English   Italiano   中文   中文
English Other languages coming soon...

Articles - Steinway


The Opening of Steinway & Sons New Piano-Forte Manufactory


From 1854 until 1860 the Steinway Piano Company was located in cramped quarters at 82-88 Walker Street in New York. After just six years the company expanded aggressively to meet the growing demand for their instruments. The buildings on Walker Street were kept as warerooms and a magnificent new factory was built on Park Avenue between 52nd and 53rd Streets in Midtown Manhattan. The opening of the new factory, which Steinway occupied from 1860 until 1910, was described in the prestigious New York weekly, Frank Leslie's illustrated Newspaper on September 22 & 29, 1860 and again on May 28, 1864. Born in England, Frank Leslie (1821-80) was an engraver and publisher who learned his trade working for the Illustrated London News. He immigrated to New York City and began publishing his paper in 1855. Leslie's superb illustrations highlight his description of the new factory. The first illustration shows the Harlem Railroad running aboveground past the factory's front door. The original article, which begins below, has been slightly edited and abridged in the interest of clarity and conciseness.

Part I
September 22, 1860
Oh, industry and unity and honesty, verily, ye have your reward!

Fifteen years ago the opening of a manufactory so magnificent in its proportions and so perfect in all its details would have created an emotionary [sic] earthquake. Then it would have formed the topic of gossip for weeks before and after the inauguration, but we live in an age when to hobnob with princes is of daily occurrence, and when a twenty-seven thousand ton steamer leaves our harbor without exacting a shrug of the shoulders. We have become a very mature people, and have almost ceased to wonder. Still the opening of so vast a piano factory is a subject too important to be passed over with a mere comment.

We have had a long acquaintance with the Messrs. Steinway, and have been familiar with their career from their beginning in America. It has been a career of wonderful success, carved out by intelligent perseverance and unremitting industry.

The old gentleman [Henry Engelhard Steinway (1797-1871)] was a piano-maker in Brunswick, Germany; whose manufacturing means far exceeded the demand for his wares. They are a slow people over there, and one piano is enough for a town. The Steinways had heard of America, and curious to know if a new field could not be opened wide enough for their ambition, the eldest son Charles was sent to examine the localities, the institutions and manufactures, and report upon the chances. His report will be understood, when the immigration of the whole family is mentioned as the result. Arriving in 1849 the chances of the future were calmly reviewed, and it was determined that the capital which they brought should remain untouched, and that father and sons should enter the various factories as journeymen, learn thoroughly their several branches, for all were pianomakers, after the American system, and thus study out the improvements of the New World and engraft them upon the experience of the Olddeeming rightly, that a combination of the two would certainly produce piano-fortes that would stand the test of all competition. So to journeyman's work they went, laboriously earning that experience which is now to them of value beyond all calculation. After thus serving a new apprenticeship of three years they commenced themselves to manufacture.

With that prudence which distinguished all their movements, they began in a small way in a back room in Varick Street, making hardly one piano a week. But few as their pianos were, they were good, exhibiting some idiosyncrasies, which belonged to the Steinway firm, and were not found in any other pianos. The instruments very soon attracted the attention of the professors, and a good word dropped here and there in society resulted in purchasers finding them out, and their business grew too large for their circumscribed premises. By-and-bye we find them in Walker street (where their warerooms still are), their reputation already spreading and their one piano a week growing into three or four. Then they began to compete with other makers at the great Fairs and Institute Exhibitions, and year after year added first-class medals to their stock. These successes, together with an intelligent and liberal system of advertising, literally spread the fame of their instruments through the whole length and breadth of the Continent. But the increase of their business did not convince them that their pianos were beyond improvement. The great success they had won made them the more anxious still better to deserve it. They experimented incessantly. They closely examined every piano they turned out, and their critical knowledge enabled them to distinguish faults quite undiscoverable to any one less acute then themselves. In the next instruments such faults were corrected, and thus blemish after blemish disappeared, until the Steinway square piano arrived at its present state of perfection, upon which it seems impossible to improve.

