1881 Vose & Sons

1881 Vose & Sons Square Grand

Greg's Antique Piano Collection


James Whiting Vose was born on October 21, 1818. He became a cabinetmaker, then learned the piano making trade from various Boston area piano factories. In 1851 he made his first piano, starting his own business. He had three sons, and all of them learned the business, and joined their father as partners in the firm. At this time, he renamed it Vose & Sons. The business was incorporated in 1889, with the Vose family holding the entire stock. Eventually, the American Piano Company purchased the firm, and used the Vose name until 1982.

According to Spillane's History of the American Pianoforte (printed in 1890):

"Vose & Sons came into existence in 1851 in Boston, and therefore bear the distinction of being a very old piano-makers.  J. W. Vose, the founder and senior member of this firm, is a native of Milton, Mass., the birthplace of Crehore, where he was born in 1818.  He served an old-fashioned apprentice course in Milton and Boston, first learning cabinet-making.  At twenty, he became a piano-maker.  Later he acquired a varied experience in various Boston shops, subsequently founding his business in the year indicated.  The Vose & Sons piano of to-day contains all the standard improvements, besides specialties originated by the firm.  It is a popular instrument, and has a large following of admirers in the musical profession throughout the States.  The firm of Vose & Sons is made up of Mr. J. W. Vose, the founder, Mr. Willard A. Vose, born in 1852, Mr. Irving B. Vose, born in 1850, and Mr. Julien W. Vose, born in 1859, all practical piano-makers, and graduates of good educational institutions in Boston."

This Vose & Sons, Square Grand piano was built in 1881 in Boston, MA. This piano was purchased in 1992 from an antique dealer, who had no room for it in her house. It was in need of restoration, but was mostly sound. I didn't know at the time of purchase what I would be getting into, or I would not have purchased it! This instrument has started my love of antique pianos. There photos below that show the piano in various states of restoration. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with this piano. This piano is finished in Rosewood, and weighs over 1,000 lbs.!
A word of caution on old square grand pianos, though! These instruments are all quite old now. The square style went out of fashion around 1880, so we are talking about 120+ year old instruments. Unless you really are familiar with pianos, I would be very careful before buying a square grand. I happened to get quite lucky with this instrument, as it was in very good overall condition. Most of the time however, you will not find a square grand in such good shape. You should be prepared to spend a lot of time, and even more money restoring a square grand. You might well spend more money on it than it will be worth. These are large instruments, and the market for them is quite small. Few people have the room to house such a large instrument. Musically speaking, square grand pianos are not the equal of today's instruments, they sound somewhat different and the action feels different, but they are a piece of piano history and are worthy of study.

Click on any picture for a larger view:

Front view of Vose & Sons with top openedSide view of Vose & Sons with top openedInside of Vose & Sons before restorationView of right hand side after restorationImage of Vose & Sons during restoration - top is done.Closeup of a leg after restorationUnrestored Vose & Sons

Unrestored Vose & SonsRecent restored Vose & Sons photoRecent view of Restored Vose & SonsView showing the serial number in the centerPicture of the Vose & Sons logo


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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