Stieff, Charles M.
Charles M. Stieff immigrated from his native Germany to The United States in 1841, ultimately settling in Baltimore, Maryland. Charles M. Stieff quickly established himself as a prominent member of Baltimore’s music community. In 1842, Stieff begin importing pianos from Germany that he retailed in the Baltimore area. In 1843 Stieff opened warerooms on Liberty Street where he represented several lines of well-respected piano names.
Observing the success of various piano manufacturers, Charles M. Stieff took an extensive trip to Europe in 1852 where he studied the art of piano design and manufacturing. Upon his return to Baltimore in 1856, he took his sons Frederick P. Stieff and Charles Stieff Jr. into partnership and began manufacturing the “Stieff” piano. The factory was managed by his bother-in-law, Jacob Gross, an “old-school” master piano builder. Stieff pianos were immediately successful, and the instruments were considered to be “of extreme merit”, winning distinguished awards wherever they were exhibited. Charles M. Stieff died in 1862 and the firm was successfully succeeded by his sons Frederick and Charles Jr., while Jacob Gross continued to manage manufacturing and design.
Charles M. Stieff began by building very high-quality square grand pianos. By the later part of 19th Century, upright pianos and grand pianos had been added to the Stieff product line. Square pianos were discontinued by the last decade of the 19th Century, and player pianos were added during the first decade of the 20th Century. Many dealers sold the “Stieff” piano alongside some of the most expensive and well-known piano lines. Stieff pianos are commonly referred to as “The Poor Man’s Steinway”, and were often sold as a second line in higher end Steinway dealerships throughout the 20th Century.
The Stieff Piano Company built pianos under the brand name labels of Charles M. Stieff, Shaw, Bennett – Brettz, Davies & Sons, and Leslie Brothers. Charles M. Stieff is one of the few American piano manufacturers to survive both The Great Depression and World War II without being absorbed into a large conglomerate. The firm ultimately ceased operations and was liquidated in 1951. Pianos manufactured by Charles M. Stieff are considered to be high-grade, well made instruments which are generally well worth restoration and preservation today.
INSTRUMENT CATALOGS & EPHEMERA
Can you find your instrument listed in these antique catalogs?
Early 20th Century sales pamphlet from the Charles M. Stieff Piano Company, Circa 1908
20th Century Advertisements For The Charles M. Stieff Piano Company
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