CINCINNATI PIANO HISTORY

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Information on Cincinnati Piano History provided by Frank Renfrow of Renfrow Piano Tuning, serving Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky for over 33 years. To set up an appointment to have your piano tuned, call Frank at (859) 431-1588 or go to www.pianocincinnati.com.

frankrenfrow@aol.com 
 
 
 
Cincinnati Piano History: The First One Hundred Years   
 
*1819*           The City of Cincinnati is founded with a population of some 10,000 residents .  The Scottish piano maker George Charters moves from New York to Cincinnati. His shop is located on Fifth Street between Main and Sycamore.    

 *The 1820s* ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*1821*          Dwight Hamilton Baldwin is born at Erie County, Pennsylvania. 

*1822*          A census of manufacturers within the United States describes a Cincinnati piano making firm employing “three men and a boy”, producing pianofortes to the value of $250 to $400. 

*1824*          Charters crafts a piano of square design, with many of the parts imported from Europe.

*1825*          In addition to Charters, two more  piano makers now make Cincinnati their home, Francis B. Garish (originally of Maryland) located on Elm between Centre and Sixth, and Aaron Golden (of Ohio)  located on the alley between Main and St. Clair. At this time the population of Cincinnati was only about 12,000.  

*The 1830s*~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 *1832*          Andrew (Andreas) Reuss of Cincinnati makes a square piano with extra pedals to control bass drum and bell sounds. 

Mr. Thomas Strange, of   http://www.squarepianotech.com/ has recently conducted research on the life of Andrew Reuss and his unique position in the early history of Cincinnati "piano-forte macher" craft, his excellent report can be viewed at this link: A Short Biographical Sketch of Andrew Reuss

note: Further information from a German source on Andreas Reuss "Piano-Forte Macher"  can be found at  http://www.reussbamberg.com/41103.html 

*1833*         Albert Krell is born at Gelbra, Germany. Krell comes from  a family of musical instrument makers.  

*1834*         John N. Britting is listed as a piano maker at Canal Street in Cincinnati . The proprietor of the Cincinnati Musical Seminary, M. Nixon authors “A Guide to Instruction on the Pianoforte”. 

*1836*          Isaac Clark of Cincinnati is granted a U.S. patent for a pianoforte design that describes an overstrung scale in combination with an iron frame, the two major structural components of the modern piano.  

*1837*         William Bourne begins the manufacture of pianos in Dayton, Ohio.

*The 1840s*~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*1840*         William Bourne moves to Cincinnati and is employed at a piano shop in a leading capacity. 

*1842*         William Bourne moves to Boston to work as a department foreman for Jonas Chickering.

*1843*         The firm of Smith & Nixon is established at Cincinnati.  

*1845*          Lucien Wulsin is born in Louisiana. His family moves to Cincinnati early in his childhood.  

*1846*          William Bourne  founds the Boston piano firm of  W. Bourne & Company

.*1848*          Albert Krell immigrates to America. 

*1849*          At the age of sixteen, Albert Krell moves to Cincinnati and starts a violin making and repair shop at the rear of a drugstore.  George Trayser, a native of Alsace, begins to make pianos and melodeons at Indianapolis, Indiana. 

*The 1850s*~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*1851*           Henry Klepfer of Cincinnati patents a method of cross-stringing for upright pianos. 

*1854*          Musical instrument maker Rudolph Wurlitzer, a native of Saxony, Germany, immigrates to New York City. Wurlitzer comes from a long line of musical instrument makers. 

*1855*          Thomas R. Blackburn, John Britting, A. Dannrechtin, Charles Schaunel and H.Wardragen are listed as Piano Forte Manufacturers in Cincinnati.  

*1856*          Rudolph Wurlitzer moves to Cincinnati, where he establishes a musical instrument importing business.  

 *1859*          John Church establishes a piano store at Cincinnati.  

*The 1860s*~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*1860*         Henry Wisenborn places an advertisement for piano tuning and repair in the Cincinnati Directory.  

*1862*          Dwight Hamilton Baldwin, a piano teacher, establishes a piano store at Cincinnati, dealing in Decker Brothers’ Pianos of New York.  

*1864*          Lucien Wulsin joins the Union Army and serves until the Civil War’s end.  

*1865*          Clara Baur founds the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.  

*1866*          Lucien Wulsin starts as a clerk at D.H. Baldwin’s piano store.  *1865*          George Trayser begins building pianos at Ripley, Ohio.                                   
*1869*          The Ohio Valley Piano Forte Company is incorporated on July 3 at Ripley, Ohio. Their pianos are sold under the name Valley Gem by D.H. Baldwin. The manufactory is located at Second Street between Sycamore and Locust Streets in Ripley.  

*The 1870s*~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*1872*          George Trayser moves to Richmond, Indiana and partners with James and Benjamin Starr. D.H. Baldwin follows the lead of the Singer Sewing Machine Company. He hires sewing machine salesmen to sell pianos by providing customers with installment loans. 

