From 1700 to 1750, very few piano sales occurred anywhere. It was just another keyboard novelty. From 1750 to 1800 we see an accelerating pace of interest in the piano. Significant sales were made by the Erards in France, Silberman in Germany, and Zumpe, Clement, Kirkman, and especially Broadwood in England. By 1800 Broadwood was selling 400 pianos per year compared with less than 40 by every other manufacturer. Until the mid 1800's the United States was very dependent upon imports of pianos, in spite of the difficulty in transporting them safe from the effects of humidity. Census reports before 1860 tell nothing of this almost "insignificant" branch of U.S. manufacture (see Table One).

 In 1850 there were probably less than 50,000 pianos manufactured worldwide. Shops were small and production techniques did not lend well to mass production. England, France, and Austria were the world leaders. The few American and German manufacturers were not yet highly esteemed. Yet, by the Paris exhibition of 1867, the American system was highly honored and the U.S. began its march to take the lead. Only the Germans readily adopted the new system which included economizing the use of expensive skills by substituting machinery for manual work, efficient division of labor, and a world-wide marketing system for supplies and distribution. By 1900 the U.S. had obtained one half of the world market.

The second half of the 19th Century saw widespread interest in the piano for the home in America. This led to an interest in the piano for the schools. However, Miller (1988) explains that the upright piano had several disadvantages as a classroom instrument, furthermore, its size and weight prohibited easy transfer from room to room. Thus, many children were probably denied Its benefits. The height of the instrument blocked the teacher's frontal view of the class, forcing the teacher to sit with the back to the class or in an awkward sideways position. Also many believed that the tonal volume and quality were overpowering when accompanying the light head voice typically encouraged in elementary school singing.

   During the peak period from 1890 to 1928, U.S. sales ranged from 172,000 to 364,000 per year with the large uprights getting most of the market. During the last 10 years of this period, smaller upright, 43 inches high, was produced In large numbers by W. Otto Miessner, to meet the demand for a smaller, more portable classroom piano. The introductory price in 1918 was $250. Between 15 and 20,000 units sold between 1918 and 1929. When these Instruments became unexpectedly popular with families living In smaller homes and apartments, the marketing possibilities suddenly became apparent to other manufacturers, Soon they too began to build and sell small pianos, advertising them as "spinets", a term borrowed from the small harpsichords of the 18th Century.


In 1928 Miessner traveled and noticed large numbers of pianos in warehouses at rock-bottom prices. He saw the "handwriting on the wall" and was able to liquidate his company before the Great Depression started with the stock market crash of 1929. Many other American piano manufacturers were forced into bankruptcy between 1929 and 1931 (Miller, 1988).

From 1900 on the piano, now well established as a versatile concert or home instrument, followed trends in the times (see Table 3 and 4). The maintenance of great interest in pianos from 1900 to the depression was aided by enthusiasm for player pianos, especially in the early 1920's when 500,000 were made every two years. After the Great Depression of the 1930' s, recovery was slow due to the development of alternatives to home entertainment such as the gramophone, radio, record player, television, and on to the tape deck, compact disk, and even the electronic musical instruments, satellite television, and computers. The slow, steady growth of  U.S. piano sales since the 1950's far from reflects population growth. In the 1970's, Japan (and particularly Yamaha with an annual output of over 200,000 units) took over as the top producing nation. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Japan has continued to produce about 300 to 400,000 per year. The U.S. approached this only during the period 1909 to 1919.




  Table Three illustrates that the world output of pianos followed the U.S. trend, a tremendous drop in 1930, followed by a long, slow recovery period. In the 1980s there is another tendency for the numbers to drop, but only after a tremendous peak in 1979 of 988,332 pianos worldwide (Industrial Statistics...1984).

Table Four shows how piano production leadership has shifted from one country to another through the years. Austria began as an important producer in the early developmental period of the piano, but now produces less than 800 pianos per year. France and Britain likewise did not maintain their 19th Century enthusiasm for piano manufacture into the 20th Century. Japan started late (1890s), and slow (only 2 to 4,000 per year), but took the lead In 1970 and keeps it by a wide margin with well over 400,000 produced annually. In recent years Korea has begun to play an important role in the world piano market, being well over the 100,000 mark since 1983. Finland first went over 10,000 per year in 1978.

 One can imagine that given a life expectancy of 50 and up to 100 years, and the perhaps 50 million pianos sold during the past 100 years, how many millions there must now be stored, or in use. There are nearly one million produced each year now, worldwide. Yet Table 5 indicates that the numbers of tuners and technicians has not proportionately Increased. Is it becoming harder each year to find a piano tuner, or are the instruments being grossly neglected?

Economically, the piano industry Is still as important today as it was in 1860 when it was said that "first in Importance stands the piano-forte ' (Manufactures ... 1860). The wholesale value of pianos produced in 1967 In the U.S. was $91.2 million. Between 1972 and 1982 the value ranged from $107.4 to 230.8 million (Bureau of the Census, 1982). The 1987 wholesale value was $130.8 million compared to organs, 184.2 million (Corea, 1988). The retail value of pianos sold each year during the late 1980s probably approaches $625 million for those manufactured In the U.S., and +2.29 billion worldwide. Twenty-five percent of the U.S. made pianos that are exported go to Japan and 15% to the United Kingdom. The United States received In 1987, 66% of its imports from Japan and 14% from Korea.

