In March of 2019, a Steinway & Sons Grand Piano, c. 1859, was acquired for display at the museum by CMM co-founder and former board president Steven Bichel. It joins five other iron-framed Grand Pianos at the museum, two of which are Steinways. However, this instrument possesses the special legacy of being the oldest identified original Steinway Grand piano.
A brand nearly synonymous with the piano itself, Steinway & Sons played a key role in the development of the instrument in the second half of the nineteenth century – ushering it into the modern era. The firm’s monopoly began with the work of Henry Engelhard Steinway (Originally Steinweg), who started making pianos in his native Germany in the mid 1830s. In 1850, H. E. Steinway came to America with three of his sons, and began operating a piano manufacturing business, entering into the world of rabid competition between New York City piano makers.
First came the square pianos – the long-lived keyboard instrument most popular in mid-nineteenth century America. But by 1856, Steinway & Sons made its first Grand piano model, complete with a full cast-iron frame and the new overstrung system, invented by Steinway only one year earlier. The CMM instrument, with the serial number SN 2162, represents the early years of Grand piano production at the firm and speaks to a point of transition in piano technology and the scope of music performance. Though there are others with earlier serial numbers, this particular instrument was identified after a national search as being the earliest untouched Steinway Grand. Stop by the CMM to see it in action!