Monday, July 6, 2009

Wm Knabe & Co

This lovely grand was built in Baltimore, Maryland, in about 1890.  Knabe (pronounced "k-NAH-bay") was one of America's premier makers, and after the Civil War was considered on a par with Steinway, Chickering, Mason & Hamlin, and Weber.  This piano was made when the company was still run by a Knabe; Ernest, the son of the founder William.

Knabe figured prominently in the formation of the American Piano Company in 1908.  George Foster, a business school grad, had started out as a reed organ salesman, and by 1894, the year Ernest Knabe died, had formed a partnership with William Armstrong to manufacture pianos in Rochester NY.  Their first major acquisition was the Marshall & Wendell Co of Albany in 1898.  Finally, a decade later, after acquiring a number of other companies, they incorporated as American Piano Co.  Knabe was one of the cornerstones of the company; Chickering & Sons, bought in the same year, was the other.

But long before those events, this 7½ foot walnut-veneered grand rolled out of the factory in Baltimore, as would many more until about 1930, when Knabe was moved to the American Piano Company's factory campus in East Rochester.  Pianos with the Knabe name continued to be made in East Rochester for another 50 years.  After a hiatus of passing through various owners, a Knabe line was developed and manufactured in Korea in the late 90's, and finally bought by the Korean maker Samick in 2001.  Samick continues to manufacture pianos with the Knabe name.

A few details about the instrument:  it has 88 notes, two bridges, a pieced (rather than molded) case, and a sloped pinblock not covered by the plate.  The action has wooden brackets, and uses a wooden rocker mechanism rather than the modern threaded brass capstan to regulate the connection between the keys and the wippens.  It has a surprisingly modern tone for a 120-year-old piano.