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, satisfying to the professor and delightful to the amateur. In the perfection of touch in all their instruments, they can hardly be equaled in any country. The instruments are thoroughly well made, of durable and well-seasoned materials, and of immense strength. It is indeed to this remarkable solidity that the rare beauty of tone, which distinguishes them, must be attributed. The combinations of qualities, which we have enumerated, make up a perfect piano, and in Steinway's this combination is found.

Until within the last three or four years Erard's Grand Pianos took the first rank in the world. A large number were imported to this country, and they held undisputed sway in the concert-room. The Steinways commenced making grand pianos about four years since, and succeeded well with the very first, since which they have added improvement after improvement, until at this time they have completely overshadowed the fame of the famous Erard, and have almost driven it out of the concert-room and out of the market. In depth, volume and brilliancy of tone they surpass the Erard's, while in point of "touch," in which Erard's were supposed to be unapproachable, they are fully its equal. Steinway's grands are really grand in every point of view, and cannot be surpassed by any similar instruments in the world.

The firm consists of the elder Steinway and his four sons, Charles, William, Henry and Albert. They are all thorough, practical and intelligent mechanics, each being master of separate departments, and working into each other's hands in every new experiment or suggested improvement. Besides, they are all, to a certain extent, accomplished in some branch of the musical art, no unimportant adjunct, by the way, in making a good piano. The strength in this firm rests, undoubtedly, on its unity and its oneness of purpose, added to a perfect and controlling knowledge of all the requisites of a good piano.

In the last year or two, the Steinway's business has assumed such colossal proportions, that a new and vast factory was found to be indispensable, and they set to work to find a suitable location. With the clear judgment and far-seeing policy, which have marked every step in their career, they chose the site of their new factory, fronting an entire block on Fourth Avenue, between Fifty-second and Fifty-third streets. The Harlem and New Haven railroad cars pass directly in front, making hundreds of thousands of people acquainted with the name of Steinwaythe factory forming a standing advertisement of incalculable value, and not to be overlooked.

The opening of the new manufactory on Thursday, August 30th, attracted a large number of literary, musical and artistic gentlemen, who visited it for the purpose of inspecting the vast resources of the establishment. The following description, which is the result of a tour of inspection, will give some idea of the building and the business of Steinway & Sons:

Description of the Factory

The Steinway Pianoforte Manufactory comprises an entire block, fronting on the Fourth Avenue, and extending from Fifty-second to Fifty-third streets. The front on Fourth Avenue has a length of two hundred and one feet, with a depth of forty feet. The wing on Fifty-third Street is one hundred and sixty-five feet in length and is forty feet in depth. The whole building is six stories high, including the basement. The architecture is of the modern Italian style, with brick lintel arches, brownstone trimmings and brick dental cornices. It is very substantially built, the basement wall being grouted brick two feet thick. The main building covers eleven city lots, eleven other lots being used for the purpose of seasoning lumber, of which there is a stock of about two million feet always piled up on the grounds. In the yard there are four drying houses, each of which is heated by two thousand feet of steam-pipe, and contains about sixty thousand feet of lumber, so that there are about two hundred and forty thousand feet of lumber constantly under the process of kiln-drying.

NUMBER OF MEN EMPLOYED: There are about three hundred and fifty men constantly employed, who turn out about thirty square and five grand pianos every week.

THE ENGINE: A splendid engine of fifty horsepower is situated outside the building in the yard. It was manufactured by Corliss & Co., of Providence, and contains all their latest patented improvements. It is used to drive all the machinery in the building.

THE MACHINERY: All the heavier portion of the machinery is located in the basement. In this room are three large planers, one of which was made expressly for this establishment by Ball & Williams, of Worcester, Mass., and is certainly one of the largest instruments of its class existing, planing the largest piano tops or bottoms at once. There are also four up-and-down saws, several circular saws, besides turning lathes, &c., &c. These wonderful and powerful instruments are constantly at work, shaping the rough plank ready for use in the first floor above, where the bottoms, blockings, wrest planks, and other parts of the case are got up with the aid of molding, jointing and other machinery.

