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This year, I purchased a 1920 Raudenbush & Sons Grand Piano (just shy of 6 feet) - it was completely rebuilt last year with a new action, strings, hammers, pin-block, etc. I live in Minnesota, 25 miles from where the piano was built, and am absolutely thrilled with the way it plays and sounds. I never thought I would own a grand piano made by one of the numerous lesser-known American piano companies that went out of business during the Great Depression. And yet, here we are. Frankly, I never imagined it would play or sound as rich as it does - I'm sure the rebuilder has something to do with it, but perhaps it's an indication of the brand as well. One of the things preventing me from learning more than I have about Raudenbush & Sons is that the company only made about 30,000 pianos during its lifetime, many of which were player pianos, and went out of business in 1935.

I have been taking a deep dive into the world of these American piano companies, some of which at their peek seem to have rivaled Steinway & Sons. My piano technician tells me that my current piano has likely been restored to the way it would have sounded 100 years ago. But I guess I'm curious if this specific piano would have been in the same realm as Steinway, Mason and Hamlin, etc in terms of price or quality. Or, if it would have been a middle-tier piano instead.

The only thing I know about original pricing for this company is that in 1892, they were charging $300 for a new upright piano, and from what I can tell, this is on par (perhaps just a little higher) with other American manufacturers of the day.

I suppose my ultimate question is this: how much did an "average" 6 foot American-made grand piano cost to buy new in 1920? A top-tier one? An inexpensive one?

Ultimately, I adore playing my piano daily and nothing will change that. But I would love to learn more about what was typical of the day; is this piano truly unique in its sound, or were many pianos of similar quality built and sold during this time? Thanks for any replies and information!

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Here are a couple of company advertisements

https://antiquepianoshop.com/online-museum/raudenbush-sons/


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Last edited by dogperson; 04/26/21 03:24 AM.

"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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Lesser known brands of vintage American pianos can be fabulous instruments.


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My grandparents bought a Steinway Model M (mahogany) in 1930, for $1550.

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There are definitely gems among the cottage industry of making beautiful pianos in the USA and Europe. We often rebuild a piano, not because it will be valued at $xxxx after the work, but because it is a member of the family for a generation or more. Sometimes, these instruments demonstrate great thoughts by their makers. There were unusual (to us) designs that were original, some ingenious, but many that were forward thinking.

Not every piano built at that time was wonderful, of course, some were.

It gets me thinking about the "business" of piano making at the time. Who was in the right place at the right time, who was able to gather support and resources, what decisions were made that strengthened a company's product, reputation, etc. For instance, at The Wharton School at Penn, the Steinway company is studied by grad students because the marketing plans they implemented in the 19th c. weren't being done by anyone in any industry until the 20th c.

A great book to read on the subject is: The Piano in America, 1890-1940 by Craig H. Roell. The book uses company records and the press to chronicle the piano industry through changing values, business strategies, economic conditions, and technology.


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I know my 1916 Weber Duo Art, a high end piano then, was $3,000. That would buy you a house then.


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The biggest driver of Steinway's dominance of the concert stage was WW2 and its aftermath.


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Originally Posted by dogperson
Music trades issue 64
Music trades 1920

This looks interesting! Thanks for posting.


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Originally Posted by Rich Galassini
A great book to read on the subject is: The Piano in America, 1890-1940 by Craig H. Roell. The book uses company records and the press to chronicle the piano industry through changing values, business strategies, economic conditions, and technology.

Thanks for the recommendation. Added it to my booklist. May check it out.

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This is a really helpful recommendation - I've ordered a used copy of the book and look forward to reading and learning about piano values during that era in the U.S. Thank you!

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My 1887 Steinway A1 had an original invoice price of $1100. That was about 3x average annual wages then. Inflation adjusted it would be way less, today, than the current retail price. However, the current retail price is also about 3x average annual wages.


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