THE PERIOD PIANO COLLECTION
Period Piano Center since 2006 A 501(c)3 Non-Profit Corporation email contact
Bill Shull, RPT, M.Mus. Founder and President
UNDISCOVERED EARLY STEINWAYS
These “lost” Steinways fall into different categories; some are important to the history of piano technology, some have a unique place in history; others are significant for their rare cabinetry (limited production, etc.)
1. “Lost” Steinway grand pianos which are important to this study, and to the history of piano technology. It is possible that the company has correspondence on some of these pianos, but the late Steinway scholar Mr. Roy Kehl has personally told me that he does not know the whereabouts of these pianos.
a. The seven prototype 6’8” “Monitor” or “Iron” grands built in 1869. I have located and documented the first, serial number 19434, in Belgium; click for photos. These seven prototype Monitor grands are not to be confused with the 1872 Monitor 6’8” production model based on many of the 1869 design elements. These 1869 prototypes were the only Steinway wing grands to completely apply the soundboard perimeter-compressing “double iron” plate technology (“Patent Resonator”) from the 1866-1872 Steinway vertical. Some grands of the time used soundboard compression hardware only in the bass cutoff area and sometimes between the pinblock/plate flange and the belly rail. Also carried over was the innovative fastening of the pinblock to the plate (I have found no other piano before these “iron” Steinways to do this). This is the very first Steinway design with struts and plate webbing around the tuning pin field, and possibly the first grand piano anywhere in which the pinblock is no longer reliant on the cabinet, but solely on the plate. Only seven remain, according to the Steinway log; An eighth, s/n19606 was “found worthless and destroyed in the factory.”
Monitor prototype #19434 was located in 2007. The remaining serial numbers are listed below:
19607 19611 19612 19941 19942 19943
Any of the above six could still exist. One was sold to the Dutch Reformed Church in Astoria, some remained unsold, “in stock” through 1878, at least.
b. The first Centennial, #33449, and Fancy Centennial grands, 8’9”. The earliest Centennials are of great importance. In 1875 the :”Centennial” was introduced as a new model, the first concert grand to incorporate features found in the “Monitor” grand of 1872, including a full plate. For a brief time the Centennial was given the model designation “Style 5.” Styles 3 and 4 were the older-style concert grands with traditional construction; the “Style 5” was the first modern-construction Steinway grand (it abandoned the traditional stretcher for a plate extending forward as in most modern instruments, and following the prototype and production Monitors) and the first Steinway with modern, capo-style front duplex. The very first Centennial, SN33449, built in 1875, was refinished with the newest style finish in 1878, ebony and gilt, and shipped to Theodore’s home country, Germany. The second, SN33610, was “remanufactured” at Steinway NY (3/09) for its owner, Fresno State University. Others are listed below.
Fancy Centennials began with the fourth Centennial built. According to Mr. Kehl twelve were manufactured. The “fancy” cabinet style had been used with previous designs, and was identified by the scalloping of the underside of the rim completely around the rim. None of these “Fancy” Centennials have been located. The Centennial was renamed the “D” in 1878 and continued through 1883; it retained the distinctive string scale (17 bass, 6 tenor wound trichord, three bridges with the tenor and long bridge one continuous bridge connected by a “ring”). In 1884 the Centennial was replaced with the modern “D.” Today we refer to 1878 and later 8’9” Steinways as the “Centennial D.” Kehl has identified 424 total Centennials built from 1876 to 1883, and of these, only 12 were “Fancy” Centennials. A very few Centennials had an “Iron Pulsator” above the soundboard, four have been reported (see below). Below are the first 15 Centennials built, most are still not located:
1. 33449 First Centennial, not yet found. Shipped to Hamburg.
2. 33610 Owned by Fresno State University
3. 33669 Style 5 Not found
4. 33670 Style 5 The first “Fancy:” Centennial was exhibited at the “Centennial” Exposition in Philadelphia. James Barron confuses this with #33610 in his recent book. Not found
5, 6: Style 5 33679, 33580 The first two Centennials to be numbered after the traditional Steinway manner pairing models.
7, 8: Style 5 33709 Sold to Jamaica Long Island NY Style 5, 33710 Style 5 Sold to Buffalo NY
9. 33784 Fancy #2 Sold to Jersey City, New Jersey
10. 33802 “D” (not sold until 1885) Sold to Brooklyn NY
11. 33880 Style 5 Sold to Cartagena (not clear if Spain or Colombia)
12. 33932 Style 5 sold to San Francisco, CA.
13. 33966 Style 5 fancy sold to Buffalo, NY
14. 34002 Style 5 Exhibited at Philadelphia Exposition, not sold until at least 1896
15. 34258 Style 5 Sold to the state of Maine
40. 35033 Style 5. Finally I list a unique design element found in only a very few Centennial grands, the Iron Pulsator, which is in Centennial #35033 of early 1876 (ca. the 40th Centennial built) (see photo)
b. ”Monitor” 6’8” grands from 1872 or later (SN 25006 or later) which have the original CF Theodore Steinway Patent Action (see photo). This action is technologically extremely important, and should eventually become known as one of Theodore’s most innovative creations.
The very first production Monitor grand seems to be s/n 25006, and was sold to Steinway’s dealer in Mexico.
2.. Any Centennial grands in original condition, or, if not original condition, retain all original components, including soundboard iron pulsator, cutoff bar area compression device, complete original sostenuto hardware, original action (including original hammers).
3. Pianos used by Anton Rubenstein while in America for his Steinway-sponsored tour. One 7’2” piano is identified as having been loaned to Mr. Rubenstein for his use (probably for practice): #24664. I have not yet identified serial numbers for any pianos used in his American tour, but if any effort were made to re-create the recitals of Mr. Rubenstein, a Style 3 or Style 4 Steinway grand from 1871 to 1873 should be used.
4. Pianos displayed in early Expositions.
a. #4607. The earliest international exposition was the 1862 London Exposition, which included an exhibit of Steinway concert grand #4607, the earliest overstrung concert grand design. Written about 30 years after it’s win by Daniel Spillane during a visit to England by then Steinway President William Steinway in Music Trades Magazine, and entered into the London Steinway repair log as having resided in the Osborn House on the Isle of Wight after 1900, it remains undiscovered.
b. #33710, 34002: Steinway listed the pianos displayed in the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in their advertising catalog. As noted above, Centennials included 33710 and 34002.
I am indebted to the late Roy Kehl of Evanston, Illinois, and to the Steinway Archives of the LaGuardia-Wagner Archives of La Guardia Community College, SUNY. Mr. Kehl’s work product has been archived at the Steinway Archives for researchers to study, and is also in his 2011 work The Official Guide to Steinway Pianos. The Steinway Archives is the repository of a large collection of Steinway documents, including microfilm copies of the Steinway Hall “number books,” the original factory “number books,” and the original Inventory Books. I am also indebted to the library of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. for their similar resources, as well as their excellent William Steinway Diary which can be searched online.