CASE-MAKING: The three stories above are occupied by the ease-makers, who take all those single parts made below, put them together, and veneer and finish the cases ready to go up to the top floor, or varnishing-room, where every case remains from three to four months, to be thoroughly varnished. On each case-making floor there are three large warming boxes constructed of sheet iron, and covered with wood, with sufficient steam-pipes in them to raise the heat to two hundred degrees. The Varnishing Department comprises the top floor, extending the whole length of the front and side building: a length of three hundred and sixty-six feet. From this floor the completely varnished cases are taken one floor lower down in the front building: the sounding-board floor: where the sounding boards are fitted in.

In the floor below the instruments are strung, the action and keyboards fitted in, and the tops, legs and lyres adjusted and put on. The partly finished instruments are then taken first to the floor below, where the action is regulated, thence to the first floor, where the hammers and the tone are regulated; after which the final polish is put on the case, and the perfect piano is ready to be sent down to the sales-room. This floor also contains the office of the establishment, situated on Fifty-third Street, through which every person entering or leaving the building has to pass. In connection with the office is the Storeroom, which contains the actions, felts, hardware, ivory, cloth, pins, wire, &c., used in the interior works of pianos. Of these materials there is a vast supply always on hand, amounting in value to over twenty thousand dollars.

The front basement contains all the ironwork, plates and bars, drilling machines, japanning works, and the rosewood veneers. Of the latter the stock on hand is rarely of less value than eight thousand dollars. No fire of any kind is used within the building. Every part of the factory is heated by means of steam pipes, thirty thousand feet of which line the interior. The wood-heating apparatus is also warmed by steam, which also heats and kilns for japanning.

THE TELLTALE CLOCKS: In the two extremes of the buildings are placed telltale clocks, for the purpose of testing the trustworthiness of the night watchman. Wires are carried to each floor, and if they are not touched at certain intervals the watcher has neglected his rounds, and the tale is recorded on the faces of the dials.
THE TELEGRAPH: The distance between the Steinway salesroom, No. 82 Walker Street, and the up-town factory is so great, and the need of immediate communication is so frequent, that a telegraphic correspondence was found to be necessary. Consequently a private telegraph line has been established between Walker Street and Fifty-third Street, bringing the two business places into instant communication.
THE GENERAL STOCK: There are about six hundred pianos constantly in course of construction, and these, in connection with the hardware, machinery, engine, veneers, lumber, represent at least the sum of three hundred and fifty thousand dollars, exclusive of the buildings. The cost of the building and ground is about one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. And all this sprung up in the short space of seven years, from a little back room in Varick Street. Oh, industry and unity and honesty, verily, ye have your reward! In our next we shall continue our illustrations with the account of the opening.

Part II
September 29, 1860

In our last issue we gave a description of the rise and progress of the Steinway family, and of their immense new manufactory on Park Avenue, between Fifty-Second and Fifty-Third streets. The opening of this new place for business purposes was the occasion of our visit, in company with a large body of the press and several distinguished professors and amateurs. Accompanied by Charles and William Steinway, the visitors, in parties, examined the building from the basement to the roof. Every part of that vast musical beehive was in active operation. The beautiful and quietly working steam engine set all the elaborate machinery in motion, and logs were cut, boards planed, lyres and legs curiously fashioned, and each operation performed almost in the twinkling of an eye. Steam is truly a wonderful agent, and marvelously has the genius of man controlled its power and turned it to account. In the several departments on the upper floors, the greatest activity prevailed; no space was wasted, men worked almost elbow to elbow, but without the slightest appearance of confusion; indeed, perfect order and intelligent arrangement seemed to control every department of this great establishment.

The case-room was truly a curious sight. Down its whole length, some hundred and fifty feet, were rows of embryo pianos, grands and squares, waiting their turn for advancement towards completion. Five or six of these rows, packed sideways, were in this room alone, and must have numbered hundreds. A more convincing proof of the extent of the Steinways' business could hardly be given. From room to room, through every stage of piano-forte manufacturing, the visitors were ushered, receiving explanations and pleasant answers to all inquiries, until having passed through the fly, finishing and regulating-room, they arrived at the show-room of the factory, in which were several of the Steinway "Grands," and a handsome and abundant collation, consisting of choice viands and fluids of brands not to be mentioned but with respect. An hour and a half of tramping up-stairs and down-stairs, to and fro endless corridors of machinery, pianos, &c., the party sat down with considerable appetite, and discussed the good things before them with considerable energy. When the clatter of the knives and forks had somewhat subsided, the health of Henry Steinway, the father, was proposed, and Henri L. Stuart, Esq., having been delegated to reply in behalf of Mr. Steinway, spoke as follows:

