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Square piano

1805-1809
Origin: America, Pennsylvania, Harrisburg
Net dimensions exclude lid, stand and projecting moldings. All dimensions in mm except where noted. Length: 1,666 mm (net 1,652 mm); Width: 589 mm (net 563 mm); Height: 843 mm (net 213 mm)
Mahogany: case veneer, damper levers; Plain light hardwood: nameboard veneer, string inlay, arris string inlay, hammer shanks, key fronts; Walnut: hitch-pin rail, case veneer, inner rim, left case block, hammer rail; White pine: bottom, soundboard, damper system overrail, case substrate including front and sides, key levers, key frame (all rails), belly rail; Cork: hammer heads; Leather: hammer coverings; damper sticker buttons; Ivory: natural key tops; Paper: inscription; Glass: inscription cover; Iron: stop lever, tuning pins, stand bolts
Museum Purchase, The Friends of Colonial Williamsburg Collections Fund
Acc. No. 2009-34
CASE DECORATION: The case has crotch walnut(?) veneer surrounded by white-dark-white string banding and outer crossbanding of mahogany. A thin holly strop is set into all arrises. The bottom edges have a cap with top molding and a central string band of white-dark-white wood.
KEYWELL: The keywell is veneered with holly and outlined with thin black and white line stringing and unfigured mahogany crossbanding. Two vertical bands of crossbanding may relate to the emergence in that period of nameboard vents, though this instrument has no vents. The keywell ends have an oval inlay with an abstract design of burn-shaded off-center oval bands.
LID: The solid walnut and thumb-molded lid has conventional flaps over the keys and front section of the soundboard. The ends of the lid have tongue-and-groove bread boarding (a German detail) and two bands of string banding on the front and sides. The outer banding is wider white-dark-white wood and the inner a simple black and white string.
STAND AND PEDALS: The French frame stand is unusual in that the front and rear aprons are permanently attached to the case. The music shelf is unusually thick, but tapered in the front to appear less so. The end sections screw to the long aprons in the conventional way. Four brass bolt covers cover the bolts; none were ever added to the front.
INTERNAL NOTES: The tuning pins are filed to shape at the top and not forged. There is no provision for an internal folding music desk, nor any provision for a rack when the keyboard flap is folded back. The hitch-pin rail terminates with a large ogee profile extending over the soundboard. The portion of the case in front of the keys is attached to the key frame rather than the case and slides out with the keyboard. The lockboard therefore latches horizontally into the case at the treble end of the keyboard.
COMPASS: FF–f3
OCTAVES: 5 oct.
STOPS: There is one hand stop for dampers.
Label:This piano was made sometime around 1800 by John Huber, a Pennsylvania German working in Harrisburg. Details of design, construction, and decoration indicate a self-taught but careful maker working within the transplanted German craft tradition. Huber's three other surviving pianos support the theory that he built instruments on either German or English pattern depending upon the language of his customer. This one follows the Anglo-American model, but betrays its German heritage through numerous small details such as the breadboard construction of the lid and an ebonized soundboard bridge. The piano industry in America had its roots in this area during the turn of the nineteenth century in the hands of a few mostly German immigrant makers like John Huber. Its mix of cultural influences makes this piano an apt and compelling ambassador from the first period of American piano making.

The piano will appear in the Changing Keys exhibit opening late 2012.
Provenance:Purchased at auction ca. 1940s by Sandy Welch's mother (an interior decorator); the instrument spent most of the time since then in storage. It was sold by Sandy and Andrew Welch to CWF in 2009.
Inscription(s):"John Huber / MUSICAL INSTRUMENT MAKER / HARRISBURG" copperplate-printed on oval paper label under glass on nameboard