The Wiethan Piano Company was a small family owned firm located at 349 Main Street, Poughkeepsie, NY. The business was established in 1837 by Mr. Louis Wiethan, a native of Germany. Mr. Wiethan began his career in Paris, settling in Poughkeepsie and building pianos until his death in the 1870s. Interestingly, we have seen instruments from this period labeled as both Louis Wiethan and Lewis Wiethan. During the 19th Century, Wiethan built mostly square grand pianos. After the death of L. Wiethan, his sons took control and the name of the firm was changed to Wiethan Brothers. Wiethen Brothers phased out square pianos as the turn-of-the-century approached, and began specializing in building better quality upright pianos. Instruments by Wiethan were considered to be of exceptional quality and craftsmanship which was a direct reflection on the family name.
The following historical information was graciously provided to us by Mr. Jim Wiethan, a direct descendant of the original founders:
At Gandershein in the State of Brunswick, Germany in the year 1794, the first of four sons, Frederick Jr., was born to Frederick Wiethan and his wife. Frederick Sr. was a civil engineer and bridge builder and had built two bridges over the Aller river. The next son was Charles, born in 1797, and then William was born in 1800. Louis Wiethan, the great grandfather of Richard Joseph Wiethan, the great great grandfather of James Charles Wiethan and the great great great grandfather of Brian Craig Wiethan and Kelli Lynn Wiethan was born on December 10, 1803. Louis was the youngest of the sons born to Frederick and his wife. At the age of sixteen, Louis left home and went to Hungary and then traveled to Rome, Italy and settled in Lyons, France for two years. From Lyons, he moved to Paris and lived there for thirteen years. While in Paris, Louis took an interest in piano manufacturing and worked with Goldsmith, who was the foremost piano manufacturer at that time. Goldsmith was reluctant to let Louis go when his ambition urged him to go to America. His one great ambition was to come to America and manufacture pianos. This ambition was realized in the year 1838 when Louis was thirty five. With him, Louis brought two actions for upright pianos, which had never been manufactured in this country before. He located in New York City at 59th Street in a rambling old farm house, where the entrance to Central Park now stands. He lived with his brother Charles, who had preceded him to this country and worked as a farmer. Louis remained in New York City for two years until he became familiar with conditions in this country. Louis then moved to Poughkeepsie, New York and started manufacturing pianos for himself. Charles bought a new farm at New Hackensack and lived there for the rest of his life. His brother, William, who by this time had also come to America, joined Louis in Poughkeepsie and lived there a short while. William left for New Orleans to build or buy a hotel and was never heard from again. Louis Wiethan now began to manufacture pianos, selling many of his pianos before they were finished. Such is the case of the two upright pianos which were first made in this country in 1841. Both pianos were of the highest and most skilled workmanship. One piano was solid rosewood while the other was solid mahogany. The actions of both of these pianos were the ones Louis brought to America from Paris, France. In the year 1841, in the city of Poughkeepsie, Louis met and married Elizabeth Catherine Meyer, a native of Gearde in Honover, Germany. Elizabeth was twenty-four and fifteen years his junior when they married. Louis built a house and a piano factory where the Adriance Library now stands in Poughkeepsie. Louis and Elizabeth had nine children and resided in their home for twenty five years. The names of their children in birth order are: Augusta, Louisa, Caroline, Louis Junior, Henrietta, Charles, Emma, Elizabeth and Mary. Louis Sr. continued manufacturing pianos until his death in 1878 at the age of seventy five. After his death, the mahogany piano was presented to Vassar College as a gift from the Wiethan family. The piano is now on display in the Music Museum at the college, where it is highly prized. The rosewood piano was bought by the grandfather of the Deyo family of Poughkeepsie. It is not known if the piano remains in possession of the family today. Louis Jr. and Charles, the only sons of Louis Sr. and Elizabeth, continued the family business and manufactured pianos throughout the civil war. However, because most of the business was from the south, the piano factory closed toward the end of the war. Louis Jr. married Marie Susanne Du Bourdieu in Poughkeepsie. Their son, Franklin A Wiethan, was the father of Richard Joseph Wiethan, grandfather of James Charles Wiethan and great grandfather of Brian Craig Wiethan and Kelli Lynn Wiethan. (Most of this biography on The Wiethan Piano was written by Franklin R. L. Wiethan, the older brother of Richard Wiethan, as it was related to him by his Aunt Mary H. Wiethan on December 3, 1933.)
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19th Century Advertisement for L.Wiethan Piano Manufacture, Poughkeepsie, NY