The CMM’s fine 1810 John Geib & Son Square Piano represents the Empire style designs quickly becoming fashionable in cosmopolitan Northern cities by the first decade of the nineteenth century. With stamped brasses, structural carving, and a delicately painted floral cartouche nameboard, this instrument speaks to the visual vocabulary popularized by eminent New York City cabinetmakers Duncan Phyfe and Charles Honore-Lannuier.
Arriving in New York City in 1797, John (Johannes) Geib followed a common path of immigrant craftsmen – Continental Europe to London, then London to America. Geib’s journey began in western Germany, where he worked as an organ maker. After moving to London in the mid-1770s, Geib joined the firm of Longman & Broderip, where he was the most prolific maker of the late eighteenth century. Yet like many others, he sought success in the New World – and brought his family to Manhattan in September of 1797.
Working in partnership with his eldest son John Jr., Geib ran a shop in New York until his retirement in 1814. Together, they built this particular instrument in 1810. Technologically, the instrument possesses a “nag’s head” swell, which raises a flap on the right side of the lid through a foot pedal. An area of the square piano typically left open, this movement would have a sudden effect on the volume of the music. Geib often included fanciful pedals and stops on his instruments, which were well-received by the discerning New York market.