Steinway & Sons
Steinway Historical Fact of the Day Archive
Following are some interesting Steinway & Sons facts from throughout the years that will help give some perspective on just how long Steinway has been setting »The Standard of Excellence« in the piano world. Every day leading up to our 150th Anniversary there will be another fact posted, so if you find these interesting, check back again soon for more.
Note: The original name of Steinweg was Americanized to become Steinway after founder Heinrich (later Henry) came to the United States of America.
On Feb 15, 1797, founder Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg was born in Wolfshagen, Germany.
In 1825 Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg married Juliane Thiemer, a glove maker and property owner from a well established family.
On Nov 6, 1825, C.F. Theodore Steinway, considered the »Father of the Modern Piano«, was born.
On Jan 4, 1829, Charles G. Steinway, the first family member to come to America, was born.
On Oct 29, 1830, Henry Steinway Jr., who would become an engineer, was born.
In 1833, Wilhelmina Steinway married Theodore Vogel.
In 1835, Heinrich Steinway started a piano business, known as »H. Steinweg, Instrumentenmacher, Seesen«, in Germany.
On March 5 1835, William Steinway, the Marketing genius behind Steinway & Sons and its first President, was born.
In 1836, the famous »Kitchen Piano«, which is now on display in the Long Island Factory, was built in Seesen, Germany.
In 1839, Heinrich Steinway exhibited pianos at the State Trade Exhibition at the Aegis Church in Brunswick, won top prize, and made a sale to the Duke.
On June 10, 1840, Albert Steinway, who was more of a 'factory man', was born.
In June of 1849, Charles G. Steinway (27 years old) arrived in America.
On May 19, 1850, instrument maker Heinrich Steinweg 53, along with Juliane 46, Henry Jr. 19, Wilhelmina 17, William 15, Herman 13, Albert 9, and Anna 7, boarded the Propellor Helena Sloman at Hamburg, destination New York.
On Saturday, June 29, 1850, the Steinway Family arrived in New York City.
On March 5, 1853, Steinway & Sons was founded, setting up shop on Varrick Street on the West Side of Manhattan, manufacturing square grand pianos.
In 1854, four years after arriving in America, the Steinway family Americanized their names. Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg at age 57 became Henry Englehard Steinway, Wilhelm became William, and Heinrich Jr. became Henry Jr.
In 1854, the Steinway & Sons shop moved to 88 Walker Street (site of the former Nunns Piano Factory), and hired 5 assistants to meet growing demand for their pianos.
By 1854, just a year after founding the company, Steinway & Sons was making 2 pianos a week, and sold 74 pianos for the year.
In 1854, Steinway & Sons attended their first exhibition in America — the Metropolitan Mechanics Institute fair in Washington D.C. Henry Jr.'s design won first prize.
By 1855, Steinway's Square Grand had a seven-octave keyboard range and a full iron frame with over-stringing.
In 1855, Steinway & Sons exhibited at the American Institute Exhibition in the Crystal Palace located at 6th Avenue and 42nd St. in New York City. There, they won their first Gold Medal. A reporter wrote the following: »Their square pianos are characterized by great power of tone, a depth and richness in the bass, a full mellowness in the middle register and brilliant purity in the treble, making a scale perfectly equal and singularly melodious throughout its entire range. In touch, they are all that could be desired.«
In 1855, C.F. Theodore Steinway moved to Wolfenbuttl, Germany, in the business of repairing and tuning pianos.
By 1856, Steinway & Sons sales rose to 208 pianos for the year, from 74 just 2 years before in 1854.
On May 5, 1857, Patent #17238 was granted to Henry Steinway Jr. for Grand Piano Action.
In 1857, a piano was created with a lavishly carved case and legs. This piano, Serial #1225, is believed to be the first ever Steinway Art Case piano.
By 1857, despite the worst depression in pre-Civil War American history, piano sales totaled 413 more than any of the previous years. The average wage for a factory worker was $2/day.
On June 15, 1858, Patent #20595 was granted to Henry Steinway Jr. for Grand Piano Action.
In 1858, Steinway & Sons expanded once again, building a new factory at Park & Lexington from 52nd to 53rd. The L-shaped factory was 5 stories tall, 175,000 sq. ft., and cost $150,000 to build. The factory also incorporated the first use of steam power for tools in New York City.
In 1859, Steinway & Sons sent a piano to Franz Liszt for his endorsement. Mr. Liszt later added a Steinway piano to his personal inventory of pianos.
In 1860, C.F. Theodore moved to Brunswick, Germany, where he began manufacturing pianos under the Steinweg name.
On Nov 29, 1859, Patent #26300 was granted to Henry Steinway Jr. for the Plate Flange with Agraffes.
On Dec 20, 1859, Patent #26532 was granted to Henry Steinway Jr. for Grand Overstringing, and its incorporation into the cast iron plate.
On December 20, 1859, Patent #26532 was granted to Henry Steinway Jr. for the Overstrung Plate.
