The gentlemen that formed the Lighte, Newton & Bradbury Piano Company had quite a colorful history in the 19th Century piano manufacturing industry.
Ferdinand C. Lighte: Ferdinand C. Leuchte, a German immigrant, is first listed as a New York piano maker in 1847. In 1850, F. C. Leuchte entered into partnership with Henry J. Newton forming the firm of “Leuchte & Newton”. In 1851, the name of the firm was changed to “Lighte & Newton” when Leuchte’s surname was Anglicized to “Lighte”.
Lighte & Newton: In 1850, F. C. Lighte went into partnership with Henry J. Newton to establish the firm of “Lighte & Newton”. Lighte & Newton exhibited instruments at the Crystal Palace Expedition in won a Gold Medal for a piano displayed at the American Institute Fair in 1853. Records indicate that Charles Steinway (later of Steinway & Sons) and Theodore A. Heintzmann (later of Heintzmann & Company) worked at the firm in the early 1850s, likely apprenticing under these old-world craftsmen.
Lighte, Newton & Bradbury: In 1854 William Bradbury joined the firm of “Lighte & Newton” and the firm was reorganized as “Lighte, Newton & Bradbury”. The firm employed 164 men, paying them an average of at an average monthly wage of $50 each. Lighte, Newton & Bradbury established a stellar reputation for building high-quality instruments. Henry J. Newton left the firm in 1858 and the firm reorganized as “Lighte & Bradbury”.
Lighte & Bradbury: Despite Newton’s departure from the firm in 1858, “Light & Bradbury” continued to be successful and experienced substantial growth. In 1863, William Bradbury left the firm and the firm reorganized itself as “F. C. Lighte & Company”.
F. C. Lighte & Company: With the departure of William Bradbury, F. C. Lighte entered into partnership with Louis Ernst to establish the firm of “F. C. Lighte & Company”. The 1870 U. S. Census recorded Lighte & Company owned $150,000 in real capital and $60,000 in raw materials. The firm employeed 100 men at annual wages of $75,000. By 1870, F. C. Lighte & Company was producing about 500 pianos annually. The firm was the 9th largest piano manufactured in the United States.
Lighte & Ernst: In 1874 the partnership of F. C. Lighte and Louis Ernst was reorganized as “Lighte & Ernst”. Pianos built under “Lighte & Ernst” were of superior quality and craftsmanship throughout. F.C. Lighte died in 1879, but the firm of “Lighte & Ernst” continued to build pianos until going out of business in 1884.
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