Harper Spotlight

For nearly 150 years, Square Grand Pianos were the piano of choice in both America and Europe, yet very few people today have ever seen one! Even most Piano tuners and technicians today have little or no familiarity with Square Grand Pianos whatsoever.

In the last part of the 18th Century, John Jacob Astor started importing Square Grand Pianos to America from Europe. By the turn of the 19th Century, a handful of makers are recorded as having made some of the first Square Grand Pianos in America. For the next 100 years, the Square Grand Piano would evolve into a larger, heavier, and more mechanically refined instrument. During the 19th Century, American Piano Makers built and sold more Square Grand Pianos than Grand Pianos or Upright Pianos! Our research shows these Square Grand Pianos selling for as much as $800 in the mid 19th Century – the cost of a small house! Sadly, however, they are all but forgotten today. By about 1880-1890, the American Upright Piano began to win favor as being more fashionable than the Square Grand Piano. Because they were smaller and took up less floor space, the Upright Piano caused the Square Grand Piano to become obsolete by 1900.

There is a beautiful example of a Square Grand Piano, also referred to as a “Coffin” piano in the entry parlor music room at Harper House in Hickory. Come see this forgotten piano on your tour of Harper House.