Shoninger, Bernard (New Haven)
Bernard Shoninger immigrated to America from Germany in 1847, ultimately settling in Connecticut. B. Shoninger established his first factory in Woodbridge, CT in 1850. A devastating fire destroyed the factory in 1865. That same year, B. Shoninger purchased the Treat & Linsley factory in New Haven, CT, incorporating his firm as the “B. Shoninger Melodeon Company”. In about 1868 the firm was reorganized as the “B. Shoninger Organ Company”.
The B. Shoninger Organ Company built a full line of melodeons and organs and enjoyed great success and rapid growth. Two of the firm’s more notable instruments were the “Cymbella Orchestral Organ” (an organ equipped with a set of Swiss bells) and the “Eureka Concerto Organ”.
On May 2, 1887, the “B. Shoninger Organ Company” was reorganized and incorporated as “B. Shoninger & Co.” As the organ’s popularity began to decline in favor of the piano, B. Shoninger & Co. added pianos to their product line. Like the Cymbella organ, early Shoninger upright pianos contained a set of swiss bells which could be activated by the piano keys by means of a pedal or lever, giving the instrument a very unique sound.
B. Shoninger & Co. had grown to become one of the most respected and successful piano manufacturers in America. Bernard Shoninger died in 1910 and was succeeded by his son, Simon B. Shoninger. During the early 20th Century, B. Shoninger & Co. produced several impressive lives of upright pianos, player pianos and grand pianos. Their instruments were exceedingly well made and very expensive. In addition to the Shoninger name, the firm built pianos under the names of “Vossler”, “Mallory”, and “Phelps”.
In 1922 the firm was reorganized and incorporated as “The Shoninger Piano Company” by Alexander S. Shoninger, presumably the grandson of the founder. By 1926 the firm had headquarters in both New Haven and New York.
The Shoninger Piano Company was absorbed into The National Piano Manufacturing Company during the Great Depression. The National Piano Manufacturing Company continued building pianos under the Shoninger brand name until the 1960s.
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Late 19th Century lithograph trading cards from the B. Shoninger Piano & Organ Company
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