41,725 92,700
Kentucky 5 40,700 26 12,833 13,800 42,200
Illinois 5 20,360 27 16,902 11,800 37,675
New Hampshire 3 18,000 32 8,894 15,994 30,380
Missouri 7 21,350 19 10,398 8,060 27,200
Ohio 1 15,000 20 6,000 3,000 15,000
New Jersey 2 10,200 7 4,500 6,000 13,000
Wisconsin 2 10,600 10 4,250 4,500 12,570
Michigan 1 4,000 4 2,200 1,500 5,500
Texas 1 4,000 2 2,000 900 3,500
 1880 174 $9,869,577 6,565 $4,663,193 $5,283,119 $12,264,521

When the statistics for 1890 appear, it will be found that the increase in production has been even larger in proportion during the last ten years.


"However prophetic," says Mr. A. II. Green in Nature, "may have been the far-seeing premonition of men in advance of their age in the dim past, and however invaluable may have been the additions made to the superstructure since, it can scarcely be doubted that the foundation-stones of geology were Laid by Scotch-men and Englishmen toward the end of the last and during the earlier part of the present century. And what a charm there is about the story of those sturdy pioneers—not perhaps quite the men whom one would have picked out as most fitted or most likely to become the fathers of a new science! It has about it the elements of a genuine romance. For the early training of few of these men was such as to give a scientific bent to their mind; they did not have what we are pleased to call 'the advantage of a scientific education'; it is probable that they never spoke, perhaps never dreamed of such a phrase as 'the scientific method,' which we are so fond of formularizing, and on which we plume ourselves somewhat. But in spite of these seeming drawbacks, rather perhaps because with these men genius was allowed to run its spontaneous, untrammeled course, they opened out to mankind a domain of knowledge, the very outskirts of which had been barely touched upon before.