MAY 11, 1954
NEW YORK—I don't want to forget to tell you what a pleasant and enlightening day I had last Thursday. I went to the Steinway Building to see the exhibition there marking the Steinway company's 100th anniversary.
The Steinway family has been making pianos in this country all these years, and the exhibition is almost like a history of old New York. There are the tools and workbench of the first Mr. Steinway who came to this country—a beautiful old workbench, and the tools, of course, in those days were made by a skilled worker himself.
The plane used by this craftsman is as smooth and beautiful to the touch as a piece of wood in the finest piano. He used this plane for many years and his hands wore hollows into the wood.
Then there are all the old pictures—lithographs, colored prints, etc.—of the different shops as they were built. There are the letters from artists—such human letters—in which they did not neglect their own financial interest. In one amusing letter a great artist is recommending a young artist to Mr. Steinway and at the end he carefully asks for his fee for having recommended the artist!
There is a wonderful collection of stamps, also, which belongs to Theodore Steinway. This collection, naturally, features stamps relating to music and musicians. And there are on exhibit numerous photographs of composers and performers, covering a long period of time. There is an excellent painting of Richard Wagner at his piano, and one of Paderewski along with letters from the latter.
Apparently Paderewski was a difficult man to deal with, whether his relations were with Mr. Steinway or with the ushers in the White House. I can remember that Ike Hoover told me that a piano had to be moved over and over again when Paderewski came to Washington to give a concert. The Polish master just would not play unless the instrument were arranged to suit his particular whim of the moment.
There are also letters from Schumann-Heink, Liszt, Jean de Reszke, Adelina Patti—all the names we have known for many years, taking one back to the whole development of music in this country.
Another interesting exhibit is a book, carefully kept by hand, that tells with meticulous care just who worked on each part of a piano. Usually the names in this book are members of the Steinway family, showing how much these people really did on their pianos themselves.
There is a model of the last piano that was made for the White House while we were there, and many other models, both old and new. Anyone who has the opportunity to go in and look at this exhibition will find themselves amply rewarded.