Baldwin Piano Company

The Baldwin Piano Company is an American piano brand. It was once the largest US-based manufacturer of keyboard instruments and known by the slogan, "America's Favorite Piano". It ceased most domestic production in December 2008, moving production to China. Baldwin is currently a subsidiary of the Gibson Guitar Corporation, the largest American manufacturer of musical instruments. [2][3]

Baldwin Piano Company
IndustryMusical instruments
FounderDwight Hamilton Baldwin
United States (Distribution)
China (Manufacturing) [1]
Key people
James Curleigh (President & CEO)


The company traces its origins back to 1857, when Dwight Hamilton Baldwin began teaching piano, organ, and violin in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1862, Baldwin started a Decker Brothers piano dealership and, in 1866, hired Lucien Wulsin as a clerk. Wulsin became a partner in the dealership, by then known as D.H. Baldwin & Company, in 1873, and, under his leadership, the Baldwin Company became the largest piano dealer in the Midwestern United States by the 1890s.

In 1889–1890, Baldwin vowed to build "the best piano that could be built"[4] and subsequently formed two production companies: Hamilton Organ, which built reed organs, and the Baldwin Piano Company, which made pianos. The company's first piano, an upright, began selling in 1891. The company introduced its first grand piano in 1895.

Baldwin ad 1905
A 1905 Baldwin ad.
Baldwin Hamilton de 1968
A Baldwin Hamilton manufactured in 1968.

Baldwin died in 1899 and left the vast majority of his estate to fund missionary causes. Wulsin ultimately purchased Baldwin's estate and continued the company's shift from retail to manufacturing. The company won its first major award in 1900, when their model 112 won the Grand Prix at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, the first American manufactured piano to win such an award. Baldwin-manufactured pianos also won top awards at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition and the 1914 Anglo-American Exposition. By 1913, business had become brisk, with Baldwin exporting to thirty-two countries in addition to having retailers throughout the United States.

Baldwin, like many other manufacturers, began building player pianos in the 1920s. A piano factory was constructed in Cincinnati, Ohio. The models became unpopular by the end of the 1920s, which, coupled with the beginning of the Great Depression, could have spelled disaster for Baldwin. However, the company's president, Lucien Wulsin II, had created a large reserve fund for such situations, and Baldwin was able to ride out the market downturn.

During World War II, the US War Production Board ordered the cessation of all US piano manufacturing so that the factories could be used for the US war effort. Baldwin factories were used to manufacture plywood airplane components for various aircraft such as the Aeronca PT-23 trainer and the stillborn Curtiss-Wright C-76 Caravan cargo aircraft. While the employment of wood components in military aircraft could by no means be considered a resounding success, lessons learned in constructing plywood aircraft wings ultimately assisted in Baldwin's development of its 21-ply maple pinblock design used in its postwar piano models.

After the war ended, Baldwin resumed selling pianos, and by 1953 the company had doubled production figures from prewar levels. In 1946, Baldwin introduced its first electronic organ (developed in 1941),[5] which became so successful that the company changed its name to the Baldwin Piano & Organ Company. In 1961, Lucien Wulsin III became president. By 1963, the company had acquired C. Bechstein Pianofortefabrik and remained its owner until 1986. In 1959, Baldwin constructed a new piano manufacturing plant in Conway, Arkansas, originally to manufacture upright pianos: by 1973, the company had built 1,000,000 upright pianos. In 1961 Baldwin constructed a new piano factory in Greenwood Mississippi. Subsequently production of upright pianos was moved from Cincinnati, Ohio to Greenwood.

The company next attempted to capitalize on the growth of pop music. After an unsuccessful bid to buy Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, Baldwin bought Burns of London in 1965 for $380,000, and began selling the guitars through the company's piano retail outlets. During this time period, Baldwin engineer Robert C. Scherer developed the Prismatone pickup for nylon string guitars.[6] Unaccustomed to marketing guitars, the Baldwin stores failed to interest many guitar buyers, and sales proved disappointing.[7] In 1967, Baldwin also bought Gretsch guitars, which had its own experienced guitar sales force and a distribution network of authorized retail outlets. However, Fender and Gibson continued to dominate, and sales did not reach expected levels. The Gretsch guitar operation was sold back to the Gretsch family in 1989.

