Square Piano


Not on view

This unsigned instrument was probably made in rural Pennsylvania at the end of the eighteenth century. Its use of domestic woods including the black walnut case and stand, a pine soundboard, and four turned sycamore legs, is unusual. It has 54 keys (C-f3) with dark-stained walnut naturals and bone-covered walnut accidentals. One handstop to the left of the keyboard may have been used to either lift a moderator or dampers (missing). Primitive German action is a replacement. According to family tradition of the previous owner, Paul Bertsch, it was moved by his grandfather Henry Gettel Jr. to Indiana around 1835.

The instrument was thought to have been made in Germany, but wood analysis by John Koster in 1989 revealed the woods used to make it were from the northeastern United States. Soundboard and bottom are made of white pine; the key levers of yellow poplar; the case, possibly of butternut; and the legs are made of sycamore wood.

It is a rare surviving instrument made in eighteenth century North America.

Technical description: Plain rectangular black walnut case with blind dovetail corners, bottom reinforced by transverse board, on separate walnut stand with 4 turned sycamore legs; C-f3 (54 keys), stained 4-scored walnut naturals with plain flush fronts, bone-covered walnut accidentals, 1 handstop at lower left of keyboard turns crank that advanced moderator or lifted dampers (dampers and rack missing); unpierced tuning pins in angled oak block with triangular soundboard section in back right corner; primitive German action (replacement) with bone-tipped walnut hammers in walnut kapsels mounted on threaded adjustment rods, carved yellow poplar key levers guided at rear by vertical pins, balance rail fastened to white pine bottom (no key frame), white pine soundboard detached, re-ribbed, possibly a replacement, walnut bridge with scrolled ends, soundboard extends about 1/2 of width of case, terminates in bracket form overhanging top 4 keys; bellyrail with astragal-end mousehole; lid divided front to back at middle.

Square Piano, Black walnut, pine, sycamore, bone, iron, various materials, American

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