The George Steck Piano Company
By James Grebe
The George Steck Piano Company had a long history of solid, consistent pianos. The first piano I owned was a 1904 Steck upright that had an iron frame in the back in place of normal back posts. The year I bought it was 1962, but let us go back to the real beginning. One of the early pioneers in the piano trade was Sebastian Erard of France. Erard was a child prodigy in music instrument making , beginning with the designing and building of harpsichords. In 1777 he constructed his first piano at the age of 25. In 1785 he began building in earnest with the partnership of his brother, Jean Baptiste. When the French Revolution came to Paris Erard vacated to London where he opened a harp and piano factory. He was charismatic and became a friend of the aristocracy which helped his business flourish. After the revolution in 1796 he returned to Paris with the knowledge of English piano construction in his mind. He used this knowledge and blended the two types of construction into his own.
Around 1837, at the Erard factory, a man named Carl Scheel from Cassel, Germany was employed through 1846. He left to begin his own piano making and hired a young man named George Steck who also hailed from Cassel to work for him. Steck was born on July13,1829. Before leaving Germany, Steck had absorbed the thorough knowledge from Scheel In 1853 Steck came to America and in 1857 started his own factory. By 1865, he opened Steck Hall in New York, so much had his fame spread and his bvusiness flourished.
A little later he constructed a bigger hall on Fourteenth Str. For his growing business. Stecks’ main thrust was in scale design and it is said that many of his scale designs were copied blatantly. One of his boosters was the composer Richard Wagner. As a forward thinker, Steck incorporated his company and allotted shares of his stock to his employees in 1884. Profit sharing to insure worker responsibility and quality of workmanship had begun. The last 10 years of his life was spent on trying to build a piano which would permanently stay in tune and his experiments toward the same are said to be most interesting. I believe my first piano, with the cast iron webbing instead of back posts were one of his attempts at this goal. Steck died on 3/31/1897 and in 1904 the company was consolidated into Aeolian control until bankruptsy came in the late 1970’s. Some of the most interesting pianos Steck made were the model R, which featured a concave shape on the lid. The piano was made with an extra heavy plate and no back posts at all. The piano, though small stayed in tune very well and I tuned many of them while I worked for the Aeolian Co. of MO. The console size was called the model N and was a stalwart among vertical pianos. Many hundreds were sold here and again I tuned many of them while they were brand new. The official piano of the Muny Opera was George Steck and many went to the hotel rooms of the stars appearing at the Muny and finally at the end of the season became part of the Muny Opera Sale. The Steck Grand that was produced for 20 years was the model T. It had a very graceful appearance and a very heavy full cast iron plate, which made it hold tune very well. Steck also made a studio piano, model E, and Aeolian had one they used for rentals and it help up unquestionably well. In the late 1960’s the production of verticals was moved to Memphis from E. Rocherster, NY and though the materials and design were the same it was never the same agion. These models were called model O and had slightly different case design. The end was in sight now. Towards the end, the company was putting the Steck name on many of their cheaper instruments produced. Finally the end came with shame on the company who knew how to produce better, but didn’t. The name is all that is left now and has been bought and put on pianos of Korean production. Fortunately many Steck pianos live on in many homes for me to continue to service.
While you are at my site, I hope you will browse the different piano products I make in my shop and sell on my site under the different banners, from caster cups to writing instruments. The old world craftsmanship is alive and well. They help fund this site. Thank you.
Copyright,2008/ Yesterday Once More Publications, James Grebe
Copyright,2008/Yesterday Once More Publications,James Grebe
© Copyright 2014 James Grebe. All rights reserved.