Throughout the 1970s, the company undertook a significant bid to diversify into financial services. Under the leadership of Morley P. Thompson, Baldwin bought dozens of firms and by the early 1980s owned over 200 savings and loan institutions, insurance companies and investment firms, including MGIC Investment Corporation. The company changed its name to Baldwin-United in 1977 after a merger with United Corp.[8] In 1980, the company opened a new piano manufacturing facility in Trumann, Arkansas.[9] By 1982, however, the piano business contributed only three percent of Baldwin's $3.6 billion revenues. Meanwhile, the company had taken on significant debt to finance its acquisitions and new facilities, and was finding it increasingly difficult to meet its loan obligations. In 1983, the holding company and several of its subsidiaries were forced into bankruptcy with a total debt of over $9 billion—at that time, the largest bankruptcy ever. However, the piano business was not part of the bankruptcy.[10]

During bankruptcy proceedings in 1984, the Baldwin piano business was sold to its management.[11] The new company went public in 1986 as the Baldwin Piano and Organ Company[12] and moved its headquarters to Loveland, Ohio.[13]

However, difficulties continued as demographic changes and foreign competition slowed sales of keyboard instruments. The company responded by acquiring Wurlitzer to increase market share and by moving manufacturing overseas to reduce production costs.[14] In 1998, the company moved its headquarters from Loveland to nearby Deerfield Township.[15][13] Throughout the 1990s, the company's fortunes improved, and by 1998, the company's 270 employees at its Conway, Arkansas facility were building 2,200 grand pianos a year. However, in 2001, Baldwin was again facing difficulties, and filed for bankruptcy once again, when the company was bought by Gibson Guitar Corporation.[16] In 2005, the company laid off some workers from its Trumann, Arkansas manufacturing plant while undergoing restructuring.[9]

The company, now a subsidiary of Gibson Guitar Corporation, has manufactured instruments under the Baldwin, Chickering, Wurlitzer, Hamilton, and Howard names. Baldwin has bought two piano factories in China in which they are manufacturing grand and vertical pianos. Recreations of the former US built verticals are built at its factory in Zhongshan, China. These include the Baldwin Hamilton studio models B243 and B247 which are the most popular school pianos ever built.[17] The much larger factory in Dongbei is not building pianos at this time. Baldwin grand pianos are being built to Baldwin specification by Parsons Music, China.[1] All new pianos are being sold under the Baldwin name and not Wurlitzer, Hamilton or Chickering.[17]

Baldwin stopped manufacturing new pianos at its Trumann, Arkansas factory in December, 2008. They retained a small staff to build custom grands and to finish numerous artist grands which are ordered.[3] As of October, 2018 the factory in Trumann, AR has been closed and remaining inventory disposed of.

Notable performers

Amy Lee 2011 Evanescence concert 10-25-11
Evanescence's Amy Lee performing in 2011.

Many distinguished musicians have chosen to compose, perform and record using Baldwin pianos, including the pianists Walter Gieseking, Claudio Arrau, Jorge Bolet, Morton Estrin, Earl Wild and José Iturbi and the composers Aaron Copland, Philip Glass, Igor Stravinsky, Béla Bartók, Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, Lukas Foss and John Williams. Baldwin pianos have been used by popular entertainers including Ray Charles, Liberace, Richard Carpenter, Michael Feinstein, Billy Joel, Cat Stevens, and Carly Simon, and jazz pianists Dave Brubeck, George Shearing and Dick Hyman. Amy Lee, the lead vocalist, pianist and keyboardist of Evanescence also uses this brand in most of her compositions, recordings and live performances. A Baldwin piano was seen nightly being played by Paul Shaffer on the Late Show with David Letterman. Baldwin was the official piano of the television show Glee. Marian McPartland's long-running radio show Piano Jazz was hosted by Baldwin.[18] Baldwin was second only to Steinway in its artist and symphony roster.

See also

General references

  • Crombie, David. Piano: Evolution, Design, and Performance. Barnes and Noble, 2000. First printed by Balafon Books, Great Britain, 1995. (ISBN 0-7607-2026-6)
  • Baldwin Piano & Organ Company Encyclopedia of Company Histories. Accessed March 1, 2007.