By 1859, Steinway's least expensive piano sold for $275.
In 1859, C.F. Theodore in Brunswick had constructed an upright piano with a cast iron plate, he urged his brothers to put everything else aside and start an upright line. His brothers refused.
From 1861-1865 the American Civil War took place. It began when Steinway & Sons was only 8 years old, and concluded on the company's 12th Anniversary.
On May 21, 1861, Patents #322386 and #322387 were granted to Henry Steinway Jr. for Grand Piano Action.
In 1861, Charles Steinway joined New York's 5th Regiment, which was made up mostly of Germans, as paymaster for the Civil War. He took part in the occupation of Arlington Heights, Virginia.
In 1861, a Partnership agreement among the brothers was signed using the name Steinweg.
On April 8, 1862, Patent #34910 was granted to Henry Steinway Jr. for Grand Piano Action.
In 1862, for the London Exhibition, Steinway & Sons shipped 2 square pianos and 2 grand pianos to England (2 to Liverpool and 2 to London), and won 1st Prize.
In 1862, C.F. Theodore Steinway designed the first Steinway & Sons Upright Piano.
In 1863, Albert Steinway joined the Civil War effort in Pennsylvania, serving as a first lieutenant with the 5th Regiment at Harrisburg, Marysville, Carlisle and Chambersburg.
July 11, 1863 began the first Draft for the Army.
In 1863, Henry Steinway became an American Citizen.
In June 1864, Henry Jr. changes his name in the Court of Common Pleas.
In 1864, Henry Jr. went to Cuba for recuperation.
In 1864, Steinway opened its Wareroom (showroom) on 14th st. (the Concert Hall opened in 1866).
In 1864, Theodore Vogel, husband of Wilhelmina Steinway, who assisted William and was the factory casework superintendent, died of Rheumatism. William noted his attendance at the funeral, and the presence of the Third regiment, New York State Militia but expressed no discernible grief at the death of his brother-in-law. Three days after the funeral, William rented to a Navy man for $1,100 per year the family-owned house in which his widowed sister had lived. With William, business was clearly the first priority.
By 1864, prices of pianos had doubled from 1860, a square grand sold for $550, and the basic parlor grand sold for $1,600.
Charles F. Tretbar joined Steinway & Sons in 1865. He later became Treasurer and Secretary to the board of directors and was in charge of the Artist Bureau, later to become C&A Department.
In March of 1865, Henry Steinway Jr. dies of tuberculosis, at just 34 years old. He is buried in the Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn.
In April of 1865, Charles G. Steinway (36) dies of typhoid fever in C.F. Theodore's home in Brunswick Germany.
C.F. Theodore joined William New York in October of 1865, and that January (1866) became a full partner in Steinway & Sons. Theodore took over Henry's post and filed forty-five patents during the next twenty years.
On April 14, 1865, President Lincoln was assassinated.
In 1865, William invested $100 and received 10 shares in The Recuperative Caloric Engine Company of New York, a failed business with a »heat engine«.
In October 1865, C. F. Theodore sold his business in Germany to his 3 employees; Wilhelm Grotrian, Adolph Helfferich and H. G. W. Schulz and allowed them to use the name »Successors to C. F. Theodor Steinweg« for 10 years, but is in and out of court for over 100 years!
June 5, 1866 — Patent #55385 is granted to W. Steinway for Double Iron Frame, Upright Piano.
In 1866 a 2nd Partnership Agreement was signed, due to the deaths of Henry Jr. and Charles, as well as C.F. Theodore coming to America to help. The agreement was signed with the name Steinway, making the Americanized version official.
On May 22, 1866, the Academy of Music on 14th Street, burned to the ground. The academy was home of Philharmonic Orchestra as well as a string of Opera companies. At that time, it was New York's largest performance hall — seating 4,000. Four days later William Steinway lays the cornerstone for the new Steinway Hall behind the warerooms (showrooms).
The 1866 Steinway & Sons catalogue boasted a 15 page section entitled »certificates« which were endorsements of 22 teachers, pianists, conductors and distinguished artists.
Steinway Hall was supervised by William as a shrine to his pianos. The hall included an opera house, arched galleries housing private boxes, 700 gas lights, and a total capacity of 3,000 (3,000 attended Rubinstein's concert 9/23/72). Above the hall were studios and rooms for music lessons. The hall was a total of 4 Floors. Among some of the many things that occurred there over the years were: Charles Dickens readings, performances by Walter Damrosch, Yale Glee Club, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Jenny Lind, and F. Boscovitz's »Popular Airs and Melodies« piped into the hall all the way from Philadelphia by Bell's recent invention, the telephone. The New York Philharmonic took up temporary residence at Steinway Hall under director Carl Bergmann.
In 1866, Steinway & Sons sold 1,944 pianos.
In 1867, DeMeyer, the First European Artist to tour for Steinway & Sons, performed at Steinway Hall on 14th St. He was also the First European piano virtuoso to tour America in 1845.
