Steinway & Sons A-188
A new Steinway & Sons, model A-188.
Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg, the founder of Steinway & Sons, was born on 17/02/1797 in Wolfshagen im Harz, now Langelsheim, Low Saxony (Germany) and died on 07/02/1871 in New York (USA). Initially he settled in Seesen as a furniture and instrument maker. He had a terrible childhood behind him. Napoleon's armies left a trail of destruction in Germany at the time. The Steinweg's house burned down and several of Heinrich's brothers were killed. As a result of an accident he later lost his father and other brothers as well, which meant that he was the only survivor who was orphaned at the age of 15.
H.E. Steinweg built his first table piano around 1825 and in 1850 he and his family, with the exception of his eldest son C.F. Theodor Steinweg (1825-1889), emigrated to America. C.F. Theodor Steinweg continued his father's business.
After a period in America, Henry Steinway (H.E. Steinweg) founded Steinway & Sons in 1853 together with his sons Henry Jr. (Heinrich, 1831-1865) and Charles (Karl, 1829-1865). William (Wilhelm, 1835-1896) and Albert (1840-1877) later joined.
Due to the American Civil War (1861-1865), the Steinway Hall (centre for art and culture) was not opened until 1866. Piano sales then increased considerably, partly because the public had to walk through the shop before entering the concert hall. Steinway Hall had to close in 1890, as its function as a centre for art and culture was taken over by Carnegie Hall.
Many of Steinway's important technical ideas came from the intensive contact between C.F. Theodor Steinweg (Germany) and Henry (Jr.) Steinway (America). In 1857 the first patent was granted to Steinway & Sons and since then more than 125 more would follow, including the cross-string system used in grand pianos (1859), the cast iron window and the duplex scale (1872), whereby the sounding part of the string is complemented by the piece of the string between the bridge and the attachment pins. This results in a richer overtone ratio in the sound.
Henry Jr. and Charles died in 1865, after which C.F. Theodor Steinweg (technique) gave up his company in Germany to help his father (H.E. Steinweg / Henry Steinway sr.), William (commerce) and Albert.
In 1880 Theodore and William started to build a new Steinway factory in Hamburg in a rented building. A few years later they continued in their own factory building, which was soon expanded with several branches. Theodore died in 1889 in Braunschweig.
Steinway was doing well until the crash of 1929, but after that the sale collapsed. In the second half of the thirties Steinway started to produce smaller instruments, after which it improved a bit.
In 1941 the factory in Hamburg, as an enemy object, was confiscated after which it had to do its bit for the war industry. In 1943 the factory burned down completely as a result of a bombardment. After 1948, production in Hamburg resumed, but in New York it remained difficult.
In 1972 the (up to then) family business was sold to CBS-Columbia, which in 1985 sold it again to an investor group from Boston, which then founded 'Steinway Musical Properties'. This was sold to Conn-Selmer in 1995 and he changed the name to 'Steinway Musical Instruments'. Since 1996, the company has been listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the name LVB (Ludwig van Beethoven). On 18 September 2013, LVB was taken over by hedge fund Paulson & Company, after which it was withdrawn from the stock exchange.
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