The Steinway & Sons Story
Steinway & Sons was founded in 1853 by German immigrant Henry Engelhard Steinway in a Manhattan loft on Varick Street. Henry was a master cabinet maker who built his first piano in the kitchen of his Seesen, Germany home. The first piano produced by the company, serial number 483, was sold to a New York family for $500. It is now displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Over the next forty years, Henry and his sons, Henry, Jr., Albert, C.F. Theodore, William, and Charles developed the modern piano. Almost half of the company’s 114 patented inventions for the piano were developed during thiless period. Many of these late nineteenth century inventions were based on emerging scientific research, including the acoustical theories of renowned physicist Hermann von Helmholtz.
Steinway’s revolutionary designs and superior workmanship began receiving international recognition almost immediately. Starting in 1855, Steinway pianos received gold medals at several U.S. and European exhibitions. The company gained worldwide attention in 1867 at the Paris Exhibition when it was awarded the prestigious “Grand Gold Medal of Honor” for excellence in manufacturing and engineering. It was the first time an American company had received this award. Steinway pianos quickly became the piano of choice for many royal family members, and won the respect and admiration of the world’s great pianists.
In 1866, Steinway & Sons opened the first Steinway Hall on 14th Street in New York. With a main auditorium of 2,000 seats, it became New York City’s artistic and cultural center, housing the New York Philharmonic until Carnegie Hall opened in 1891. By this time, the company had moved their factory to its current location in the Astoria section of Queens, New York, and built Steinway village. Virtually its own town, Steinway Village had its own foundries, factory, post office, parks, and housing for employees.
In 1871, Henry, Sr. died and sons C.F. Theodore and William took over operations. An accomplished pianist, C.F. Theodore was responsible for the technical aspects of piano making, and personally earned the company 41 patents, including one in 1875 for the modern concert grand piano. In the same year, William helped establish a showroom in London. Five years later, in 1880, Steinway opened their factory and began operating a retail operation, the Steinway-Haus, in Hamburg, Germany. Another retail operation opened in Berlin in 1909.
Today, Steinway & Sons crafts approximately 5,000 pianos worldwide. Last year, 98% of the world’s concert pianists chose to perform on Steinway pianos even though no pianist is a paid endorser of the piano. Over 1300 prominent concert artists and ensembles are recognized as Steinway artists. Each Steinway Artist personally owns a Steinway piano and has chosen to perform exclusively on Steinway professionally.