Steinway Musical Instruments, Inc. (Final Proof)

Steinway Musical Instruments, Inc. (Final Proof)
Item# 4287steinway

Steinway Musical Instruments, Inc. (Final Proof)

This item is an extremely rare American Bank Note Company final proof for a Steinway Musical Instruments stock certificate.

Reference:   This final proof was used during the American Bank Note pre-production process. The proof was subsequently circulated amongst American Bank Note Company officials and the executives of the customer (in this case Steinway Musical Instruments) for final approval. Once the approval process was completed, the mass production of the certificate occurred for distribution to eventual shareholders. This unique item offers a glimpse into the bank note approval and printing process.

Item Contents and Presentation:   Final proof (1 piece), printed on cardboard stock, presented in an American Bank Note presentation folder. The proof measures 8" (h) by 12" (w). The folder measures 8 3/4" (h) by 12 1/4" (w).
Proof Sheet:   The working proof (pictured above) is clean with no markings. The back is blank.

Front Cover:   The proof is housed in a American Bank Note presentation folder:

Inside Cover:   The inside cover contains the final stamp approvals:

Vignette:   Below is a enlarged view of the vignette (featuring Allegorical Orpheus) that appears at the bottom center of the piece:

Company History:   The Steinway firm traces its history to a small hamlet in Germany where founder and patriarch Heinrich Steinweg is said to have made his first piano as a wedding gift for his bride. Although his early years in the trade have been shrouded in familial folklore, it is known that Heinrich also made organs, guitars and zithers. Son Carl (known as Charles in the United States) was the first to emigrate to America in the 1840s. Heinrich, his wife Julianne, three daughters and four other sons departed for New York City in May 1850.

Like many immigrants, the family soon anglicized their surname and some given names; Steinweg (literally "stone road") became Steinway. Heinrich and his sons worked as apprentices with local piano manufacturers for about three years, building some pianos at home as well. They offered their first complete piano under the Steinway nameplate in 1853, and enjoyed virtually immediate success. To their initial retail outlet in New York City near Broadway they quickly added exclusive dealers in Baltimore, Maryland; Washington, D.C.; Louisville, Kentucky; and Savannah, Georgia. By 1856, when William formally joined his father and brothers Henry Jr. and Charles in the family enterprise, it had grown so fast the Steinways no longer had to work on the shop floor. All had advanced to managerial positions.

The Steinways were quick to adopt technological innovations to the still-evolving instrument, a strategy that proved key to the company's early success. While there is no doubt that they possessed creative genius--Steinway & Sons accumulated over 50 patents from 1850 to 1890 alone--their particular aptitude was in adopting and combining others' breakthroughs. The earliest advances have been credited to Henry Jr., but when both he and brother Charles died in the spring of 1865, the family summoned Heinrich's youngest son, C. F. Theodore, from Germany, where he had been operating a struggling piano factory. Another son, Albert, also joined the firm as a minority partner at this time.

Theodore originated the majority of the patented designs used in what came to be known as "the Steinway method" of piano building. Hallmarks of the design included the use of a one-piece iron frame to accommodate the extremely high tension of the piano wires, overstringing of the bass wires for increased sound, and improvements in the power and responsiveness of the "action," the mechanism that connects the keys to the hammer that strikes the string. As family chronicler D. W. Fostle emphasized in his 1995 book, The Steinway Saga, "The design pioneered and popularized by the Steinways became the preferred way to build a piano and ultimately the only way." This highly labor-intensive process, involving over 12,000 moving parts and nearly as many painstaking steps, would continue to be used throughout the 20th century.

By the end of the Civil War, Steinway & Sons had become the world's largest piano manufacturer, with more than 400 employees, $1 million in sales, and production of over 2,300 pianos per year. Unlike some of its largest competitors, Steinway did not reach this pinnacle by appealing to the market's lowest common denominator. In fact, its line included some of the world's most expensive instruments.

While technical considerations as well as impeccable craftsmanship formed the core of Steinway's success, promotion also contributed greatly to the company's prosperity. Heinrich's son William proved the marketing genius of the family, guiding advertising and all manner of promotions. D. W. Fostle summarized the corporate strategy as "prizes plus prestigious players plus patents equal high prices." The firm opened Steinway Hall, its first concert hall, in New York City in 1867. This musical and cultural forum, which featured a Steinway showroom, was just one factor in the public perception of the Steinway as the premier concert piano. The company also sponsored well-known European artists on tours throughout the United States. As Fostle posited, William ensured that "from its earliest years the pianos of Steinway were conjoined with musical refinement and high aesthetic purpose."

William succeeded his father as president of the company upon the latter's death in 1871. His first decade at the helm proved difficult, given the onset of the country's longest economic depression in 1873. In order to survive the downturn, which lasted into 1879, Steinway cut prices and wages. Squabbling within the family also made this a difficult period for the company, but as the economy recovered, William began to expand the family interests. He bought 400 acres in Astoria, Queens, and built a factory, foundry, schools, a library, and a public bath. In 1880, William guided the establishment of a piano works in Hamburg, Germany. Production at this branch of the family enterprise would continue--albeit with interruptions--throughout the 20th century. William's reign peaked in 1891, when companywide sales totaled more than 3,000 pianos, and profits amounted to 30 percent of total dollar volume. Unbeknownst to his relatives and heirs, however, William died in 1896 bankrupt from dubious investments.

In 1995, an investment group owned by Kyle Kirkland and Dana Messina commenced acquisition of Steinway Musical Properties for over $100 million and merged it with The Selmer Company, Inc., a manufacturer of wind and percussion instruments that they had acquired two years earlier. In 1996, they sold 16 percent of the new holding company, Steinway Musical Instruments, Inc. to the public.

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