Restored 6′-4″ circa 1890’s Chickering Grand Piano.
Own a piece of history! Its remarkable condition testifies to the thought and care put into its construction. Its voice is still clear and resonant, delicately tinged by its great age with a far-off quality, as though it sang of other days and other times. This staid and revered 19th century Americana Chickering grand piano was lovingly restored and brought back to life in our restoration shop. It was completely rebuilt and refinished over a fourteen-month process. At the time this piano was built it is unlikely the factory had been wired for electricity, and if it was, the electricity would have powered lighting only. Power tools didn’t exist yet. So this piano was crafted completely from hand tools, or hand-made. Saws, hand-planers, chisels and hammers of different shapes and sizes were used for shaping and carving. Yankee drills and awls drilled the thousand-plus holes in the action and pinblock. Ingenious mechanical presses and other equipment were operated by hand to bend that graceful rim into its shape and form the individual strips of spruce into the soundboard and construct the two hardwood bridges and four pinblocks. Only the finest old-growth lumber was used at that time in history (not true today, certainly) and some was shipped from South America where the Chickering family had long-time business arrangements. Jonas Chickering had been partners with Captain John MacKay whose ship took pianos to South America and returned with exotic lumber for constructing pianos. Later, Captain MacKay was lost at sea. Only perfect cuts of wood were considered so a lot of quality wood was left on the floor at the end of the day after cutting around wormholes or poor grain structure areas. Quality lumber was cheap and plentiful. The cabinetry finish veneers are constructed with a tight-grained cherry or rosewood, we’re not certain which or its origin. The pedals and other hardware are solid brass, not plated and purveyed from other artisan shops in Boston. The antique duet bench has claw and ball legs. Complimentary local first-floor professional delivery is included. 19th Century Americana – Chickering Grand Piano 88 Keys Piano Warehouse & Showroom price – $14,950.
The original owner was Galen Spencer, the 1884 Mayor of Joplin, Missouri and a prominent lawyer and judge. He ordered this piano from the Chickering factory in Boston for his four daughters to learn on. The exact year of manufacturer is unknown but the owner’s family has always believed the piano was purchased in the early 1890’s based on the family’s history. His wife played well and had a good eye for quality and musicality. It was shipped by railroad to Joplin. Mayor Spencer is the great-grandfather of the current owner so the family has had this piano from the 1890’s until the present. The owner speculated that the family’s fortunes were such that they could order any piano they desired, and this is the one they chose above all others.
Around 1907, Galen’s daughter Gertrude married Harry Avery Marr. The Marr family had a grocery store in Joplin. Gertrude and Harry moved west with the piano to Denver, Colorado in 1918. It was there that Harry opened a chain of grocery stores. Harry became prosperous and the piano enjoyed life in a mansion on Grant St. in the country club neighborhood for decades. The piano was beloved and cared for richly. The current owner acquired it from his grandmother Gertrude around 1959 and moved it to Estes Park, Colorado during his stint in Seminary school. That house was located on the road into the Rocky Mountain National Park. The piano moved back to Denver again later in the 1960’s. In 1974 the Chickering was moved into the Saint Andrews Abbey in Denver where it was performed regularly alongside a pipe organ. It was a working piano in a beautiful place. By then, the piano was starting to show its age. It was there that the piano received its first major work including replacement of the original ivory keytops. The work was done by artisans in the finest piano shop in downtown Denver.
In 1982 the piano was moved to Santa Fe, NM where it spent ten years at the Monastic Priory there. It then went to the owners residence on Old Las Vegas Highway and graced his music room until 2015 when he wanted to see this wonderful piece returned to its original glory. The initial attempt to restore the piano was unsuccessful and it came to Mr. Alexander Boggs’ restoration shop with the original piano-action in numerous cardboard boxes. Fortunately, the action was there in its entirety with no missing parts. The rebuild went well and the integrity of this 19th Century Americana Chickering grand piano was restored completely.
19th Century Americana Chickering Grand Piano in a satin cherry finish.
It received a new, unconventional four-section Bolduc 5-ply rock maple pinblock. A pinblock is normally a one-section structure so this presented an interesting challenge. Steinway & Sons pianos are constructed with the same Bolduc pinblocks. Abel Premium hammers were installed for their mellow, cultured tone conducive to the period. Note that the tuning standard at the time was A-435 and not like today’s A-440, measured in Hertz (Unit of Frequency). This means that the tone was slightly flat or lower in pitch, providing a warmer effect. “A-435” is literally cast into the harp. Lareoux damper felts were selected for their quality wool. It was restrung with premium Mapes International Gold bass strings and music wire for the tenor and treble strings. It was beautifully refinished in our shop with lacquer and a satin hand-rubbed sheen. The ornate, hand-carved legs with extensive fluting and other flourishes required twenty times the effort to strip and re-lacquer. The soundboard was carefully refinished and the original decal design was reproduced. The pedals and hardware accents are solid brass that we polished to a brilliant luster. The beautiful and ornate bench was refinished also.
The Chickering Piano Co. was founded ©1823 by Jonas Chickering and James Stewart in Boston, Massachusetts. The Firm was named Stewart & Chickering for a short time. They were the first American piano manufacturer. Jonas has been referred to as “the father of the modern piano”. Jonas introduced a harp (or plate) with the first practical one piece solid iron casting for uprights and grands in 1843. He introduced the first over-strung bass string scale in 1850. These are the last two major technical innovations that define today’s pianos. Jonas brought his three sons into the company in 1852 and changed the name to Chickering & Sons. In 1853 Jonas passed away and the sons ran the company into the 1890’s when this piano was built. The company grew and thrived during the second half of the 19th century. By 1908 the firm had lost headway and was sold to the American Piano Company. The Chickering piano continued to be built when the company evolved in 1932 into the Aeolian American Piano Company which was a major force in American piano manufacturing until its demise in 1983. Then the Baldwin Piano Co. acquired rights to the name and built a line of Chickering pianos until they too went bankrupt in 2001, ending the manufacturing of Chickering pianos. Those pianos bore no resemblance to the quality of this 19th Century Americana Chickering Grand piano.
Ornate and carved legs, lyre and music rack grace this classic 19th Century Americana Chickering Grand Piano.