One of the greatest innovators in piano design and construction was Frederick Mathushek. Mathushek’s vision was to create the finest pianos possible, and with his unique approach and unconventional designs, he eventually succeeded in building some of the finest pianos in American history. Mathushek immigrated to New York City in 1849 and was hired as a scale designer for the firm of J. B. Dunham. In the 1850s Mathushek worked for the noted piano designer Spencer Driggs.
Mathushek & Kushner, NY: In 1863 Frederick Mathushek entered into partnership with Leopold Kuhner forming the firm of “Mathushek & Kuhner”. This partnership lasted only 2 short years and was dissolved in 1865.
Mathushek Piano Mfg. Co., New Haven, CT: In 1866 a group of German businessmen partnered with music retailer Morris Steinhart to establish a piano factory in New Haven, CT. Frederick Mathushek was invited to head the concern, and the firm was established as “The Mathushek Piano-Forte Company” (later The Mathushek Piano Manufacturing Company). The firm soon encountered financial difficulty and Mathushek’s financial backers withdrew from the firm. Unwilling to give up on his dream of building the worlds finest pianos, Mathushek found the will to endure. During this period the square grand piano dominated the American piano market; upright and grand pianos were just beginning to become popular. In addition to a limited line of upright pianos and grand pianos, Mathushek produced 3 models of square grand pianos that were very different from their contemporary competitors. These square pianos were known as the Colibri, Medium and the Orchestral models. While Mathushek initally experienced push-back from the industry for his radical designs, his pianos slowly began to gain favor among consumers for their superior tone quality. The scale design of these square pianos was radically different from the norm, and they were praised and endorsed by high profile pianists, musicians, and singers of the era. Despite being a brilliant engineer and designer, Frederick Mathushek was not a savvy businessman and his firm continued to suffer financial difficulty. In 1875, Frederick Mathushek sold his interest in the New Haven firm and moved back to New York to start again. “The Mathushek Piano Manufacturing Company” continued to operate in New Haven until being absorbed by Jacob Brothers in the early 20th Century.
Mathushek & Kinkeldy, New York: Having left the New Haven firm and returning to New York, Frederick Mathushek entered into partnership with a piano dealer by the name of Carl Kinkeldy in 1882, forming the firm of “Mathushek & Kinkeldy”. The partnership of Mathushek & Kinkeldy was dissolved in 1885.
Mathushek & Son, New York: In 1886 Frederick Mathushek went into partnership with his son, Victor H. Mathushek, to form the New York form o “Mathushek & Son”. (Some archives speculate that Victor was actually his grandson). Frederick Mathushek died in 1891, and the firm of “Mathushek & Son” was continued by his heirs for several years. Like the New Haven firm “Mathushek Piano Manufacturing Company”, the New York firm of “Mathushek & Son” was absorbed by Jacob Brothers in the early 20th Century.
Jacob Brothers and Mathushek, New York: Jacob Brothers ultimately gained control of both the New Haven and the New York Mathushek firms. Jacob Brothers combined both firms and all operations were moved to New York City. The firm continued to operate as “The Mathushek Piano Manufacturing Company”.
Mathushek Spinet Grand, New York: Like most major manufacturers, Mathushek (now owned by Jacob Brothers) began to experience financial difficulties due to the Great Depression. The firm began building small conventional spinet pianos under the “Mathushek” brand name, and these spinet pianos enjoyed some success. In about 1935 the firm followed in Frederick Mathushek’s footsteps and deviated away from the norm by introducing the “Spinet Grand” into the market. The Spinet Grand was a radical shift from the norm and was unlike anything known to the conventional piano market. The Spinet Grand was essentially a new and improved version of Mathushek’s unusual square grand piano design from a century prior, built to attract the modern consumer. With it’s attractive appearance and surprising tone quality, the Spinet Grand was an instant success. The Spinet Grand is credited for getting the firm through the tumultuous post depression years. Despite the success of the Spinet Grand piano, they were only built for a few short years and they are exceedingly rare today.
In addition to the “Spinet Grand”, most of the Mathushek pianos built by Jacob Brothers were small conventional spinets and small baby grand pianos. Jacob Brothers continued to build pianos under the “Mathushek” brand name until the 1950s.
INSTRUMENT CATALOGS & EPHEMERA
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19th Century Illustarted sales and promotional catalog for the Mathushek Piano Company, circa 1871
19th Century Illustrated sales and promotional catalog for the Mathushek Piano Company, circa 1879
Mathushek Piano Advertisements
Late 19th and early 20th Century advertisements for Mathushek Piano Company
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