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Hardman, Peck & Company
The Hardman name is one of the more illustrious names in American piano manufacturing. Hugh Hardman is first listed in New York's piano industry as early as 1842, the date that Hardman, Peck & Company claims as their date of establishment.
Known simply as 'Hardman-Peck', the firm built a variety of upright, grand and player pianos in the early 20th Century. They were known for building superior quality instruments
Many of the current Hardman models are based on Kawai designs. The entire Hardman line today is considered to be one of the highest quality/value lines of pianos due in part to the Kawai joint venture. Larry Fine the author of the pianobuyer.com, recently elevated the entire Hardman line up one level in the bi-annual guide's ratings singling out the Model 45F as a staff pick saying it is a "good value and well constructed.
The Baldwin Piano Company is an American piano brand. It was once the largest US-based manufacturer of keyboard instruments and known by the slogan, "America's Favorite Piano". It ceased most domestic production in December 2008.
The company traces its origins back to 1857, when Dwight Hamilton Baldwin began teaching piano, organ, and violin in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1862, Baldwin started a Decker Brothers piano dealership and, in 1866, hired Lucien Wulsin as a clerk. Wulsin became a partner in the dealership, by then known as D.H. Baldwin & Company, in 1873, and, under his leadership, the Baldwin Company became the largest piano dealer in the Midwestern United States by the 1890s.
In 1889–1890, Baldwin vowed to build "the best piano that could be built" and subsequently formed two production companies: Hamilton Organ, which built reed organs, and the Baldwin Piano Company, which made pianos. The company's first piano, an upright, began selling in 1891. The company introduced its first grand piano in 1895.
During World War II, The Baldwin factory was used to build trainer aircraft for the war effort.
After the war, piano production resumed and by 1953 the company had doubled production figures from prewar levels.
By 1963, the company had acquired C. Bechstein Pianofortefabrik and remained its owner until 1986. In 1959, Baldwin constructed a new piano manufacturing plant in Conway, Arkansas, originally to manufacture upright pianos: by 1973, the company had built 1,000,000 upright pianos. In 1961 Baldwin constructed a new piano factory in Greenwood Mississippi. Subsequently production of upright pianos was moved from Cincinnati, Ohio to Greenwood.
Yamaha was established in 1887 as a piano and reed organ manufacturer by Torakusu Yamaha as in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka prefecture and was incorporated on October 12, 1897. The company's origins as a musical instrument manufacturer are still reflected today in the group's logo—a trio of interlocking tuning forks.
The first Yamaha piano was the 1900 upright, followed two years later by the first Yamaha grand piano. By 1904, Yamaha pianos were being honoured at the St Louis World Exposition. One of the secrets of Yamaha‘s world success was its unique cast metal sound frame that meant it had a special timbre and also kept its tune longer. It was this 'in house' expertise in metallurgy and casting techniques, that equipped the company to start making motorcycles from the late 1940s.
After Kaichi Kawakami became president in 1927, Nippon Gakki was given a more secure financial footing. Kaichi’s son, Gen'ichi Kawakami, succeeded him in 1950, Under his presidency, Yamaha production was overhauled around innovative technologies, such as the revolutionary kiln drying technique that drastically reduced piano build time and improved quality.
Yamaha piano production surged during the early 1960s. By 1966, the company was building 100,000 instruments a year, making it the world’s leading piano manufacturer.
Mason & Hamlin began manufacturing pianos in 1883. Initially they built only upright pianos featuring a patented method of tuning and maintaining string tension which they marketed as the screw stringer and intended as an improvement over the traditional system with tuning pins. In 1895, the piano department was completely reorganized by Richard W. Gertz, an independent piano designer from Germany who had created new scales for them earlier that year. Gertz was elected secretary of the company in 1903, and president in 1906
By the turn of the 20th century, the Golden Age of the Piano was in full force and the most illustrious concert artists of the day aligned themselves with piano manufacturers including Sergei Rachmaninoff whose 1924 recording of his Second Piano Concerto was made using a Mason & Hamlin. Composer Maurice Ravel said of Mason & Hamlin pianos, "While preserving all the qualities of the percussion instrument, the Mason & Hamlin pianoforte also serves magnificently the composer's concept by its extensive range in dynamics, as well as quality of tone. It is not short of being a small orchestra. In my opinion, the Mason & Hamlin is a real work of art. . Acting as a brand ambassador for the Mason & Hamlin company, he was quoted saying, “I desire to play the Mason & Hamlin pianos…I feel that if I have succeeded in making even the slightest impression upon the public by my playing, a great part of my success is due to your instruments.”
