The History of Steinway Pianos

During a period of more than a century and a half, Steinway & Sons, along with its patents and meticulously developed techniques, created the world’s finest piano that is now used by musicians from all over the world. Each Steinway musical artist that personally owns a Steinway has selected to perform on the Steinway piano professionally. It is the preferred piano of numerous professional and amateur musicians. Master cabinet maker and German immigrant Henry Engelhard Steinway founded Steinway & Sons in 1853 in a Manhattan loft on Varick Street. When Henry established Steinway & Sons, he had already built 482 pianos. Number 483, the first piano produced by Steinway & Sons, was purchased by a family from New York for $500.

Henry and his sons, C. F. Theodore, Charles, Henry Jr., William, and Albert, developed the modern piano over a thirty year period and developed nearly 127 patented inventions. Many of the inventions were based on developing scientific research such as the acoustical theories of physicist Hermann von Helmholtz. In 1855, Steinway pianos won gold medals at several European and US exhibitions. In 1866, Steinway & Sons opened the first Steinway Hall on 14th Street and it became New York City’s cultural and artistic center. The company moved to its present location in the Astoria section of Queens, New York by 1891. They built Steinway Village which had its own factory, foundries, parks, post office, and employee accommodations.

Steinway & Sons achieved international recognition in 1867 at the Paris Exhibition when the company was awarded the ‘Grand Gold Medal of Honor’ for excellence in manufacturing and engineering. Steinway pianos quickly won the respect of the world’s great pianists and became the piano of choice for many royalty members. In 1871, Henry Sr. died and his sons C. F. Theodore and William took over managing the company. C. F. Theodore was in charge of the technical side of piano making and he acquired 45 patents for the company which included a patent in 1875 for the modern concert grand piano.

Due to increased demand, in 1880, the Hamburg production facility was opened and is currently still in operation. Today, both Steinway factories utilize the finest craftsmanship, careful attention to detail, and pioneering designs, which has made the Steinway piano the world’s finest piano. Steinway & Sons crafts about 2,500 pianos each year worldwide. As well, the company still handcrafts its fine Steinway pianos only at its Hamburg, Germany and Astoria, New York, factories. They also still use many of the same practices that had been developed by the Steinway family over the years.

Over 30 years, the Steinway brothers built their pianos one at a time, applying skills that were handed down from master to apprentice over the generations. As the world’s finest piano, more than 1,500 prominent concert artists and ensembles throughout the world carry the title Steinway Artist. Today, 9 out of 10 concert artists choose Steinway pianos and it is the preferred piano of numerous professional and amateur musicians all over the world.

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