The 1997 Census reports only ten piano manufacturers in the U.S. with eight manufacuturers of "vertical, upright or console pianos", and four producing grand pianos. The total wholesale value of pianos in 1997 was $185,738,000, a 203% increase since 1967, with 1,455 employees.

   "Pianos are seen as an investment, whose intrinsic value outlasts economic downturns... According to a survey funded by the American Music Conference, at least one amateur musician was included in the 51% of the households responding...more than 50 million 'amateur musicians', compared with 31.5 million In 1970... The combination of rising income and greater leisure time has played an important role in the growth of the music industry (Standard & Poors, 1981).

 U.S. Manufacturers

Baldwin Piano

Boston Piano

Essex Piano

Steinway Piano

William Knabe Pianos

Mason & Hamlin

PianoDisc Player Piano

Story & Clark

Walter Piano Company

Other Manufacturers
Alfred Knight
August Förster
Broadwood Pianos
Fazioli & Son
Hallet & Davis
Hardman Peck
Julius Feurich
Kohler & Campbell
May Berlin
Pearl River
Steingraeber & Söhne
Strauss (Shanghai Piano)
Stuart Piano Co.
VanKoevering Pianos
Whelpdale, Maxwell, & Cod
Yamaha Piano
Young Chang Piano


Piano Manufacturers

The location of a corporate office does not explain where a piano was manufactured. For example, Yamaha Pianos produced for the U.S. market have been manufactured in 4 locations: Hamamatsu, Japan; Thomaston, Georgia; South Haven, Michigan; and Jakarta, Indonesia. Pearl River uses parts manufactured in Germany and other locations. Some U.S. manufacturers have had plants for certain parts in Mexico. Those shown are current manufacturers, producing many brand names not listed, even brand names whose original manufacturers have ceased to exist. Also, corporate changes include constant ownership changes. For example, Baldwin is a division of Gibson, who also makes guitars, drums, dobros, banjos, and mandolins. Hamilton and D.H. Baldwin are "retired" lines of Baldwin/Gibson. With the globalization of the world economy, U.S. manufacturers found it impossible to build pianos in the United States because of the high labor costs. Due to the high man-hours involved in producing these pianos, many moved their production overseas.

 The list of manufacturers contains current producers, not all brand names currently or formerly produced. A list of all piano names and their manufacturers maintained by the Piano Technicians Guild:

On December 4, 1998, at the request of the Committee on Ways and Means, U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. International Trade Commission instituted investigation No. 332-401, Pianos: Economic and Competitive Conditions Affecting the U.S. Industry, under section 332(g) of the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1332(g)). As requested by the Committee, the Commission’s report is a factfinding investigation of the current conditions affecting the domestic piano industry, and it includes the following: an overview of the global market; a profile of the U.S. piano industry; profiles of leading manufacturers in Japan, Korea, China, and Indonesia; and a comparison of the competitive strengths and weaknesses of U.S. and foreign producers. Public notice of this investigation was posted in the Office of the Secretary, U.S. International Trade Commission, Washington, DC 20436 and published in the Federal Register (63 F.R. 69305). A public hearing regarding this investigation was held on February 17, 1999, in Washington, DC.

The products of interest to the Committee are acoustic pianos, which are designated as vertical and grand pianos. Demographic changes and competition from digital pianos have caused the U.S. acoustic piano market to contract for most of the last 20 years, although consumption grew moderately in 1997 and January-September 1998. During this period, the U.S. industry also has seen reductions in shipments and in the number of producers, suppliers, and dealers, although during January-September 1998, there was a small increase in piano shipments.

Data gathered from questionnaire responses indicate that imports, by quantity, supplied 46 percent of U.S. apparent consumption of vertical pianos during January-September 1998, up from a 35 percent market share for the same period in 1997. Imports of vertical and grand pianos from Japan, Korea, China, and Indonesia accounted for 93 percent, by quantity, of total U.S. imports of pianos during January- September 1998. U.S. producers are major importers, buying foreign-produced pianos to complement their product lines.

In foreign developments, the growth of Chinese production and exports in the 1990s has been notable, both from independent Chinese producers and operations established in China by other Asian producers. During January-September 1998, the quantity of U.S. vertical piano imports from China more than tripled compared with the same period in 1997, increasing China’s share of U.S. apparent consumption from 6 percent to 16 percent.

U.S. piano producers faced numerous competitive disadvantages during 1994-98: Japanese and Korean producers’ operations in Asia were more automated than operations in the United States; Asian producers, with the exception of Japan, have considerably lower labor costs than U.S. producers; the East Asian financial crisis drastically curtailed piano sales in the home and regional markets of principal Asian piano manufacturers, and it appeared that pianos were redirected from these markets to the U.S. market; and the national currencies of three of the four principal Asian competitors significantly depreciated in real terms against the dollar during the period under consideration. U.S. producers, however, have the following advantages: close proximity to wood resources, more experienced labor force in making furniture-style pianos, and lower transportation costs when selling in the U.S. market.