Gentlemen: It is difficult to fittingly speak in behalf of our hosts, who have so eloquently spoken for themselves in this magnificent temple, devoted to industrial art, with its hundred altars of mechanism, whereon are worked out the cunning devices of manufacturing skill and artistic design, hitherto wrought out by the slow processes of handicraft, through which we have just been shown. Gentlemen, these material voices are sufficiently eloquent, sufficiently convincing in their manifold statement, yet to them have been added melodies of the spheres, brought forth by certain musical sons of genius, even now among us, from magnificent instruments, each standing ready to respond in behalf of our hosts, when properly appealed to.

You have seen that the first law for the production of a good piano is good material and arrangement. Thus, in order to keep myself within the charmed circle of oral proprieties while speaking of persons, I will first proceed to arrange my materials, so as ultimately to rope-in and surround my subject. You will, therefore, consider yourselves resolved into a triangle: Messrs. Steinway & Sons occupying one point, you, their guests, another, while I shall speak from the third, using our hosts as a text, and you, their guests, as an audience. There is but a single point, a single lesson that I wish to impress upon you, and, through you, upon every family in our country:

In American families individuality springs to a preternatural growth in the cradle. Young America is out of leading strings and overriding parents and all the proprieties at an alarmingly early age. Thus families scatter, have no common interest, and lose sight of the motto of our Government and of our county: "United we stand, divided we fall." For a time our young men and our young women may dash and sparkle, may catch the eye and the attention; they may go up like a column of watery spray against the sun with an appearance of reality, but in descending to the plain arena or substantial lifework, their descending column of mechanical force sums up naught: nowhere; they go out, go up, come down, are gone and leave no sign.

Messrs. Steinway & Sons are a noble illustration of what a united family, with a common interest, a common purpose and common labors can do: aye, always will do. The Rothschilds in Europe, the Lawrences, the Appletons, the Harpers and the Steinways in our own country, with a few others, have by observing this great law of success, not only achieved fortune, but each, in their way, have made an indelible mark upon, and molded, the nineteenth century. But to the earnest and thoughtful young man, dependent upon his own exertions, to parents and children, I would especially commend the example of Steinway & Sons. Their success is due to their working as a unit while mastering the details of piano forte making, and in each devoting himself according to his talents, to a special department: the father presiding over the manufactory and material; Charles, the eldest son, over the sales department; Henry over the department of design; William over the department of finance; and Albert, the youngest son, is following his father and brothers through the workshop, where he now works as a finisher, and shortly will become an active member of the firm. A son-in-law, Mr. Theodore Vogel, acts as foreman. And thus, in eight years, an unparalleled success has been achieved by Steinway & Sons.

Gentlemen, I am dry: I am done, and throw the talking mantle upon the shoulders of Dr. Joshua Leavitt, of the Independent.

This speech, which was delivered pointedly and effectively, was loudly cheered, and called forth Charles Steinway, the eldest brother, who spoke to the following effect. He alluded to the early history of their lives: to their immense business in Brunswick of ten pianos a year, the supply always exceeding the demand: of their beginnings in this country, their rapid rise and their present position. He did not attribute this solely to their energy, industry and unity, but to the progressive spirit of this country: to its restless striving after improvement: to its free institutions, which recognized the individuality of every man, and enabled him to make his mark in spite of wealthy and established opposition, and imbued him with that irresistible desire to "go ahead" and come out first in the race for improvement. These, he said, are the lessons which America teaches to those who seek her shores from the narrow despotisms of the Old World. Our chief credit is that we have not been ashamed to profit by the lesson presented every day to our observation. At the close of his remarks Mr. Charles Steinway was very much and deservedly applauded. Many other speeches were made, many healths were drunk, and the party separated at about eight p.m. During the afternoon the well-known artists, Mills, Wollenhaupt, Fradel and Lasar, tested three of Steinway's magnificent grands in some very original music, which the company enjoyed with the other good things so liberally furnished.


