1850 Boardman & Gray

When I acquired this piano, a local piano dealer was going out of business.  I went there to see what they might have that I would be interested in.  (If anything).  Imagine my surprise when I spotted this square grand piano sitting in a corner, disassembled, and sitting on its backside, partially covered with a blanket.  I asked about it, and basically was told this piano was worthless.  So, a week later I have it delivered, never expecting it to be in as good condition as it was.  It even had the original matching bench! 

This piano, serial number 2242, was built in 1850 by Boardman & Gray of Albany, NY.  According to Pierce, Boardman & Gray was established in 1837 by William G. Boardman and James A. Gray.  They apparently were in business until 1926. 

According to Spillane's History of the American Pianoforte (printed in 1890), "Boardman and Gray is a pre-eminent house in Albany pianoforte history.  This firm has for half a century maintained a leading place in the sense of moral uprightness, as well as from the art and trade standpoints.  William G. Boardman, the author of the business, was a native of Albany, where he was born in 1800.  His entry into the piano trade was purely accidental.  Mr. Boardman was educated for mercantile pursuits, but having through friendship indorsed a piano firm, he was thrown in possession of all their stock-in-trade after their failure in 1835.  Boardman having incidentally obtained an insight into the opportunities for development the business afforded a capitalist, engaged James A. Gray, his future partner, Mr. Henry Hazelton, and others, subsequently to come from New York to work in his shop.

"Mr. Gray was born in New York City in 1815.  He received a good education, and, in 1831, while yet a boy, succeeded in becoming apprenticed to Firth & Hall.  Young Gray soon evinced such decided ability in his craft that he was put at tuning and toning, at which branches he became very expert.  His first start in business was in Binghamton, NY, where he went to superintend a factory for a Mr. Pratt, but soon returned to New York.  His reputation now traveled ahead of him to Albany in time to reach the ears of Boardman, who immediately made a bid for his services.  In two years after arriving in Albany, Mr. Gray, then comparatively young in years, became the partner of his employer, out of which compact originated the firm of Boardman & Gray.  William Boardman was identified to a large degree with the success attained by the house during its career, while J.A. Gray was identified to an equally large degree with the development of the instruments put forth by the concern.  Mr. Boardman died, January 25th, 1881, at the age of eighty-one, but for many years before his death he had retired, the responsibility of the whole business resting on Mr. Gray meanwhile.

"James A. Gray visited England in 1850 with several instruments of his own make.  In these he exhibited his patented "Dolce Compana" effect, which has since been discarded.  Boardman & Gray's American pianos were curiously tested by many of the leading English musicians of the time, and created marked surprise.  About this year there was a general idea prevailing throughout Europe that art constructively was almost unknown in America, and pianoforte-making has always ranked so high in England that the decided artistic merit of the Boardman & Gray American piano of the period excited considerably more attention than under other circumstances.  The exhibition of Chickering pianofortes at the great World's Fair in the following year added to this feeling, and triumphed over it by winning the respect of the most eminent English musical people to the American principles of construction shown in these instruments."

"James. A Gray was a prolific inventor and an improver in a most decided degree.  The most remarkable patented improvements he introduced were his "insulated iron rim" and "Dolce Compana" effect, but aside from specialties of this nature the development if the Boardman & Gray pianoforte has always been kept in line with the best results achieved at the hands of other inventors elsewhere."

Here are the photos of this instrument as it currently is: (click on any thumb for a full size photo.  Beware - they are approx 600k in size!)

The serial number is barely visible

Inside the piano (the top surface is the soundboard, which has no visible cracks at all)

Another shot of inside the piano. (the keys and action have been removed)

Back of the piano

Top of the piano, folded open

Left side of piano

Right side of piano

Detail of plate

Inside piano (right)

Inside piano (center)

Inside piano (left)

Pedal Lyre

Original matching stool

Overall shot

Inside detail

Notice the center rail felts are almost complete gone


Action (all keys removed)

Lots of dust!

Bass hammers and keys

Name plate

Right hand side of piano

Action removed from piano


Home 1918 Hamilton 1925 Fischer 1818 Gibson & Davis 1910 Bluthner 1966 Aeolian Books links 1907 Lester 1898 Starr 1881 Vose & Sons 1925 Hobart M Cable 1850 Boardman & Gray 1870 Taylor & Farley 1927 Fischer 1820 Thomas Gibson

Copyright 2008 Greg Flannagan. Please feel free to use my pictures, after sending me an e-mail of intent to greg@oldpianos.com