Ernest J. Knabe and William Knabe III, both grandsons of piano manufacturing pioneer William Knabe of William Knabe & Co., spent much of their early lives in around their grandfather’s successful piano manufactory. Ernest J. Knabe was particularly gifted with a brilliant scientific mind and was considered one of the most capable piano manufacturers of his time. In 1908, Wm. Knabe & Co. merged with conglomerate “American Piano Company” with both Ernest and William as senior officers in the corporation. This merger created much disagreeable change for the brothers.
In 1911, Ernest and William ventured out on their own and purchased The Smith & Nixon Piano Company near Cincinnati, Ohio. The brothers established themselves as “Knabe Brothers” with the intention of building only the highest quality pianos money could buy.
Unfortunately, “Knabe Brothers” was immediately plagued with legal battles resulting from their liberal use of their grandfather’s famous “Knabe” brand name. The firm suffered a devastating setback when their factory burned to the ground in 1912. The brothers drained all cash reserves to rebuild after the fire and the firm began to suffer from the lack of necessary operating capital.
In 1915 “Knabe Brothers” sold their firm to The Morrison & Waters Piano Company, but the “Knabe Brothers” name was soon disposed of due to the complications surrounding the use of the famous “Knabe” name.
“Knabe Brothers” built pianos for 4 short years and were produced in very limited quantity. Instruments by the firm are exceedingly rare today. Although pianos by “Knabe Brothers” are virtually obsolete today, surviving instruments we have restored are consistently of superior quality and craftsmanship.
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