1885 Chickering Square Grand


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Rosewood,  scalloped case, mint ivory keytops

Square grand pianos preceded the modern grand. They were used by the greatest composers of the 18th century including Bach and Mozart. They came into existence in the United States during the 1820s and were the primary piano produced through the 1880s.

There are a lot of myths about square grand pianos that are simply untrue. The first is that they never played well. The action design in the square piano is in many cases identical to that found in concert grands of the day, with some exceptions for key length and hammer positioning. They played fine. The next myth is that square grands do not sound very nice. The square grand design did not allow for a large soundboard like the modern piano and therefore did not project tremendous power. However, the lower tension, long strings and boxy design can produce a lovely, tinkling sound and a full bass. Another common myth is that the square grand is not worth much--this is changing. Today, there is a growing interest in antique pianos and it is spilling over to quality squares as well. High-quality, carefully restored squares by famous makers like Steinway and Chickering are being sold across the country. In short, the square is seeing a revival due in part to an appreciation of antique pianos, an interest in Victorian furniture, and the Internet.

This piano was recently acquired in very good original condition. The original ivory keys are in excellent condition, as is the hand-carved music rack and pedal lyre. The soundboard is in great condition with no cracks. It is a high-quality Chickering square with a full 88 keys and beautifully carved Victorian case. It will be receiving a thorough restoration including a complete action reconditioning, new tuning pins and new strings, and a gorgeous, French polish finish.  The brass pedals will be replated and the original fallboard decal will be replaced with an exact reproduction. The harp will be refinished as will the soundboard, making the piano look like new.

The wire will be the proper tension wire for this piano. All too often, antique pianos, especially squares are restrung with modern, high-tension wire because that is all that is available in the U.S. today. This adds thousands of pounds of additional tension to the plate, bridges, pinblock and soundboard which were not designed to accept this tension. Using improper wire not only jeopardizes the piano's structure, it ruins the lovely, antique sound these pianos were designed to produce. 

Anyone interested in purchasing a square grand should make certain they can evaluate the condition of the piano if it is unrestored, or purchase one from a piano restorer who takes the time to properly restore the instrument using the correct parts. Additionally, many technicians will not work on square grands due to an unfamiliarity with them, which is another reason to purchase one that has been properly restored.


Harp Before and After

Price furnished upon request.