The New York Tribune: "The progress of this firm from the smallest beginning to its present eminence is interesting, and is the best proof which could be given of the excellence of their work and the uprightness of their mercantile transactions."

The Daily News:"Since they commenced business, eight years ago, their success has been almost unprecedented, and their pianos are universally conceded to be among the best in this country.

The Sunday Times: "Their pianos rapidly won fame for durability, and combined brilliancy and softness of tone, assimilating delightfully to the human voice. We have had one of them in use for over five years, and although the Steinways have, perhaps, introduced many improvements since they built it, it has come to be such a home-body with us, so pleasant and entirely satisfactory a part of our family, in fact, that we would not exchange it for any other possible instrument."

Morris & Willis, whose taste and judgment are not to be impeached, say in The Home Journal: "The most interesting portion of the factory, however, to us, is a small room on the first floor, where presides the inventive mind which plans and perfects new improvements. Here, surrounded by drawings and models, the master spirit of the establishment: the eldest son, we believe: is to be found. It is to him that the public is indebted for many of the improvements which render Steinway & Sons' pianos second to none in the world."

The last extract we shall make is from the pen of one of our most graceful and piquant writers, Cornelius Mathews, editor of The New Yorker: "We presume there is no manufactory in the world which combines so perfectly all the elements of creation in such simple working order. It is this gift of arrangement which has placed Steinway at the head of an establishment so complete in the short term of eight years. It is conceded that the Steinway piano in make, tone, sweetness and precision, is the most perfect instrument of the class to be had anywhere in the world. It unites in itself whatever has been inherited, combined or invented down to this present time, to make the piano they produce all that a piano can be. In this they have succeeded."

With such unqualified endorsement, we think the Steinways may be satisfied that their efforts are duly appreciated. Their present course of patent industry, intelligent practical experiments, merited energy and unerring judgment in what constitutes a perfect piano, will secure them in their present proud position and insure them that vast public patronage which has built up their great new factory, and laid the foundation of a substantial fortune for each individual member of the firm.

Three and a half years after the first article describing the new Steinway factory, an update, describing the construction of Steinway Hall on East 14th Street and also a new addition to the Steinway factory, was printed by Frank Leslie. Steinway Hall contained the sales rooms and the Steinway business offices from 1864 until 1925. A concert hall, one of the most important centers of New York cultural life, was also located there from 1864 until 1890. In addition to concerts featuring famous artists performing on Steinway pianos, all manor of entertainment was offered; in 1867 Charles Dickens read excerpts from his writings, and a decade later the first demonstration of music transmitted by wire took place at Steinway Hall. The hall could accommodate nearly two thousand people. Although other piano manufactures in Europe and the United States had their own concert halls, no bigger concert hall was ever built by a musical instrument manufacturer either before or since. Nearly one million people passed through the doors of the Steinway concert hall during the twenty-five years of its activity. The tremendous advertising advantage for the Steinway piano can be imagined. The abridged text begins below. I have taken the liberty to omit some details of the description of the building's architectural style.

Steinway & Sons' New Building
May 28, 1864

It is only a year or two since we illustrated the magnificent new pianoforte manufactory erected by Steinway & Sons, on a block on Fourth avenue extending from Fifty-second street to Fifty-third street, and now we are called upon to record the extension of that great building and the erection of another splendid structure on East Fourteenth street, near Fourth avenue, designed by Steinway & Sons, for their own use as a warehouse for their pianofortes. This building is in a commanding situation, and is of such ample dimensions, and is so beautiful architecturally, that it is an ornament to our city, which can now boast of having the finest pianoforte store, probably, in the world.

