What shape piano? Grand? Upright? Square? #amwriting #histfic #supernatural #historical #fiction #research #American #piano #music #history

I grew up with an upright piano in my family home. I never took lessons but I did learn to play it. I taught myself after learning to play a viola at school for the ensemble and orchestra. I played viola from third grade all the way through school. Even auditioned for and was selected to play in all-county and all-state orchestras while in high school.

But piano was something I “fiddled” with on my own. I could pick out a tune to sing along with, similar to how I could play along on a guitar which I also essentially taught myself to play. Not that anyone would want me to play either of those this minute since I haven’t played in a while now. I’ve been focusing on my writing and research but I do have both a guitar and an electric keyboard in the house tempting me most every day.

When I decided that Cassandra Fairhope would play the piano in my Fury Falls Inn series, I did some research to determine the kind of pianos available in the early 1800s in America.

Standard shapes and sizes of pianos include grand, baby grand, and uprights of various dimensions. As I poked around at the Antique Piano Shop I came across one shape that was new and intriguing to me. Especially since the Shop claims it’s “one of the earliest pianos every manufactured in America!”

Image shared from the Antique Piano Shop site

This is a square piano made by Chickering and Stewart, which is undergoing restoration at the Antique Piano Shop. Jonas Chickering was the first official piano manufacturer in America, and James Stewart was his partner during the first four years of his business. After a few changes in partnership, Jonas included his sons in the business in 1853, which then became known as Chickering & Sons. The company was based in Boston, Massachusetts and is “known for their award-winning pianos and music instruments of topnotch quality.” Chickering and Sons is now a piano brand of the American Piano Company (Ampico), according to Total Piano Care’s history of the company.

This piano was built in 1823 (according to the Antique Piano Shop) and is made of Honduran Flame Mahogany Wood in the Early American style. I think it’s a beautiful piece of furniture and wonder what it sounds like. I’d love to “fiddle” with the keys on this pretty baby!

On a side note of research: It’s interesting to me that Total Piano Care lists the serial numbers and dates of manufacture for “all” of the Chickering & Sons pianos, starting with 1824 as the earliest date. Not the 1823 claimed by the Antique Piano Shop. Perhaps the first pianos Chickering and Stewart produced didn’t bear serial numbers so that’s why this piano is dated 1823?

I am claiming a bit of poetic license by including this style of piano in my 1821 series, but how could I resist? Not only is it pretty and unique, but it also restores a piece of American history through the sharing of its existence in my stories. So please forgive me for not being entirely accurate this one time.

Do you play piano? Have you heard of a square piano? Have you played one? From the description of Chickering’s quality and numerous awards for his pianos, I imagine it would have a lovely sound. Makes my fingers itch to play again! How about you?


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Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Innkeeper’s daughter Cassie Fairhope longs for only one thing: to escape her mother’s tyranny. But in northern Alabama in 1821 marriage is her only escape. Even so, she has a plan: Seduce the young man acting as innkeeper while her father is away and marry him. He’s handsome and available. Even though he has no feelings for her, it is still a better option than enduring her mother.

But Flint Hamilton has his own plans and they don’t include marriage, even to the pretty temptress. Securing his reputation in the hostelry business and earning his father’s respect are far more important. He did not count on having to deal with horse thieves and rogues in addition to his guests.

When tragedy strikes, Cassie and Flint must do whatever it takes to rid the inn of its newly arrived specter—who has no intention of leaving…

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