Action Piano Company

Chickering Square Grand Pianos

Square grand pianos occupy a unique place in the history of the American Piano Industry.  These classic instruments were really a stepping stone to the fabulous upright and grand pianos of modern times.  Of course, the pianos are not really square at all, but rectangular in shape and owe their unique shape to a much earlier keyboard instrument known as the Clavichord.  Once Chickering patented the first cast iron frame for a piano in 1843, the Square Grand Piano increased in power greatly and all makers adopted the new design.
This Chickering Square Grand piano was built in 1883, and was rescued by a man determined to save it from the scrap yard.  At first glance, one might have expected that it came from the scrap yard, as the legs were broken in several places, the lid was cracked half-way down the middle, the entire mute rail was missing, the bridge was split and broken under the iron frame, many of the damper blocks were broken off and, of course, the tuning pins would not hold the tension of the strings.  As for the piano action, not much on the positive side could be said for that as well.  At least, all the parts and hammers were there and that was truly a deciding factor in bringing this piano back to life.  The cabinet Rosewood was seriously darkened from the boiled linseed oil used as finish.

It is not possible to reduce, in any way, the high esteem, which is shared by all, for the perfection found in a Steinway piano, regardless of when it was made.  However, it is worth noting that Jonas Chickering was already exhibiting pianos worldwide, when Steinway was just being established at New York in 1853.  Just two years earlier, Chickering pianos won gold medals at the London exposition of 1851.  Jonas Chickering passed away in 1853, while his factory was building over 1,500 pianos annually.  He was the first American maker to export pianos.  His first shipment went to India in 1844. 

In 1852, the Chickering factory burnt to the ground.  Everything, including all machinery and patterns for pianos was destroyed.  Undaunted by the loss, Chickering designed a new, steam-powered plant, which opened after his death in 1853.  One fact revealed years after the fire, was that a prototype, Overstrung grand piano-- destroyed by the flames, was nearly completed.  The patent for this major advancement of crossing the bass strings over the treble strings would be won by the house of Steinway in 1857.
Restoration of this Chickering involved many wood repairs, especially to the legs, which were missing numerous pieces.  The lid of the piano was carefully glued and reinforced.  The soundboard was refinished and the treble bridge (at the 'horseshoe' curve) was rebuilt and reinforced with aircraft grade aluminum, which was precision formed to the shape of the bridge on both sides.  All new strings and tuning pins were installed.  The gold finish on the iron frame was restored.  The original hammers were also restored and recovered.  Jack springs and cords were installed.  New leather parts were made and all new dampers were custom made for the damper tray.  A replacement mute rail was custom fabricated and installed.  The original ivory was cleaned and preserved, as best possible and all key fronts were replaced with ivory.  The pedals were nickel plated and the entire pedal lyre restored.  The wood repairs are too numerous to mention and the original Rosewood finish was restored.
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