The front on Fourteenth Street is of white marble, and is 50 feet wide, with a depth of 85 feet. It has four floors above the basement. The first storey is in the Corinthian style, with a portico in the centre 17 feet wide, and projecting five feet from the face of the building. The portico is constructed with fluted columns and pilasters, with full Corinthian caps, resting on molded and paneled pedestals. These columns support rich Corinthian entablatures with carved modillionsThe four windows in the front storey have in each one single pane of plate glass. The interior finish is of the most solid and best kind; all the principal woodwork, such as doors, stairs and partitions diving the office from the store, are solid black walnut, oiled and waxed. The main stairway is six-and-a-half feet wide; the entrance to the building is through a handsome vestibule, wainscoted and trimmed with black walnut. The floor is of Italian marble tile of mosaic pattern. To the left is the large wareroom, exclusively for the sale of square pianos; to the right is located a smaller one for upright pianos; and on the second floor is located the large room containing the grand pianos. The height of the ceiling from the floor is 15 feet in the lower floors. The two upper floors are used for music-rooms and artists' studios. The whole height of the building is 72 feet from sidewalk to roof. In the rear of this building a plot of ground is also owned by the Messrs. Steinway, 100 feet wide by 125 feet deep, with a frontage of 100 feet on Fifteenth Street, which is reserved for the erection of a large concert hall.

The building was designed and built under the superintendence of John Kellum, architect. It is certainly the finest building in the United States of its class and for the purpose for which it is designed, and we doubt if there is a pianoforte store in any of the large capitals of Europe or England that can in any way compare with it.

The Steinways' new store was officially and socially opened on Tuesday, the 10th inst., when a large party of distinguished literary and eminent musical gentlemen assembled at noon to inspect the building and visit the factory. Carriages drove up to the door at one o'clock, and conveyed the whole party up to 53rd street, Fourth Avenue. The factory is a noble pile and is an ornament to the avenue. It comprises an entire block, fronting on the Fourth Avenue, and extending from 52d to 53d streets. The front on Fourth Avenue has a length of 201 feet, with a depth of 40 feet. The wings on 52d and 53d streets are each 165 feet in length and 40 feet in depth. The whole building is six stories high, including the basement. The architecture is of the modern Italian style, with brick lintel arches, brown stone trimmings, and brick dental cornices. It is very substantially built, the basement wall being grouted brick two feet thick; the first storey walls 20 inches, and the upper walls 16 inches in thickness. The main building covers 14 city lots, 11 other lots being used for the purpose of seasoning lumber, of which there is a stock of 2,000,000 feet always piled upon the grounds. In the yard there are four drying-houses, each of which is heated by 2,000 feet of steam pipe, and contains about 60,000 feet of lumber, so that there are about 240,000 feet of lumber constantly under the process of kiln-drying. L. Burger is the architect.

After admiring the handsome exterior, the party entered through the office in 53d street, and came at once upon the store-room, which contains the actions, felts, hardware, ivory, cloth, pins, wire, etc., etc., used in the interior works of pianos. Of these materials there is a vast supply always on hand, amounting in value to over $30,000.

They next visited the engine-room. Here a splendid engine of 50 horsepower, burnished as beautiful as the works of a watch, was moving, with easy regularity, the entire machinery of the factory. This room is situated in the spacious yard, where also are located three steam boilers of 50 horsepower each, supplying steam for power, heating and drying purposes. A supplementary engine of 20 horse-power is located in the basement of the 52d street wing, the better to guard against any interruption which might occur through accident or stoppage of the main engine for necessary repairs.

From thence to the front basement, which contains all the ironwork, plates and frames, drilling machines, japanning works, and the rosewood veneers. Of the latter the stock on hand is rarely of less value than $12,000. No fire of any kind is used within the building. Every part of the factory is heated by means of steam pipes, 40,000 feet of which line the interior. The wood-heating apparatus is also warmed by steam, which also heats the kilns for japanning, etc.

In the basement of the 53d street wing all the heavier machinery is located. Here are three large planers, one of which is certainly the largest instrument of its class existing, planing the largest piano tops or bottoms at once. There are also four up-and-down saws, several circular saws, besides turning lathes, etc. These wonderful and powerful instruments are constantly at work, shaping the rough plank ready for use in the first floor above, where the bottoms, blockings, wrest planks and other parts of the case are got up with the aid of molding, jointing and other machinery.

