1881 Vose & Sons
Greg's Antique Piano
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
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:
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