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
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!)
serial number is barely visible
piano (the top surface is the soundboard, which has no visible cracks at
of inside the piano. (the keys and action have been removed)
Back of the
Top of the
piano, folded open
Left side of
Right side of
center rail felts are almost complete gone
Lots of dust!
side of piano
removed from piano