  1. ^ a b The Baldwin Story at Taylor
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b "Baldwin ceases production, lays off workers". Trumann Democrat. December 8, 2008. Archived from the original on 2012-03-19. Retrieved 2009-02-11.
  4. ^ "Baldwin Pianos". Baldwin Piano. Retrieved 2014-03-11.
  5. ^ Hans-Joachim Braun (1982). "Music Engineers. The Remarkable Career of Winston E. Kock, Electronic Organ Designer and NASA Chief of Electronics" (PDF). CHE2004 of IEEE.
  6. ^ "Robert C. Scherer Prismatone inventor". Retrieved 2014-11-14.
  7. ^ Gjörde, Per (2001). Pearls and Crazy Diamonds. Göteborg, Sweden: Addit Information AB. pp. 35–37.
  8. ^ Baldwin Piano & Organ Company History
  9. ^ a b KAIT8 News, Jan. 7, 2005, "Trumann Piano Plant Lays Off Workers While Undergoing Restructuring" Archived 2009-02-21 at the Wayback Machine,
  10. ^ Baldwin, A Casualty Of Fast Expansion, Files For Bankruptcy New York Times September 27, 1983
  11. ^ "G.E. Credit Signs Deal With Baldwin". The New York Times. June 19, 1984. Retrieved 2007-12-17.
  12. ^ Rothstein, Eward (September 27, 1987). "For the Piano, Chords of Change". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-12-15.
  13. ^ a b Osborne, William (2004). Music in Ohio. Kent State University Press. p. 492. ISBN 0-87338-775-9 – via Google Books. In November 1998 its headquarters had been relocated a bit further north in suburbia, abandoning the location in Loveland it had occupied since 1986 in favor of an office park in Deerfield Township.
  14. ^ "COMPANY NEWS; Wurlitzer Sale To Baldwin". The New York Times (Reuters). The New York Times Company. 1987-12-24. Retrieved 2008-10-25.
  15. ^ "Baldwin to move headquarters". Cincinnati Business Courier. American City Business Journals. August 24, 1998. Retrieved April 1, 2018.
  16. ^ "Gibson Guitar to Buy Baldwin Piano". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. 2001-11-02. p. C2. Retrieved 2008-10-25.
  17. ^ a b Fine, Larry (2016). Acoustic and Digital Piano Buyer. Brookside Press. p. 168. ISBN 978-192914543-0. Archived from the original on 2016-11-29. Retrieved 2017-01-08.
  18. ^ "Marian McPartland's Storied Life, Told 'In Good Time'". Weekend Edition. August 17, 2012. 10:58 minutes in. NPR.

External links


Baldwin is a Germanic name, composed of the elements bald "bold" and win "friend".

Buck Page

Buck Page (June 18, 1922 — August 21, 2006) founded the first western band known as Riders of the Purple Sage.

Page, a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, began performing on local radio at age 11. He played string bass and rhythm guitar for a western band, The Valley Ranch Boys.

Two years later he formed a staff band for Pittsburgh radio station KDKA that he named Riders of the Purple Sage after the title of the Zane Grey novel. Riders of the Purple Sage performed five hour-long shows a week on KDKA from 1936–1938.

The band later moved to New York City and performed on radio station WOR and at a nightclub, Village Barn.

Page served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. During the war another western band using the name Riders of the Purple Sage was organized in California by singer Foy Willing. Page moved to the West Coast in the 1950s. He and Willing eventually met and the two men formed a lifelong friendship.

Page, who could play 21 instruments, worked as a studio musician in California. He played guitar on the original recording of the theme song for the NBC western series Bonanza and also served as background musician for the TV shows Wagon Train and Laramie. According to Bob Bain, however, the only one of the four guitarists on the Bonanza theme recording still living, Page was not one of the guitarists on that session.

In the late 1950s, Page lived in Hesperia, California where he owned and ran a restaurant. He also rodeoed in the summer circuit, traveling with rodeo champion Eddy Akridge.

In the 1960s Page worked for the Baldwin Piano Company and helped engineers develop the Supersound amplifier.

Page received the Country/Western Living Legend Award from the North American Country Music Associations International in 2001. His first solo recording, Right Place to Start, was released on CD in December 2005.

Page's last public concert was in July 2006 in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he performed before a crowd of several thousand people during a National Day of the Cowboy celebration.

Page died in his apartment at the Burbank Senior Artists Colony in Burbank, California. His death was attributed to natural causes.

Burns London

Burns is an English manufacturer of electric guitars and bass guitars, founded by Alice Louise Farrell (1908–1993) and James Ormston (Jim) Burns (1925–1998) in 1959. The company was first named Burns-Weill, then renamed Ormston Burns Ltd. At its peak, in the 1960s, it was the most successful guitar company in England.Ormston Burns Ltd. was bought up by Baldwin Piano Company in 1965, and the company was renamed Baldwin-Burns. Burns guitars were reintroduced in 1991 under the name Burns London, and the product line now includes a collector's edition of the first model the company produced.


Chickering may refer to:

Chickering, Suffolk, a place in Suffolk, England

Chickering & Sons, the piano company that was created by Jonas Chickering

Arthur M. Chickering, an arachnologist

Arthur W. Chickering, a researcher of student development theories

Elmer Chickering, an American photographer

Jonas Chickering, an American piano manufacturer

Lawrence Chickering, Hoover Institute public policy analyst, Lawyer

Roger Chickering, historian

Hugo Benioff

Victor Hugo Benioff (September 14, 1899 – February 29, 1968) was an American seismologist and a professor at the California Institute of Technology. He is best remembered for his work in charting the location of deep earthquakes in the Pacific Ocean.

Benioff was born in Los Angeles. His father was a Jewish immigrant from Kiev, Russia and his mother a Lutheran from Sweden, After graduating from Pomona College in 1921, Benioff began his career with the idea of being an astronomer and worked for a time at Mount Wilson Observatory, but when he found that astronomers work at night and sleep in the daytime, he quickly switched to seismology. He joined the Seismological Laboratory in 1924 and received his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1935.