From this department we ascended to the fourth floor, where the case makers hold undisputed sway, and who take all the single parts made below, put them together, and veneer and finish the cases ready to go up to the top floor or varnishing-room, where every case remains about three months to be thoroughly varnished. On each case-making floor there are three large warming boxes, constructed of sheet iron, and covered with wood, with sufficient steam pipes in them to raise the heat to 200 degrees.

Higher up we reach the varnishing department, which extends the whole length of the front side buildings, in all 530 feet. Here we passed through avenues of cases, stacks of them piled up six and eight deep. There must have been many hundreds of squares, uprights and grands ready to receive the inner works. The vastness of the number conveyed to all the most convincing proof of the immense business done by the Steinways.

The sounding board, the stringing and the finishing rooms are located below, and were alive with busy men and the hum or work.

The department, which excited the most intense interest, was the room on the third floor, where all the finer machinery for scroll sawing, rounding corners and shaping the various parts of the mechanism is located. Groups crowded round each machine, and it was curious to watch the expression of interest and astonishment on the faces of the observers as squares became round in a moment, and unbroken surfaces were metamorphosed into the most recherch patterns of scroll work in a very few minutes. The operations are indeed simple and beautiful. Telltale clocks in the extremes of the buildings insure that the watchmen attend to their duty with unerring certainty.

There are over four hundred men employed in this factory, which, considering the immense aid given to them by the laborsaving machines, are fully equal to 600 fifteen years ago. This force enables them to turn out about 40 square and five grand pianos every week.

The statistics of the factory show that there are about 800 pianos constantly in course of construction. These represent, in connection with the stock of hardware, lumber, veneers, machinery, engines, &c., &c., a sum of at least $450,000, exclusive of the building, each cost, together with the ground, $150,000: making in all a represented capital of six hundred thousand dollars. This estimate is for the factory alone, while the superb building in Fourteenth Street and the valuable lots both in that street and Fifteenth Street are entirely unaccounted for. For these at least $200,000 more may be added: making, at a low estimate, a capital invested in the business of at least eight hundred thousand dollars!

Enormous as this result is, it seems to increase in importance when we remember that it is the growth of but nine or ten years, and that it all sprang from making one pianoforte a week. We doubt if the history of the piano business in any country can parallel such an extraordinary success as this.

The success of the Steinways has never wavered for a day since the tide of good fortune set in. The improvements, which, from time to time, they have added to their instruments, keep their reputation fresh and vigorous, and continue to increase their circle of purchasers. They fear no rivalry, for they have always gained the first prize over all others where their pianos have exhibited, having received within the last nine years thirty-two first premiums, gold and silver medals. The fact, however, upon which they pride themselves the most is, that at the Great International Exhibition in London, in 1862, where 269 pianos from all parts of the world were exhibited, "they were awarded a First Prize Medal, for powerful, clear, brilliant and sympathetic tone, with excellence of workmanship, as shown in Grand and Square Pianos." Notwithstanding this immense competition, the special correspondent of the Times says, Messrs. Steinway's endorsement by the Jurors is emphatic, and stronger and more to the point than that of any other maker. Such testimony as this is conclusive as to the superior excellence of the Steinway pianos.

The private telegraph line which connects the factory with the store announced, we presume, that the party was on its way to Fourteenth street, for on its arrival a splendid collation, which was in fact a dinner, was found prepared, and was keenly enjoyed by all present, for the lengthened tour of inspection by no means served to blunt the appetites of the guests. Of course the success of the Steinways formed a marked feature of the speeches. To these just and flattering compliments Mr. William Steinway responded in an earnest and practical speech, which was very warmly applauded. The musical part of the entertainment was especially enjoyable, for the distinguished artists present played with infinite spirit and brilliancy.

The visit to Steinway & Sons' piano manufactory and new salesrooms was both instructive and pleasant. It gave to many an insight to a business which has assumed gigantic proportions in the past few years, and which is, even now, increasing daily; and the impression left upon the minds of all was, that the two magnificent buildings erected by the Father Steinway and his four Sons, were proud monuments of their industry, energy, probity and enterprise, and that they richly deserved the magnificent success which has crowned with prosperity their intelligent labors.

© Copyright 2008 Edward E. Swenson, MozartPiano.com
All rights reserved