*1873*          The firm name of D.H. Baldwin & Company is established with Lucien Wulsin admitted into the partnership. During this decade they open up branch stores at Indianapolis, Indiana and Louisville, Kentucky (1878). 

*1875*          The New York piano manufacturer Joseph P. Hale writes a long letter, published in  the “Cincinnati Times” in defense of his practice of mass producing inexpensive “stencil  pianos” upon which any dealer could affix any name on the fallboard. 

*1876*          The Brown County Atlas notes that the Ohio Valley Piano Forte Company has produced over 1800 pianos since its establishment in 1869.  

*1878*          Geroge Trayser retires and sells his company to Milo J. Chase who changes the firm's name to the Chase Piano Company. 

*The 1880s*~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

*1880*         Joseph P. Hale opens factories in Chicago soon to be followed by one in Cincinnati.  

*1882*          George W. Armstrong, Jr., Clarence Wulsin and J.J. Van Buren join the D.H. Baldwin partnership. D.H. Baldwin & Co. is listed at 158 West Fourth in the Cincinnati Directory. The Smith & Nixon Company is listed at 20 to 26 West Fourth Street in the  Cincinnati Directory. They later produce the Ebersole Piano and possibly the Knabe Bros. Piano of Cincinnati. 

*1883*          Frank A. Lee joins the John Church Company. John Church & Co. is listed at 66 West Fourth in the Cincinnati Directory. 
*1884*          James and Benjamin Starr obtain control of the Chase Piano Company at Richmond, Indiana and found the Starr Piano Company.  Lucien Wulsin assists in the founding of the Cincinnati Philharmonic Orchestra.  

*1885*          The Harvard Piano Company is established by John Church at Dayton, Kentucky. Church is also involved with the establishment of the Everett Piano Company during this same year.  

*1889*          The Krell Piano Company is established at Cincinnati by Albert Krell and his two sons Albert and Alexander, who had studied piano making with the German-born master-builder George Steck at New York. 

*The 1890s*~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*1890*         The Baldwin Piano Company takes over manufacture of Valley Gem Pianos. 

*1891*           Baldwin begins the manufacture of upright pianos, designed by John Warren Macey. 

*1893*          The Ellington Piano Company is established at Cincinnati and is soon acquired by Baldwin. 

*1894*          Frank A. Lee becomes president of the Harvard Piano Company in Dayton, Kentucky (the Harvard company is also involved in music publishing). 

*1895*          Death of Alexander Krell.  Baldwin begins the manufacture of grand pianos. Around this same time the Foster - Armstrong Co., begins to manufacture pianos, including the J.F. Cook of Lawrenceburg, Indiana. 

*1896*          Albert Krell, Jr.  joins Jesse French to form the Krell-French Piano Company at Springfield, Ohio. Krell-French later moves to New Castle, Indiana and becomes the Jesse French Company. 

*1899*          Death of D.H. Baldwin. He leaves most of his estate to the Presbyterian Church.             Lucien Wulsin, in partnership with George W. Armstrong, buys up all shares of Baldwin stock and revives the company.

*The 1900s*~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*1900*         Death of Albert Krell, Sr.  At the Paris Exposition of 1900, the Baldwin Piano is awarded the Grand Prix and Lucien Wulsin is decorated with the Cross of the Legion of Honor. 

*1905*         Albert Krell, Jr. leaves Krell-French to begin the Auto Grand Piano Company of America at Connersville, Indiana.  

*1909*         The Butler Bros. Piano Company is established in Cincinnati at 21-27 W. McMicken Avenue 

*1910*          Butler Bros. acquires the Ebersole name from Smith & Nixon .  

*1911*           Alfred Dolge writes that Joseph P. Hale’s factories in Chicago and Cincinnati are now producing nearly half of the pianos made in the United States.  

*1919*           The piano approaches the height of it’s popularity in the USA.  Fifty-seven piano tuners are listed in the Cincinnati Business Directory. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~copyright 2007 Frank Renfrow  Selected references on piano history: 

Dolge, Alfred. 1911. Pianos and their Makers: a comprehensive history of the development of the piano. Covina Publishing Co., Covina, California. 

Good, Edward M. 2001. Giraffes, Black Dragons and other Pianos: a technological history from Christofori to the modern concert grand. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California. 

Loesser, Arthur. 1954. Men, Women and Pianos: a social history. Simon and Schuster, New York. 

Parakilas, James. 2001. Piano Roles: a new history of the piano. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut. 

Pierce, Bob. 1990. Pierce Piano Atlas. Bob Pierce, Long Beach, California. 

Spillane, Daniel. 1890. History of the American Pianoforte: its, technical development and the trade. Daniel Spillane,  New York. 


To send comments or questions to Frank Renfrow regarding Cincinnati piano history, email Frank or go back to pianocincinnati homepage: frankrenfrow@aol.comhttp://pianocincinnati.com     

Call Frank Renfrow at: 859-431-1588

frankrenfrow@aol.com 

 

 

 

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