Benioff is considered a genius in the design of earthquake instruments. One of his first instruments, created in 1932, was the Benioff seismograph, which senses the movement of the earth – these instruments are now used in every country in the world. Equally famous is the Benioff strain instrument, which records the stretching of the Earth's surface. One of his most recent accomplishments was a refined version of the old Benioff seismometer which has given seismologists more knowledge about the cause of very deep earthquakes.

Benioff noticed that earthquake sources get deeper under the overriding tectonic plate proceeding away from the trench at a subduction zone. He realized that this inclined array of earthquake sources indicate the position of the portion of the plate that has already been subducted. Thus, that pattern of earthquakes is known as a Wadati–Benioff zone.

From the early 1930s, Benioff also worked on creating electric musical instruments; in particular a piano, violin and cello. He continued developing these instruments for the rest of his life, working for over two decades with pianist Rosalyn Tureck and also, towards the end of his life with the Baldwin Piano Company. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1958.

List of companies based in Nashville, Tennessee

Many significant companies are based in Nashville, Tennessee and its surrounding communities in the Nashville metropolitan area. Two of the companies, HCA Holdings, Inc. and Vanguard Health Systems, were among the Fortune 500 rankings in 2012.

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This is a list of electronic organ makers.

Lucien Wulsin III

Lucien Wulsin III (September 21, 1916 – August 23, 2009) was a lawyer, entrepreneur, banker, arts advocate, university trustee and erstwhile performer.

Performance Today

Performance Today is a Peabody Award-winning classical music radio program, first aired in 1987 and hosted since 2000 by Fred Child. It is the most listened-to daily classical music radio program in the United States, with 1.2 million listeners on 237 stations. The program builds its two-hour daily broadcast (some stations broadcast only one hour) from live concert performances from around the world. Performance Today is based at the American Public Media (APM) studios in Saint Paul, Minnesota, but is frequently on the road, with special programs broadcast from festivals and public radio stations around the country.In addition to live concert performances, the show airs in-studio performances and interviews. Weekly features include the "Piano Puzzler" with composer Bruce Adolphe.Through the PT Young Artist in Residence program, the show highlights young soloists from American conservatories who have the potential for great careers. Former Performance Today young artists include pianists Orli Shaham, Jeremy Denk, and Jonathan Biss, guitarist Jason Vieaux, and violinist Colin Jacobsen among many others.

Trumann, Arkansas

Trumann is a city in Poinsett County, Arkansas, United States. The population was 7,243 at the 2010 census. It is included in the Jonesboro, Arkansas Metropolitan Statistical Area.


The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company, usually referred to as simply Wurlitzer, is an American company started in Cincinnati in 1853 by German immigrant (Franz) Rudolph Wurlitzer. The company initially imported stringed, woodwind and brass instruments from Germany for resale in the U.S. Wurlitzer enjoyed initial success largely due to defense contracts to provide musical instruments to the U.S. military. In 1880, the company began manufacturing pianos and eventually relocated to North Tonawanda, New York, and quickly expanded to make band organs, orchestrions, nickelodeons and pipe or theatre organs popular in theatres during the days of silent movies.

Over time, Wurlitzer acquired a number of other companies which made a variety of loosely related products including kitchen appliances, carnival rides, player piano rolls, and radios. Wurlitzer also operated a chain of retail stores where the company's products were sold.

As technology evolved, Wurlitzer began producing electric pianos, electronic organs, and jukeboxes and eventually became known more for jukeboxes and vending machines, which are still made by Wurlitzer, rather than for actual musical instruments.

Wurlitzer's jukebox operations were sold and moved to Germany in 1973. The Wurlitzer piano and organ brands and U.S. manufacturing facilities were acquired by the Baldwin Piano & Organ Co. (commonly called the Baldwin Piano Company) in 1988 and most piano manufacturing moved overseas. The Baldwin Co., including its Wurlitzer assets, was subsequently acquired by the Gibson Guitar Corporation in about 1996. Ten years later, Gibson acquired Deutsche Wurlitzer and the Wurlitzer Jukebox and Vending Electronics trademarks, briefly bringing Wurlitzer's best-known products back together under a single corporate banner in 2006. Baldwin ceased making Wurlitzer-brand pianos in 2009. Vending machines are still manufactured in Germany using the Wurlitzer name under Gibson ownership. The company ceased manufacturing jukeboxes in 2013, but still sells replacement parts.

The Rembert Wurlitzer Co., Wurlitzer's rare and historic stringed instrument department, was independently directed by Rudolph Wurlitzer's grandson, Rembert Wurlitzer (1904–1963), from 1948 until his death in 1963. Rembert's shop on 42nd Street in New York City was a leading international center for rare and historic string instruments.

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