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installment sales, broadened musical education, and sophisticated marketing techniques—including manufac- turers’ sponsorship of concerts and their construction of recital halls—also boosted sales. But by the turn of the twentieth century, changes were afoot that foreshadowed the industry’s collapse. Around that time, the industry started to consolidate; multiple brand names were grouped under big corporate umbrellas, diluting the value of old, respected marques and squeezing out smaller manufacturers. The growth of the used-piano busi- ness undercut new piano sales. And while pedal-operated and electric player pianos boosted the industry between 1900 and 1925, manufacturers sowed the seeds of their own demise by emphasizing these instru- ments’ ease of operation. “There is no question that for the industry as a whole, the appeal to the consumer’s laziness was a very profitable but eventually disastrous path,” Roell explains, noting that Steinway, which continued to make high-quality pianos requiring skilled human hands, was among the strongest survivors of the fierce industry shakeout to come. 37

The arrival of the phonograph around the turn of the twentieth century posed some threat to piano manu- facturers, but radio devastated the industry. Not only did radios offer a wide variety of musical and other programming, but they were cheaper and smaller than pianos, came in attractive cabinets, and were seen as technological marvels. As radio production rose from 190,000 units in 1923 to almost five million in 1929, the piano industry experienced near-complete collapse. Between 1923 and 1933, the number of American piano manufacturers shrank from 160 to 36; the industry’s workforce fell by 85%. Even the once-mighty American Piano Company, which became the first musical instrument manufacturer to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange following its 1908 formation, fell into receivership in 1929.

From the late nineteenth century on, piano manufacturing’s growth in the Midwest—particularly in Chicago and Cincinnati—eroded the dominance in the industry that East Coast cities, particularly New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, once enjoyed. Nevertheless, New York remained a major center for piano making until the time of the industry’s decline. In 1911, 120 of the 295 American piano manufacturers were headquar- tered in New York City, giving it, by a wide margin, the most manufacturers of any city in the United States; in 1924, just before the piano industry fell apart, “American piano production had reached phenomenal propor- tions,” and New York was “one of the leading domestic centers for the production of pianos and other musical instruments.”39 By the early twentieth century, most of the city’s piano manufacturing was occurring in the Bronx. 38

Piano Manufacturing in the Bronx40

Piano manufacturing in the Bronx predates the birth of the borough itself, and was occurring even before t h e 1 8 7 4 c r e a t i o n o f t h e A n n e x e d D i s t r i c t . A c c o r d i n g t o W i l l i a m P . H . B a c o n , t h e f i r s t i m p o r t a n t p i a n o f a c t o r y i n w h a t i s n o w t h e B r o n x w a s t h a t o f D u n h a m & S o n , w h i c h w a s l o c a t e d a t t h e n o r t h e a s t c o r n e r o f 1 5 5 t h S t r e e t and Morris Avenue, east of the New York & Harlem Railroad tracks.41 Built around 1870, the plant was still operating in 1885, but by 1893, Dunham had vacated the plant because of its isolated location.42 By the late 1 8 7 0 s , a f e w o t h e r b u s i n e s s e s a s s o c i a t e d w i t h t h e p i a n o t r a d e e x i s t e d i n t h e A n n e x e d D i s t r i c t , i n c l u d i n g t h o s e o f G u s t a v u s d e N o b r i g a , a t E l t o n A v e n u e a n d 1 6 3 r d S t r e e t ; P e t e r C . P r o v o s t , a t T h i r d A v e n u e a n d 1 6 1 s t S t r e e t ; and Charles A. Vinton, in Tremont.43 Among the most successful members of this small, far-flung community o f N o r t h S i d e p i a n o m e n w a s J o h n B o u l t o n S i m p s o n . B y 1 8 7 9 , S i m p s o n s l a r g e A r i o n p i a n o w o r k s p r o b a b l y t h e b i g g e s t o f i t s t i m e i n t h e e n t i r e A n n e x e d D i s t r i c t s p a n n e d t h e n o r t h s i d e o f 1 4 9 t h S t r e e t , b e t w e e n B r o o k and St. Ann’s Avenues. 44

The new Estey Piano Factory, built in 1885-86 at the northeast corner of Southern Boulevard and Lin- coln Avenue, catalyzed the development of the area south of 149th Street into the city’s most significant piano- manufacturing hub. Noting in 1889 that “the section of the city on the other side of Harlem and east of Third Avenue is destined to become a piano making center of unusual importance, judging from the manner in which piano firms are concentrating in that portion of the city,” Musical Courier magazine credited the construction

of the Estey Factory with giving this “movement an unusual stimulus.”45

Indeed, within a decade, several

large piano factories would exist within close distance of the Estey building. By 1897, Estey was sharing its block with the Kroeger Piano Company; one block south were the factories of the Henry Spies and Haines

Brothers companies, and a block to the north was the factory of Schubert Piano.46

By 1900, piano factories

were scattered throughout the area south of 149th Street, another manufacturer—Sturz Brothers—had moved to

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