Wurlitzer Pianos is one of the oldest names in the piano manufacturing industry in the United States. The quality of their pianos can be lined up with the best names in the realm of piano manufacturing and design.
Wurlitzer was established in 1853 by Franz Rudolph Wurlitzer. He built a piano manufacturing plant in Ohio in 1861, and four years later, he opened a retail shop, expanding his distribution across the Unites States. In 1880 Wurlitzer began to make pianos, and the company grew and became particularly well known for military and mechanical instruments.
Wurlitzer is famous for its cabinet designs and finishes with a style for every home or hall. They were the first to revolutionize the piano business by introducing the spinet and console sized pianos to compete with the large upright grands of the day.
Kawai was founded in 1927 by Koichi Kawai. Born in 1885, as a boy Koichi Kawai began working in the piano industry and quickly gained standing as an inventive and passionate designer and craftsman. In 1927 he founded Kawai with just seven other dedicated colleagues who all shared the same vision, to one day build the world’s best piano. The new piano manufacturers faced many challenges between 1927-1955 but despite of the difficulties faced they endured. By 1955 they were producing over 1500 pianos each year.
In 1955 Koichi Kawai was succeeded by his son Shigeru Kawai who built on the strong foundations laid by his father. Shigeru Kawai had enough vision to forsee the expansion of the domestic piano market and invested in the development of new technology and factories. This expansion in the 1950s enabled Kawai to meet demand and also signalled the direction Kawai would continue to grow in, combining traditional craftsmanship with science and technology in order to create pianos of uncompromising quality. In 1980 Shigeru Kawai built the Ryuyo factory in Japan which symbolized the union between traditional piano manufacturing techniques and cutting edge technology. This philosophy remains at the heart of Kawai piano production to this day.
W.W. Kimball and Company
This division started as a piano dealership in Chicago in 1857 as W.W. Kimball and Company by William Wallace Kimball (1828–1904).
By 1893 at the World's Columbian Exposition, at which Kimball received the "Worlds Columbian Exposition Award", Kimball was known for high quality, efficiency in manufacture
By 1969, Kimball had returned to its former position as the world's largest piano maker. The subsidiary made some 100,000 pianos and organs annually during its peak years in the 1960s and 1970s. An average day saw 250 pianos and 150 electronic organs shipped from the factory. Grand pianos from Kimball in Indiana ranged from compact 4-foot-5-inch (135 cm) models to larger 6-foot-7-inch (201 cm) models.
Petrof were established in 1864 by Antonin Petrof. Petrof learned piano making from his uncle, Jan Heitzmann, in Vienna. Antonin returned to Bohemia in 1864 and built his first pianos in his father's workshop. In 1874 A.Petrof moved to larger facilities for manufacturing pianos. In 1883 Petrof pianos started to build upright pianos. In 1939, like most European piano companies, Petrof's factory was used for WWII and the company was taken over by the state in 1948.
The company increased their production of building smaller vertical upright pianos and smaller grand pianos in 1954. The 100,000th instrument carrying the Petrof name was produced in 1963. In 1991 the privatization of the Petrof company began and it is now back in the hands of the Petrof family. The company started distribution to America in 1985 and is now one of the most successful and sought after piano makers in the world.
Review of Petrof
by Dr. Benjamin Boren (Spring 2015)
"I believe that these pianos are well suited to a wide variety of repertoire. Their lengthy sustain and round tone allowed Classical melodies to sing without needing pedaling to combat dryness, while their resonance, and wide ranges of dynamics and color, created lush, full sonorities for Romantic and French Impressionist repertoire.