Schomacker & Co. Piano

  • Artifact:

    Schomacker & Co. Piano

  • Time Period:

    Made after 1878

  • Description:

    Schomacker & Co. piano, originally owned by John and Elizabeth Catherine (Cookus) Show [also Shau].

  • Benefactor:

    Gift of Mrs. Felix Schneiderhan Estate

John Henry Schomacker learned his craft in Vienna and was an accomplished piano maker when he immigrated to the United States and settled in Philadelphia in 1837.  He worked with other top piano makers in the city and in 1855 established a factory at Eleventh and Catherine Streets.  Henry C. Schomacker, John Henry’s son, took piano making apprenticeships in Germany and returned to the United State to join his father’s business.  The company eventually became H. C. Schomacker;  in 1861, H. W. Gray became associated with the firm and in 1864 the principals formed the stock company Schomacker Piano Forte Manufacturing Company.   Operations continued at Schomacker’s original factory on Eleventh Street in Philadelphia where the Entler Museum’s piano was made.   Schomacker pianos won medals at the 1853 World’s Fair in New York City and at the International Centennial Exhibition, 1876, in Philadelphia.

Although this piano was made after 1878, an 1875 Schomacker catalog shows a very similar one, the 7 Octave Rosewood, described in the catalog as having

“Front round corners; Rosewood finish all around; ogee molding; carved legs and lyre; upper three octaves with Patent Agraffe (a guide at the tuning-pin end of the stings).  Length, 6 feet 9 inches; width, 3 feet, 5 inches.”

The catalog provides the following instructions for unpacking and assembling the piano, making it seem a rather simple process:

“Your instrument having reached its destination, the first care is to remove it unblemished from its packing case and place it in position. You have selected it from one of the engravings in this catalogue, and you will find it precisely what you expect. You are now the owner of a Piano that has no superior in the world, and long may you live to enjoy it. The services of four strong persons will be indispensable. First remove top of box ; take out the legs and lyre ; remove the partition in the box, which is fastened by screws to the sides of the box; slide the Piano toward the open space about one foot, and lift it out of the box by placing the hands under the bottom of the Piano ; turn the Piano on its back on a pair of trusses or stout chairs (covered with blankets or otherwise, so as not to injure the varnish), fasten under the legs and lyre and attach the pedal rods to the latter, then gently turn the same on its feet.”

The 1876 catalog reprinted a number of testimonials from composers, famous pianists, instructors, and politicians, including President Ulysses S. Grant.  An extensive list of references contains the names Thomas L. Durnell and E. S. Wheeler, both of Shepherdstown, WV.

The piano was originally owned by John Henry Show (Schau), born 1841 in Shepherdstown and his wife Elizabeth Catherine Cookus (Aunt Betsy) born 1845 also in Shepherdstown.  They resided on German Street.