1867, William Steinway estimated that 90% of American Piano output was square pianos, 5% were uprights and 5% were grand pianos, he also characterized that grand sales were »scarce as angels' visits«.
In 1867 Baroness de Rothschild purchased a Steinway.
At the 1867 Paris Exhibition, Steinway won a gold medal, grand annual testimonial medal and honorary membership in the Societe des Beaux Arts. These medals won in Europe increased the demand for Steinway Pianos, thus the reason the family looked into opening up a store in London. It was reported that Chickering had won second Prize.
August 18, 1868 — Patent #81306 awarded to Steinway for Upright Piano Tubular Metallic Action Frame.
April 6, 1869 — Patent #88749 awarded to Steinway for Soundboard Bridge Dowels
August 10, 1869 — Patent #93647 awarded to Steinway for Grand Piano Tubular Metallic Action Frame.
Dec 14, 1869 — Patent #97982 awarded to Steinway for Double Iron Frame Bridge.
In 1870, it was reported by the New York Journal that William, then 35 years old, was to be nominated as a Democratic candidate for alderman. »Óttendorfer in evening tells me same thing, I decline positively.« Wrote William.
On June 6, 1870, the Maiden voyage of the Steinway family's Steam Yacht Mozart took place.
In October 1870, William Steinway wrote to his dealers that Mr. Theodore Thomas with his Grand Orchestra, has commenced his Concert Tour at Boston and will visit the larger cites of the United States, and that Steinway Piano Fortes will be the exclusive pianos used by the troupe.
In 1870-71, William purchased the largest nursery in Astoria, the Pike Estate. A year later, he purchased 400 acres consisting of woodlands, tidal swamp, meadows and open land as well as over 1/2 mile of waterfront in Western Queens.
In 1871, Albert Steinway resigned from the Army as a Brigadier General.
In 1871 William purchased the Steinway Mansion. The Mansion overlooking Bowery Bay on Long Island Sound was owned by Benjamin T. Pike Jr. who owned an optical supply business. He sold the estate to William for $127,500. The mansion had 4,000 feet of waterfront, and totaled 80 acres. The yacht was thereafter docked at the mansion, which became what seemed to be a male preserve. The family had also owned land in Indiana, acquired in settlement of a debt from a Midwestern piano dealer.
June 6, 1871 — Patent #115782 awarded to Steinway for Grand Piano Action with Counter Spring.
In 1871, C.F. Theodore Steinway served on a committee which was charged with probing the Tweed Ring — the most scandalous corruption in the history of New York.
In 1871 Henry Englehard Steinway died at 74 years of age.
In 1871, Steinway sold 2,553 pianos, and was making pianos at a rate of 1 piano per hour, or 10 pianos per day.
In 1871 Anton Rubinstein, recently added to Steinway's growing Artist list, had his first American Tour. Anton had it stipulated in the contract that he would not play in Beer Gardens, he did not trust Greenbacks nor banks, and at the end of his tour he insisted on being paid in Gold. At the end of his tour, he was invited to lift the bag of gold coins which amounted to 200,000 French francs, weighing about 140 pounds. Rubinstein performed 215 performances in 239 days, from Colorado to New Orleans to New York City, sometimes performing in 2 to 3 cities in one day.
1871, William visited Anton Rubinstein. Before departing, William asked Rubinstein for a certificate from him. Rubinstein made his endorsement of Steinway pianos, characterizing them as »unrivalled« and having the »capacity of enduring the severest trials«. Liszt wrote that Steinways were a »glorious masterpiece,« Berlioz called them »magnificent...splendid and essentially noble,« while Wagner would write that he missed his »Steinway Grand as one misses a beloved wife.«
In 1871, the Riker Avenue factory at Steinway Village opened.
May 14, 1872 — Patent #125848, C.F.T. Steinway, Duplex Scale.
May 28, 1872 — Patent #127383, C.F.T. Steinway, Grand Piano Construction Cupola Plate.
May 28th, 1872 — Patent #127384, C.F.T. Steinway, Upright Piano Construction Cupola Plate.
In 1872, William increased promotion of the upright by giving it more space in the catalog and the company promoted the »boudoir piano« a 3-foot, 10 inch upright with a new detachable front portion, and the action, keyboard, legs, and feet being separate from the case, thereby permitting the piano to be transported up the narrowest of stairs and through the smallest of doors — the perfect piano for city people.
On May 7, 1872, C.F. Theodore Steinway was granted American citizenship by the Superior Court in Manhattan.
Feb 11, 1873 — Patent #135857, C.F.T. Steinway, Reinforced Soundboard Ribs.
In 1872 Grand Duke Alexander of Saint Petersburg, Russia purchased a Steinway for #25,000.
In 1873, a sawmill, iron and brass foundries and metal works were built at the Queens facility. Main Street in Astoria was renamed Steinway Street.